“They could be needed by the enemy while still staying in the town”. Life in a Swedish- Occupied Town During the Thirty Years’ War
Abstract: The study seeks to enrich the knowledge of relationships between military and urban society in the early modern period by analysing their interaction during the Swedish invasion of Bohemia in 1639, when general Banér occupied the whole Elbe area. Confrontation between soldiers and the urban populace was very diverse and variable. Some of the upper social echelons and religious dignitaries fled from the troops to relative safety. Despite there being many documented cases of villagers and townspeople collaborating with the Swedish army, this does not necessarily indicate mutual good relations. The dividing line between friend and enemy was among the urban population and the soldiers, regardless of affiliation to either war party, and defined rather by the life experience and social position of each individual.
Mutual negotiations and bargaining between the towns and the army were highly ritualized and almost always mutual compromises were concluded. In this sense, threats of destruction by fire and sword by the Swedes often were just a standard bargaining chip, which would never be fulfilled as it would destroy a valuable economic resource for the military.
If it were possible (and there was no imperial garrison staying in the town) towns did not form an armed resistance against the Swedes. Archives contain mention of long haggling (often over several days) over contributions. In the turmoil encountered during the Swedish invasion, when imperial power representatives, soldiers and most clerics fled from the towns, there was a significant relaxation of circumstances. A town’s administration usually dramatically reduced production of official documents and recordings in the town archives in advance of the arrival of the first military units of the Swedes. The sale and transfer of property was less reduced. Neighbour disputes begin to escalate and become increasingly anarchic in nature.
Additionally, any solidarity among the occupied towns disappeared: the citizens of Kolín were buying Swedish booty taken from Čáslav, just as the people of Náchod along with imperial troops plundered the possessions of Nové Město nad Metují (whose population took the Swedes in). In some places, armed citizens attacked passing imperial troops. The situation in towns abandoned by imperial military garrisons and left to the mercy of the Swedish army was very complicated and diverse. It can not be said that the Swedish army in the occupied territories limited itself to wanton destruction as both parties were forced to work towards a sustainable conservation of resources. Towns had to find the best possible way of living with the army, which minimized damage, while the army had to restrain their demands to avoid the premature exhaustion of stocks.
Key words: Thirty Years’ War, the town, Swedes, Jan Banér, everyday
Mgr. Jiří Hofman je doktorandem katedry historie Filozofické fakulty Univerzity Palackého Olomouc. Zajímá se o vojenské a urbánní dějiny (email@example.com)