Thursday, November 7, 2019

Estates I - What's an estate?

I have mentioned the estates number of times in the past. But I think I never explained what they are. I know it's not easy to understand estate system in the Czech past, so I decided to write several blog posts concerning this issue. 

Úsov estate map from about 1700. Source: Land Archives Opava.

An estate or a domain (panství in Czech, Herrschaft in German, dominium in Latin) is a historical term. It means a property (or properties) held and administered by one authority, usually some noble family or the church.

What was part of this property? All representative buildings such as castles, manors or mansions, all agricultural and administrative buildings, towns, villages, hamlets, fields, meadows, pastures, forests, water managements structures. And also all the people who were serfs (subjects) and servants of that property. It meant most of the people living in the towns or villages (farmers, craftsmen, farmhands, daylabourers...) or serving in the both representative and agricultural/administrative buildings. 

The owner of the property had all the powers above his subjects (serfs) - this was called the patrimonial administration. He (or his employees) administered not only the land property, but he also had executive and judicial powers.

There are many more questions about the estate system. I'll try to answer as many of those as possible in series of blog posts. If you have any questions concerning this topic, don't hesitate to ask in the comments!


  1. Very interesting! Can't wait to read more!

  2. Thank you for this. A couple of questions maybe you can address in future posts. First, how does one determine to what estate a person (like a cottager or peasant) belonged? Second, where does one find estate records like those nice maps you showed at the CGSI conference or lists of property and obligations of serfs?