The Migration of an Urban and Rural Population. The Parish of České Budějovice, 1750-1824

Migration is a phenomenon inseparably connected with the development of modern societies. Historically, it was related to the fundamental transformation of social and economic structures that led to migration waves first from rural areas to urban centres and later from Europe to other continents. Decolonization after the Second World War and the expansion of western modernity created migration waves towards western societies. The turn of the twentieth to the twenty-first century saw an increase in mobility increase on a world scale, justifying description as "a turbulent world" or "a turbulent migration".

Research into migration has played an important role in social science for over a century. It is an interdisciplinary problem with connections to sociology, economics, social anthropology, ethnology, social geography, law, demography, history, psychology, political science, and urban studies.

The present work examines the spatial mobility of both the urban and the rural population in a Czech region between 1750 and 1824. This was an age of fundamental political reform, a period poised on the boundary between noble and civil society, between old and new demographic arrangements, between the pre-industrial and the industrial era. This study investigates these general issues on the basis of an specific micro-region –  the Czech parish of  České Budějovice.

The centre of this region was the royal town of České Budějovice, which lay on a mercantile crossroads that was experiencing both economic and demographic growth in this period. The area also showed interesting ethnic characteristics, since it lay on the border between Austrian and German regions. The suburbs of České Budějovice provide an excellent case-study for investigating migration and integration, because they represented a „melting pot" between an agricultural, rural area and craft and mercantile urban setting.

This work begins, in its early chapters, with an evaluation of existing migration research. Considerable attention has been paid to migration theories advanced by sociologists studying modern-day  geographical transfers of population. But at the same time, these approaches can also a fundamental basis for  research into past migration waves. An important approach used in the present work is the"the push and pull theory", which focuses on the factors causing migrants to leave their original location on the one hand and the factors attracting them towards their chosen destination on the other.

However, modern theoretical and methodological approaches to analyzing migration processes has not yet become established in the Czech context, particularly for historical analyses. Although a large number of researchers have dealt with the subject, no systematic investigation has been undertaken and a large number of questions still remain unsolved. Nonetheless, essential pieces of knowledge have been obtained, in particular by historical-demographic studies. These have connected the question of migration with the dues and services owed by serfs, with marriage patterns of rural people, and with  property transfers of rural holdings.

The research underlying the present work was based on the analysis of the registers of births, marriages and deaths kept by the parish of St Nicolas in České Budějovice. The next chapter of this work is dedicated to these sources. In this parish, the baptism registers started in 1615, marriage registers in 1644, and burial registers in 1683. The format of the registers were influenced by a series of contemporary reforms, a substantial reorganization of the registration system, and a modification of the record-keeping which took place in 1785. This study excerpted all entries from the birth and death registers from 1750 to 1800 and all marriage entries from 1750 to 1824 in order to collect a sufficiently large sample.

The statistical database formed the basis of another analysis. This Excel database contained  30,448 entries, consisting of 12,518 births, 12,316 deaths, and 5,614 marriages. The database was based on the names excerpted from the sources and included most pieces of information contained in the parish registers. This database made possible a more detailed specification of particular locations in the town, the suburbs and one village. The database was then used to generate a basic characterization of all migrants according to sex (male/female), marital status (single/widowed), and social stratum (freeman/serf). Depending on the nature of the source, the database also specifies the migrant's age (in the case of married persons)  and his or her occupation (in the case of deceased persons).

This database made it possible to undertake both quantitative and qualitative analyses. In order to interpret the statistical results, it was neccessary to investigate the region in greater detail, and to examine its demographic development and urbanization. České Budějovice and its direct surroundings underwent radical changes in the course of the seventeenth century, during which the town was damaged by the events of the war as well as by a major fire. This was followed by a regeneration of the town, including the building of a set of fortifications which supplanted most of the houses that had previously been located in the suburbs of the town. During the eighteenth century, the town experienced substantial growth, and the built-up area of specific suburbs again expanded.

