Soldiers in the Thirty Years’ War in the Town of Rakovník
Abstract: The Thirty Years’ War proved the position of Rakovník to be strategically disadvantageous. The town is situated between Prague and Pilsen and this area often served for gathering armies. This was first put to the test in late October and early November 1620 and it was last occupied by the Swedes in July 1648 when it served as a base for an attack on the left-bank of Prague on the 25th of that month. This study examines the time when Rakovník had to face military attacks and, based on sources of urban origin which are deposited mainly in the State District Archive in Rakovník, it outlines how these events are reflected in the life of the town. Nothing extraordinary is learned from this study about the situation in the town during the Thirty Years’ War; instead we are treated to close observation of the differences between the behaviour of imperial and enemy (especially Swedish) soldiers’ behaviour. Imperial forces adhered at least partly to certain rules, didn’t destroy local churches and the town’s people could defend themselves by appealing to centralised authorities through diplomatic channels. Also, military organization in the region, developed after the expulsion of the Saxon imperial troops in December 1631, meant accessibility to legal recourse, something not guaranteed by Swedish and Saxon armies. In the early thirties Rakovník town office served also as the military administrative centre and ensured the organization of gathering provisions and commissary benefits throughout the region. It also looked after security and order in the town. Paradoxically, civilians actively contributed to the parlous state of this security by trade with the soldiers, buying stolen cattle and attacking military convoys and plundering them of various goods. The town office found itself in a difficult situation, because it had to provide supplies and organize for the accommodation and feeding of soldiers, and yet endure the pressures of military commands and explain payments to enemies to the central authorities in Prague. As a direct result of military incursions, the population of Rakovník begun to decrease. This loss was compensated for by an influx from the countryside and surrounding towns. The rural hinterland thus became an important human resource for urban renewal. Finally however, despite the supply system being highly advanced and spreading commissary supplies among several suppliers in the area (which further alleviated the financial burden), the costs that Rakovník bore to support imperial soldiers became intolerable.
Key words: Rakovník, Rakovník district, the Thirty Years’ War, the early modern age, soldiers, Swedes
PhDr. Jan Černý působí ve Státním okresním archivu Rakovník, kde zpracovává archivní fondy měst a osobní fondy. Zajímá se zejména o narativní prameny (firstname.lastname@example.org)