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Society in the Middle Ages

Konrád Ota’s legal code of 1189 changed the status of the nobility in the Bohemian kingdom. Lands given to individuals for lifelong use were transformed into fiefs, i.e. free aristocratic estates.  The nobility emerged out of warriors from the sovereign’s retinue, which was originally completely dependent on his favour. This independence in terms of property gradually resulted in an increase in the power of this nobility, which had a decisive influence on events in the state. Similarly, the church was also emancipated in Bohemia. With a concordat concluded in 1222, the church negotiated the right to hold its own ecclesiastical elections and the recognition of legal and economic immunities.

With economic developments, the town emerged as the centre of trade. The sovereign established royal cities to buttress his own power and as a source of income for him. Towns were communities for free burghers – as opposed to the serfs in the countryside. A large portion of burghers comprised Germans coming from relatively overpopulated areas of the empire, and consequently the German patriciate acquired crucial influence in the cities.

The relationship between the serfs and their overlords also changed. The serfs obtained land in a hereditary lease, which gave them more security in comparison with the past. The colonization of hitherto uninhabited regions began.

Farmers used the three-field crop-rotation system, i.e. during the cultivation of fields they alternated spring cereal, winter wheat and fallow land. The corvée obligations of the serfs only comprised a few days a year. They also had to pay the overlord a firmly fixed amount twice a year.