There were 639 houses recorded in České Budějovice in 1786, of which 433 were located in the inner town and the remaining 206 in the suburbs. Four years later, České Budějovice numbered 5,537 inhabitants, making it one of the most densely populated of the Czech towns that were gradually developing out of old craft and market centres. From the end of the eighteenth century onwards, the local population grew especially rapidly. The causes of this growth resided in both natural increase and immigration. People migrated into the town from rural areas with the hope of obtaining a better livelihood, while at the same time there was a rise in the number of soldiers, the number of students in the local Piarist grammar school, the clerical colloquium, and the philosophical institute.

The development of the migrant inflow was radically influenced by the natural increase in the number of inhabitants in the region under investigation, which underwent constant increase from  the end of the Thirty Years´ War on. However, the analysis of the parish registers shows that there were also a number of mortality crises. The first occurred as a result of an epidemic of typhus or dysentery in 1757-8. The largest mortality crisis in the second half of the eighteenth century in the parish of České Budějovice took place during the great famine of 1771-2. This period not only saw extraordinary increases in mortality, but also exceptional decreases in natality. The following years saw a significant natural increase but this was followed by another epidemic of typhus or dysentery which was brought into the parish by the local military troops in 1778-9. However, the natural decrease of the population did not reach such high figures as at the beginning of the 1780s. The just-mentioned epidemic ended after just two years but even after it faded away a several-year period of population decrease ensued. But this natural population decrease did not permanently affect the characteristics of local demographic development. It was not a true mortality crisis, but only a stagnation in population growth. The last substantial disruption in population increase in this locality in the period under analysis was caused by a smallpox epidemic which came in two waves within a five-year interval in the 1790s.

The greater concentration of the population and the poor hygienic conditions in towns meant that they experienced much greater increases in mortality during epidemics or famine than did rural areas. Although both towns and rural areas manifested natural increase in the long term, urban populations decreased more quickly than rural ones in periods of increased mortality. This limited capacity for urban self-reproduction is also visible in the case of České Budějovice: at times when natural population growth was unable to provide sufficient population increase, migration was necessary to ensure that the number of inhabitants continued to rise.

From the 1890s on, signs of change in the economic and demographic structure of the Czech lands became more visible. Under the influence of agricultural reforms the cultivated area was stabilized. We also observe efforts to reduce harmful impacts of poor harvests caused by adverse weather. In connection with the Serfdom Patent of 1781 it is also necessary to remember the release of surplus labour and its subsequent relocation from rural to urban areas. At the same time the significance of migration has been highlighted, because migration along with demographic trasition represent a significant part of the demographic development.

From the second half of the 1780s a new type of population development became established in the parish. This was related to general trends taking place in most parts of the Czech lands at that time. The gradual economic development was helpful not only for the development of manufactory production, but also for the improvement of agriculture which provided the local inhabitants with better food supplies. In this way, at the same time the basic conditions of future population development were formed. 

Although the main causes of demographic crises were eliminated during the second half of eighteenth century, new obstacles appeared in the form of smallpox epidemics and wars with Republican and later with Imperial France, which led to an almost twenty-year stagnation in demographic development. In connection with the events of these wars,  it is important to recognize that increasing numbers ofo people began to move. Space was becoming smaller and more easily recognized. The 1781 Serfdom Patent enabled more intensive migratory movements, which were no longer dependent on permission from overlords. However, the rural population did not move into the towns immediately after it became possible. Only at the end of the 1880s and in the 1890s, based on the example of České Budejovice, can we see the significance of migration as an important component of demographic development.          

Within framework of the present study, migration for work and marriage purposes were mainly analysed, as they were often closely related. Their radius was traced using "air lines", imaginary lines connecting a place of origin (possibly of birth) and a place of employment or a marriage. The two localities were compared with each other from the point of view of the character of the residence (town, suburb, village). The migration radius was defined by „air lines". In order to achieve a better evaluation, sectors were defined (0, 1-4, 5-9, 10-14, 15-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-99, more than 100 km) within which spatial mobility might have happened.

Both the intensity and the geographical radius of migration were especially influenced by economic development. However, there is a need to distinguish three basic levels of migration: regional migration, migration beyond the region but within the state, and migration abroad. České Budějovice was a destination for immigrants from adjacent areas – Upper Austria, Lower Austria, and Bavaria (with which the town maintained very intensive business contacts).

Connections with Moravia, Austrian Silesia and the Austrian Netherlands, the Alpine areas (Styria, Tyrol), and Hungary are demonstrable to a much lesser extent.

