The Land Register of Francis I

Edition Unit 3: Silesia


The cadastral land register was an essential element of economic modernization. The seemingly dry procedure and material of historical cadastral work hides a highly political and surprisingly topical issue. The structure of the modern European world of states follows the paradigm of the nation state and history as a discipline, but historical memory even more so, sees Europe even now in terms of sovereign individual states. In contrast, the land register of Francis I was the successful attempt to gather the countries of Central Europe, which around the year 1800 were in the process of changing from an estates-based society to a nation-based society, into one space with unified legislation on soil evaluation and the tax system. It represents one of the most significant and persistent achievements of the Habsburg monarchy for a large part of Central Europe and is still visible today. The modernization horizon envisaged by the cadastral system included the entire complex of the Central European territories of the Habsburg monarchy in all its heterogeneity. The land registration of Francis I, in combination with cadastral map and tax assessment, is an essential element in the evolvement of a more or less homogenous, large economic zone and an alternative to the Hegelian model of a modern state. It documents the effort of recreating a large region in the sense of a centralised unum totum in economic, administrative and legal terms. Recent comparative European research is agreed on seeing the land register as a significant step towards the modern state.

The current project aims towards a continuation of a long-term project which started as a pilot project on Bukovina and Carinthia in 2008. The edition of Austrian-Silesia (as a part of Moravia) as a next step combined with an initial analysiswill provide a fundamental and undoubtedly significant complex source for future research. Only a combined edition of the maps, the relevant sources and their scientific presentation could secure a central cultural document whose continued existence is under threat. On the basis of the land register of Francis I and using a proven analytic method, this project will come up with the first systematic edition of comprehensive sources of social, economic and societal history for an entire region of historical Silesia.