Re: A Gloss on 1724 Census #austria-czech

samorai <samorai@...>

Julius Muller's pertinent comments regarding the 1724 census (11 April 2005)
state that it was "primitive only in terms of technology used but not in terms
of the consistency." In retrospect, it is certainly and inevitably the case
that the technology was "primitive", but the census was a remarkable and
advanced achievement for its time. Ruth Kestenberg-Gladstein's article in
Zion 13: 1-26 entitled "The 1724 Census of the Non-Metropolitan Jews of
Bohemia" [Hebrew] cites its use of "innovative statistical methods". Case
replication, the hallmark of modern age census-taking, and a central
characteristic in making it a scientific instrument, was first introduced in
17th c. England by William Petty. Petty's formulation in this regard was
followed by those who implemented this 1724 Habsburg census. That
consistency was attained must have been in no small part due to the
available technology. The centralist Habsburg bureaucracy had to obtain
permission and their information >from the numerous lords of the Bohemian
estates, a good percentage of whom were nervous about revealing the
demographic status of Jews within their jurisdiction. Earlier efforts of the
central authorities to restrict and even deport Jews >from Bohemia justified
their concern. The lords recognized that the sobriety and industriousness of
their Jewish population could not be replaced. These estate owners, key
figures in a feudal agricultural society, were also well aware of the
importance of trade for the development of a mercantile economy and a more
flourishing estate which could support their life style. Their Jewish
industrial plant lessees and pedlars were essential elements in 'driving
trade'. The 1724 census shows this economic role in some detail.

It is my understanding that the census figures cover 13 of the 14 districts
(apparently one district's findings were lost at some time). A grasp of the
contents of this census enlarges our understanding of the Familienten Laws
which followed and were dependent upon it.

Paul King

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