At a similar level were the numbers of persons heading to České Budějovice from other areas of Germany, especially Saxony. Contacts with regions in the rest of Europe or America were very unusual but individual cases did exist. Migration within the region and the wider state played the most important role in České Budějovice. The urban setting remained the main aim of immigrants from more distant areas (towns, regions and countries). Immigrants from other towns had sufficient financial resources to pay for the higher cost of living in the inner town of České Budějovice. Rural immigrants arriving in České Budějovice came mostly from the villages located in the immediate proximity of the town.

The immigration of rural people into the town was influenced by a two-way connection between the town and the neighbouring villages that were subject to the same administration. The large part played by agriculture in the structure of the town's economy also played a significant role. At the same time the question of the cost of living cannot be left out of account. Rural people did not usually have sufficient wealth to buy property of their own in the town, so they directed their attention more to the periphery. However, the poorest rural immigrants must often have been grateful to live in rented accommodation, usually in annexes built onto original burgher houses.

In connection with the migration of rural people into the urban environment, there is a somewhat misleading image of humble rustics crowding into Czech towns as a result of the issuing of the 1781 Serfdom Patent. The example of the parish of České Budějovice demonstrates that this process was gradual, not a once-and-for-all response to the Serfdom Patent, even though it was one of the most important reforms instituted by Emperor Joseph II.

Serf immigration from the rural environment happened all the time and independently of external political impulses. But the issuing of the 1781 Serfdom Patent established the basic conditions for subsequent departures of rural people, because ti meant that they were no longer bound to any piece of property as a consequence of the inheritance practice which preferred solely a single heir. However, this newly free labor force did not start moving out of the countryside until they perceived the possibility of employment in the town.

Unlike for other Czech towns, for České Budějovice the idea of rural immigrants as propagators of the Czech language in a previously purely German-speaking environment was not confirmed by the evidence. At the same time, the views of certain local historians were also refuted, since they had regarded immigrants from other towns as having been the main promoters of Germanization efforts. In the period under observation in this study, both the town and most of the neighbouring villages were mainly German-speaking. We cannot definitely state that the local population was turned into Czechs as a consequence of  the inflow from the countryside.

Even in the case of migration for purposes of marriage did it emerge that there was any demonstrable connection between the issuing of the 1781 Serfdom Patent and the intensity or extent of migration. Both subjective and objective factors of a local character were much more influential for people's migration decisions than the 1781 reform. The age and social status of the migrant as an individual was among the subjective factors. There is strong evidence of migration for marriage purposes by younger unmarried men than for widowed persons. It also emerged that in both the town, the suburbs of České Budějovice, and the villages subject to its administration, most people married partners from places of the same residential category (town, suburbs, village) as their place of origin.

Although the percentage of these cases in the town was rising, it remained at a fairly stable level in the suburbs after the initial increase. By constrast, the rural environment showed a definite decrease in marriages between partners from places of the same residential category. This indirectly confirms the consequences of the migration of rural men and women into the suburbs. They found not only employment there, but also their life-partners.

Regardless of the category of the initial place of residence (town, suburbs, village) the most settled group within the local population was represented by single and widowed men. Their place of residence also for the most part remained the same before and after getting married. Migration for marriage purposes were only undertaken by those men who were not entitled to any inheritance, meaning that they were not bound to their previous residence in any way. If they changed their residence for reasons relating to marriage, they often did so in order to obtain access to somebody else‘s property. Such cases of marriage migrations did not happen very often relative to the total number of marriages.

In most cases that can be documented, men chose their partners from a locality of the same residential and economic character as the one in which they themselves resided. In particular, members of the better-off strata in both urban and rural settings typically chose their partners from the same socio-occupational group. We must not forget that men who stayed in their locality of origin after marriage had a bond to the material background that made it possible to support their whole family. Women were expected to follow their partners after getting married, which accounts for their greater degree of marriage migration. Regardless of whether it was a man or woman who migrated for marriage purposes, the geographical distance travelled was very limited in the period under analysis. In the case of rural women, migration primarily occurred within a fifteen-kilometre radius from their locality of origin, while for men it was only a ten-kilometre radius.

