Questions about Medieval German Colonization

Feb 2019
6
British Columbia
#1
Hi guys, I'm new here and hoping to get some help on this phenomenon I've been researching for quite some time.

Many people keen on medieval history know the period from primarily the 13th century where a large amount of immigrants from Western Europe (primarily the German speaking HRE states) settled in places like Bohemia and Poland (I'm primarily concerned with these two states) under encouragement from the sovereigns of these regions. They brought with them the Western European ideas of town governing and such, and primarily either took up residence in pre-existing Slavic settlements and later founded new towns on their own. My main question is: how significant was the German population in Central-East European towns? I see so many sources contradict each other, and in older literature there seems to be a blatant agenda with German historians on one side and Eastern European historians on the other trying to push a different view. The primary conclusions I've come across are either: Germans were the majority population in most Eastern European cities (Prague and Krakow for instance, which is what I'm most interested in) until the Hussite Wars/late 14th century in Bohemia and until the 16th century in Poland, OR, Germans were the political/economic elite of various Central-East European towns/cities thanks to the privileges afforded to them by initial use of German Law and their connections to Western European mercantile outlets, but the overall majority of a town's given population was usually Czech/Polish, with the exception of towns in the border regions of Bohemia and in Silesia.

On a side note, one of the issues I'm having is understanding what it means to be the "citizen" of a town. Most books I've consulted seem to (but then again, I'm not entirely sure) get their demographic model from the list of burghers. When I researched what it meant to be a burgher more, I got the impression that this was a title reserved for only a minority for a city's population, usually 5-20%. Furthermore, it seems merchants had an easier time getting burgher privileges, since from what I understand it was usually an expensive undertaking.

Can anyone with more insight on this topic chime in? I'd be eternally grateful for any help.

Thank you!
 
Likes: Futurist

deaf tuner

Ad Honoris
Oct 2013
12,948
Europix
#2
IDK how Your German is. If it's good, I suggest You "Die deutsche Ostsiedlung des Mittelalters als Problem der europäischen Geschichte", I'd say You'll find answers to Your questions.

It's available (fully and free of charge) here:

RI OPAC
 
Feb 2019
6
British Columbia
#3
IDK how Your German is. If it's good, I suggest You "Die deutsche Ostsiedlung des Mittelalters als Problem der europäischen Geschichte", I'd say You'll find answers to Your questions.

It's available (fully and free of charge) here:

RI OPAC
Unfortunately I can only read rudimentary German - however, I have heard of this book and seen it recommended quite a bit, and I understand Walter Schlesinger is quite an authority on this subject - I would love to read it, but unfortunately I can't find an English translation. If you have read it, would you mind giving me a quick summary in relation to my original question? I appreciate your help immensely!
 
Oct 2013
12,948
Europix
#5
Unfortunately I can only read rudimentary German - however, I have heard of this book and seen it recommended quite a bit, and I understand Walter Schlesinger is quite an authority on this subject - I would love to read it, but unfortunately I can't find an English translation. If you have read it, would you mind giving me a quick summary in relation to my original question? I appreciate your help immensely!

Honestly, I didn't red it, I just "threw an eye" on it. I'm a bit more interested in Germans in Transilvania and Banat than elsewhere, so my knowledge on Slavic space is more than "anectodical". Sorry.

May I suggest You something?

In the link I provided (it's a collection of articles by different authors) there's the index. If You click on the authors, You will be redirected to a listing of their works, and You might find from there something in English.
 

Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,453
#6
In general, the German colonization was rather limited but still influential with more numbers and a sort of acculturation closer to heavily population German-speaking regions. Keep in mind not only that burghers were small number of a towns population but the urbanization of this part of Europe was less than 10% so if there were 500 burghers in a town where only 10% of the population belonged to burgher families then at most 2-3,000 German speaking burghers (as many might have local wives and polygot children) with the overall local region having a total population of 50,000 people.

There were some exceptions to this with larger numbers of 'Germans' but even more often it was fewer German speakers as migrants were attracted to places they could earn a better living than they could in predominant German-speaking regions where their skills were a greater value or their families connections made them more trustworthy than locals.
 
Likes: SpamChowder
Oct 2013
12,948
Europix
#7
(as many might have local wives and polygot children)
I'd say that "many" is a very hazardous hypothesis. "Very few" would be closer.

It's one of the reasons German communities have lasted so long, preserving their language and culture.

As an asside: we should not forget that besides the "Burgers"(citadins) there were also the German peasants (villages).
 

Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,453
#8
I'd say that "many" is a very hazardous hypothesis. "Very few" would be closer.

It's one of the reasons German communities have lasted so long, preserving their language and culture.

As an asside: we should not forget that besides the "Burgers"(citadins) there were also the German peasants (villages).
I think you are talking right there about the differences between 'colonization' and settlement. There are quite a few records of German merchants and artisans but it was comparatively more rare for these men to invite German wives into their new homes after they established themselves.

German families did travel together but that is the main difference between where German influence and population become a large minority or even dominant vs having some German influence where the % of the population was always only a few percent as most families stayed relatively closer to where Germans were already the dominant culture.

German population enclaves tended to exist longest in areas that engaged in long term trade with dominant German areas where most other regions that did have German settlement it largely blended into local population after a few generations.
 
Likes: SpamChowder
Feb 2019
6
British Columbia
#9
Sorry for the late reply guys - I saw the response but I was out all day Monday so I didn't really have time to reply.

@deaf tuner and Isleifson - thank you very much for the links and the translator - I wasn't aware of DeepL.

@Ichon - thank you very much for the detailed response. It's definitely nice to have this information clarified by someone who is knowledgeable on this topic; because there has been such shifts in the understanding of the history of this phenomenon, I never know if the information I'm reading is out of date. On a sort of related follow up, I'm still sort of curious about burghers. To use Prague for example, it would seem that the majority of burghers in the 14th century were German, with their usually merchant status as a reason for their high visibility. On the other hand, I read that the craftsmen in Prague were for the most part Czech around the same period. How often could a craftsmen expect to get burgher status and own a home?
 
Jan 2010
4,133
Atlanta, Georgia USA
#10
Sorry for the late reply guys - I saw the response but I was out all day Monday so I didn't really have time to reply.

@deaf tuner and Isleifson - thank you very much for the links and the translator - I wasn't aware of DeepL.

@Ichon - thank you very much for the detailed response. It's definitely nice to have this information clarified by someone who is knowledgeable on this topic; because there has been such shifts in the understanding of the history of this phenomenon, I never know if the information I'm reading is out of date. On a sort of related follow up, I'm still sort of curious about burghers. To use Prague for example, it would seem that the majority of burghers in the 14th century were German, with their usually merchant status as a reason for their high visibility. On the other hand, I read that the craftsmen in Prague were for the most part Czech around the same period. How often could a craftsmen expect to get burgher status and own a home?
I would like to see a separate thread on burgher status v others in this period.
 

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