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Economical and Social Diversification of the Czech Rural Population during Feudalism


During the serfdom and even to the end of the 19th century the rural population in middle Europe was stratified in several categories. In fact one can talk of historical - economical and sociological categories.

In process of so called original colonization of the country in XIIIth to XVth century the area of an established village with all fields, forests and meadows was divided into basic economic units, called in Czech LAN (German: HUFE, HUBE, Lat. LANEUS, MANSUS, Engl. VIRGATA, YARDLAND).

The LAN represented so much agricultural soil that can be cultivated by a couple of ox's and can offer a sufficient living for a medium family. Very roughly we may say that one LAN was 18 hectares (180.000 square meters), i.e. 30 - 45 acres (in Czech JITRO="morning", in German the same: MORGEN) To compare with LAN: ONE JITRO is an area that can be pluged within one day (originally within the MORNING which was the period between daybreak and sunset) Czech JITRO or German MORGEN are not exactly the same as English ACRE.

A) Thus at the origin one LAN was owned by one farmer's family. This was the top stratum of village population. The Czech equivalents for a farmer are:

SEDLAK, ROLNIK, LANIK (the latter mainly in Moravia), the German equivalents:

BAUER, HUFNER, LAHNER.

B) Later, when the population increased and newcomers came to the village, the soil had to be re-divided and partly sold. The original farmer's sons started to farm on a portion of the original LAN. So, a subcategory of farmers came into existence:

Czech: PULNIK, POLOLANIK (pul, polo = one half)

German:HALBHUFNER, HALBLAHNER, HALBBAUER

or

CTVRTNIK, CTVRTLANIK (ctvrt= a quarter) resp. VEIRTELBAUER, VIERTELLAHNER etc.

C) The middle stratum of the village population were those, who owned only a small farm, with less than a 1/4 of LAN, upto 15 - 18 acres. Their name was originally PODSEDNIK (more common in Moravia) or ZAHRADNIK.

Podsednik in German was a HINTERSASSER or in Latin SUBSES.

Zahradnik is from a Czech word ZAHRADA - a garden. So the German equivalent was GAERTNER. Later, in 18th and 19th century they were called CHALUPNIK (CHALUPPNER).

D) The lower stratum of the population were DOMKAR or BARACNIK. In German KOTSASSER, KAETNER, HAEUSLER, in English COTTAGER. They still did have some properties - but only a small cottage and a piece of yard or garden in front or behind their cottage. In many cases they hired a soil that was in community's possession.

E) Apart of above mentioned farmers in common sense, there were people without any property who worked for very low reward on the farmers´ land. They were so called PODRUH in Czech, or INWOHNER, resp.INMAENNER in German. In English we can say FARM LABOURER or CO-DWELLER or IN-DWELLER. They lived somewhere in a farmer's house, or in a barn or shed.

It is said that the differences between various strata were at least the same as the gap between the classes of nobility, town-dwellers and subject people in common. And hardly a member of farmer's family was allowed to marry a daughter of a CHALUPNER or even PODRUH.