This thesis examines the nature of lord-peasant relations in the final stages of Hungarian seigneurialism, dating roughly from 1700 to the emancipation of the peasantry in 1848. It investigates how the terms of the peasants’ relations with their lords, especially their obligations and the rights to the land they farmed, were established, both through written law and by customary practice. It also examines how the reforms of this period sought to redefine lord-peasant relations and rights to landed property. Under Maria Theresa land reform had been a means to protect the rural status quo and the livelihood of the peasantry: by the end of the 1840s it had become an integral part of a liberal reform movement aiming at the complete overhaul of Hungary’s ‘feudal’ social and economic system. In this period the status of the peasantry underpinned all attempts at reform. All reforms were claimed to be in the best interests of the peasantry, yet none stemmed from the peasants themselves. Conversely, the peasantry had means to voice their grievances through petitions and recourse to the courts, and took the opportunity provided by the reforms to reassert their rights and renegotiate the terms of their relations to their landlords. By examining the petitions, court cases, and negotiations between lords and peasants, the thesis examines how far peasant needs and expectations were understood by those enacting the reforms, and whether these were met by the new laws. In doing so, the thesis investigates how peasant rights to the land were established, challenged or undermined and how the peasants reacted to the changes imposed upon them as Hungarian seigneurialism was dismantled in the years before 1848
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