“The Green Gold Rush” Forest Industry versus Forest Ecology in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, 1867-1918.

Viktor Pál, University of Ostrava

This paper aims to analyze the complex scientific, economic, and ecological discourses related to antropogenic environmental change and deforestation in 19th century East-Central Europe. The ecological destruction of forests in the Austro-Hungarian Empire was similar to the destruction of forests that had unfolded already in industrialized countries. Parallel with the gradual demolition of feudal commons, enclosed areas grew at an alarming rate. The gentry - land owning middle class - struggled financially in the new capitalist system of production. Under the pressure of creditors gentry families needed to sell their landholdings piece by piece to access cash. Woodlands were easy to market because of their shared value and sold forests were clear cut in most cases. Large landowners left their latifundia untouched in most cases. In the 19th century Habsburg Empire one of the major problems with forest management was its absence in many regions. In Schemnitz (Banská Štiavnica) foresters were educated at the Mining Academy after 1808. Graduates were few, and because the language of education was German and the employment of foresters was expensive, highly educated foresters had impact solely in the latifundia. By the mid-19th century deforestation reached a critical level in the Bohemian, Moravian and Slovak areas of the Habsburg Empire. Large areas in for example Hungary, where Budapest, Debrecen and other urban centres situated, became critically deforested. Erosion and drift sand caused problems in certain areas.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 71. Rationalizing Land Use I (1600-1918)