Peasant Rebellion in Bohemia, 1775

Until 1763 the main focus of the Austrian administration had been on the Seven Years' War against Prussia. Meanwhile the situation of the peasants, in many parts of the Habsburg territories, was deplorable. The bulk of the costs of the war had been burdened on the peasants and burghers of the core Habsburtg territories, while the privileged estates - nobility and higher clergy, lived in luxury and comparative idleness. A series of peasant revolts - Transylvania 1751, Southern Hungary 1753, Slavonia 1755, Transylvania 1759, Eisenburg 1762 and 1765/1766, Austrian Silesia 1766 indicated the scale of the problem.
Government investigations (Transylvania 1769) reported the exodus of entire village populations onto Ottoman territory in order to escape the economic burden of taxation and excessive corvee labour duties. The Habsburg administration did react by issuing Robot Patents, which attempted to define and thus limit the burden the peasants had to carry; these patents were issued for individual territories, and were negotiated with the respective diets.
The Bohemian diet, dominated by the privileged estates, pursued a policy of delay; Robot Patents for Bohemia thus were implemented as late as 1774 and 1775. Meanwhile, the situation for Bohemia's peasants had further deteriorated because of a severe famine in 1770-1772 (during which the owners of large estates exported grain from Bohemia to Saxony and Prussia, for profit).
In the spring of 1775, a massive peasants rebellion broke out in Bohemia, lead by Mathias Chwojka. Vienna sent a force of 40,000 men to deal with them. The peasants were no match for professional forces; however, it the forces remained in Bohemia for another two years until the rebellion was regarded subsided.

1770-1799 from Chronologische Kriegsgeschichte, German-language extensive timeline
REFERENCE Charles W. Ingrao, The Habsburg Monarchy 1618-1815, Cambridge : UP, 2nd edition 2000, pp.185-187

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on March 18th 2004, last revised on November 19th 2004

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