Connected Central European Worlds, 1500-1700

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Entangling (Through) Sheep. Grazing Rights and Practices in Early Modern Southern and Eastern Carpathians

Kata Tóth, University of Vienna


The Ottoman fiscal and economic pressure from the 16th century on increased the demand for livestock, especially sheep, in the principalities Moldavia, Transylvania and Wallachia. Due to the transhumant form of herding as well as the lack of sizable pastures, Transylvanian herds frequently grazed on the other side of the Southern and Eastern Carpathians. Contemporary charters, letters and trial records document agreements between the principalities concerning the usage of mountain resources. This paper identifies and describes norms, customs and practices of Transylvanian sheep grazing on the Moldavian and Wallachian sides of the mountains in the 16th-17th centuries. The majority of the sources reflects conflicts over illegal usage of pastures and meadows, showing not only  the legal and social expectations of cooperation, but also the everyday practices of grazing beyond the border. Thus, the documents allow analysing the legal and economic entanglements between the two sides of the mountains, regarding sheep owners, pasture owners, shepherds as well as flocks of sheep as agents of these interactions and transfers. Applying the methods of the histoire croisée, the paper also highlights the Southern and Eastern Carpathians as an individual object of historical study.


Kata Tóth studied History (BA) in Novi Sad, Vienna and Pisa. She completed her MA in History at the University of Vienna 2019 with her thesis “Michael der Tapfere. Sein Bild in der ungarischsprachigen Historiography im 17. Jahrhundert”. Currently, she is a PhD student and university assistant (prae doc) at the Department of East European History writing her thesis on the history of the Southern- and Eastern Carpathian Mountains under the supervision of Prof. Oliver Schmitt. Her research interests include mountain history, border region studies, history of the Romanian lands and histoire croisée.