Kristof Fatsar (Writtle University College)

Igniting Social Changes via New Agricultural Settlements in the Great Hungarian Plain at the End of the 18th Century

In the wake of the Ottoman occupation of the Kingdom of Hungary’s large central territories at the end of the 17th century, vast parts of the country remained scarcely populated. Enhancing the Hungarian peasantry’s social conditions via creating new ideal villages and using the regulations of Empress Maria Theresa’s (1740-1780) Urbarium decree (1767) were in the centre of the agricultural and social reformer Samuel Tessedik’s (1784) thinking (see attached illustration). He has eyed up the yet largely unpopulated southern strip of the country that was governed by the military to implement his ideas.

Large parts of this region, the Banat, were not favourable due to marshlands or drifting sand. For this reason, the region was an experimental ground for other agricultural reformers, one of whom was the almost entirely forgotten Coblenz-born engineer and landscape designer Rudolph Witsch, the author of a treatise (Witsch, 1809) that was not only concerned about turning the region to profitable agriculture, but also proposing the layout of an ideal village as the core of the newly acquired agricultural lands.