For the urban population the distance of migration was longer, usually corresponding to the distance from particular towns with which České Budějovice maintained business contacts. The lowest rate of marriage migration was observed in the suburbs of České Budějovice into which people migrated not only as the consequence of marriages, but also because of job opportunities. Rural migrants who no longer had the possibility of living in the town often settled just outside the town walls. In these cases of these rural migrants, a connection to the current locality of residence when getting married was the most noticeable for all groups.

To the extent that any single or widowed men from the urban setting undertook migration for marriage purposes, they usually followed their future spouse to some neighbouring urban location. The geographical radius for such migrations was greater than for the rural population. It usually corresponded to either personal or occupational activities of the urban population. Migration for marriage purposes by both single and widowed men were very limited in the rural environment and, as with urban men, took place only in connection to their most immediate surroundings. The possibility of migrating was much lower for rural widowers than for widowers from České Budějovice.

Migration for marriage purposes was much more common for women than for men. Rural woman usually only followed their future husbands within a fifteen-kilometre radius of their locality of origin. The geographical distance of marriage migration was usually higher for urban women and, as with urban men, it corresponded to the distance of towns with which České Budějovice maintained contacts.

More single than widowed persons migrated for marriage purposes. The perspective for migrating after marrying was even lower for widowers than for widows. Because of the bonds exercised by holding landed property, widowed persons migrated over a very limited radius; there was almost zero probability of marriage migration for widowed persons of either sex. Widowed people from towns chose their partners almost exclusively from the urban setting, but some rural widows did migrate to a town or to the suburbs to follow a new husband.

Migrations for marriage purposes were in many cases influenced by preceding acts of migration for occupational purposes. A girl leaving for service in a burgher household often found that this move helped her in choosing a life partner. Rural men, who instead made their mark in a village, chose urban partners very rarely. In urban setting the inflow of rural women due to both occupational and marriage migrations was absolutely normal; but town people (both men and women) followed their rural partner to the countryside after marriage only very rarely. Townspeople, especially from craft and merchant families, preferred partners from the same socio-occupational classes within the local population.

Wealthier members of the rural population, especially full peasants and millers, showed themselves to be pursuing particular marriage strategies. Accomplishing these sometimes required undertaking an act of migration for marriage purposes. Preferring a marriage partner from the same setting was observable in the suburbs as well. The choice of a life partner was influenced by several related factors. For one thing, choosing a future spouse depended on the size of a particular locality. There were always wider prospects for choosing a life partner in towns, suburbs or villages with larger populations than in smaller localities. Because of the lower number of people living in smaller settlements, the local inhabitants sometimes had no other choice than finding a spouse from outside.

Choosing a spouse from the same locality might also have been influenced by sharing a particular serfdom allegiance at the beginning of the nineteenth century . The parish of České Budějovice incorporated the village of Hodějovice, whose inhabitants were not serfs of the town, but instead were subject in hereditary servility to the estate of Třeboň. However, considering the size of the village, there was not usually a problem for its inhabitants to find spouses with the same serfdom allegiance. The inhabitants of this locality undertook marriage migrations into the town or its suburbs only to a very limited extent.

At the turn of eighteenth and nineteenth century, acts of migration for occupational or marital purposes were especially influenced by local conditions (demographic, economic and urban developments) and personal characteristics (sex, age, and marital status). At the same time, we must not ignore the safety net of family and personal relationships. The example of the parish of České Budějovice demonstrated that the 1781 Serfdom Patent issue did not lead to either immediate or mass reaction as far as migration was concerned. Acts of migration for both marital and occupational purposes proceeded to the similar extent in the era before and after the issuing of the 1781 Serfdom Patent. In accordance with the results of previous research concerning dimissory certificates in České Budějovice (1756-1770), it emerged that a change of locality of residence did not mean a serious trouble for most of the urban and rural population.

Geographical mobility reflected demographic developments combined with the operation of the law of inheritance. As a consequence of rural natural increase, there was an expanding group of surplus inhabitants in the countryside. This rural surplus labor came into its own in the urban setting which always faced a lack of inhabitants as a consequence of mortality crises. Economic development along with urban construction also helped solve the problem of providing housing employment for most immigrants. The research carried out for the present study demonstrates that it was not until the turn of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that migration started to equal natural increase in contributing to population growth.