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Want to be a Schultz?

The following is based on a book by Willi Wojahn, "Der Netzedistrikt und die Sozialökonomischen Verhältnisse seiner Bevölkerung um 1773" = The Netze district and the socio-economic conditions of its population around 1773). This book analyses in great detail the Land Registry findings for Krojanke (near Flatow) and three or four of the nearby villages, and this gives some idea of what a Schulz was in this area at this period.

In 1732, for instance, the duties of the "Schulz" of the village of Paruschke were defined by the Polish overlord as follows:

"The Schulz exercises local authority over the community in this village; the villagers must obey him in everything. He must exercise justice, punish those who violate the laws, uphold order, and must furthermore ensure that the dues are paid on time to the overlord."

Certain crimes could not be judged by the Schulz, but had to be brought before the overlord or his representative.

According to Wojahn, the usual responsibilities of the Schulz included the following:

  1. fair calculation of dues to be paid by the villagers, in proportion to the amount of land each held;
  2. organization and proportional distribution of work on the lord's land and other labor required from the villagers at various times of year(a),
  3. fair distribution of the village land (b),
  4. organization of sowing and harvesting and
  5. organization of common pasturing of the village livestock on the common land, the fallow field and on the winter field after harvest (c).


a) Under the feudal system in force until the 1820s or later in this region, all villagers were required to perform a certain amount of labor on the lord's land. Landless laborers might be required to work a certain number of days (unpaid!) every week on the lord's land throughout the year. Farmers might be required to work during the harvest and at other particularly busy times of year. Farmers might also have to provide a cart and team of oxen or horses to carry certain goods, and to contribute a certain proportion of their harvest or livestock to the lord at certain times of year. Each village had its own customary dues – described in detail in the 1772 Land Registry. The aristocratic landowners could not live without the labor of their tenants. But when the tenants were overburdened with work for the overlord they could not do much to improve their own land; farming methods were outdated and inefficient. (It was a very poor area anyway in agricultural terms, and continued poor throughout the 19th century. Which, combined with the population increases in the 19th century, was why there was so much emigration, both overseas and within Germany to Berlin.) One of the problems Friedrich II (Frederick the Great) faced after 1772 was how to improve the situation of the peasants so that they would farm more productively. He tried to limit the arbitrary power of the landowners by ensuring that the tenants' obligations were at least written down and could not be increased simply at the whim of the landowner. But he could not abolish the system as a whole.

b) Land was farmed under the open field system, with three fields being used in a three-year rotation for winter sowing, summer sowing, and fallow (= uncultivated) – each field being used in turn for each of the three. Farmers held strips of land in all three fields, and it was important that the strips were divided so that no farmer had all the best land - or all the worst. There were large areas of common land that were used for pasture, sometimes for rye growing, and for woodland.

c) Because of the way the land was farmed, it was important that everyone in the village observed the same timetable, sowed their land at the same time, harvested at the same time, didn't drive their animals out into the stubble fields before all the harvest had been got in…

The Schulz, in other words, didn't just have more land than the other farmers. In the villages analysed by Wojahn, the schultz typically had twice as much land as the other farmers: The schultz also had to organize the way the village as a whole farmed its land. Also he had to make sure the landowner got the work and goods out of the villagers that he/she wanted.

The Schultz was also sometimes the only member of the village community with the right to brew his own beer. The Schulz in Lanken had free forage for 20 pigs in the landowner's forests, free fishing on the Lankener See (=lake), and free building and fuel wood from the lord's forests.

Again according to Wojahn, the communal farming system could only work if:

  1. The Schulz was suited to his office and had the support of the villagers, as well as the backing of the landowner,
  2. The farmers and tenants were able to agree on the distribution of dues without conflict,
  3. The division of the fields by the schulz (and a village council, where one existed) was fair and objective, and
  4. The farmers felt a sense of solidarity with each other, so that each was ready to support the rest.

Wojahn lists the social categories in the villages as follows (in descending order):

  1. Schulz
  2. Farmers (Zinsbauern - those who owned their buildings and livestock)
  3. Farmers (Scharwerksbauern – those whose livestock were the property of the landowner and who received seed corn from the landowner)
  4. Millers and Krügers (grain processors and brewers)
  5. Cossäten & Häusler – tenants holding only a small amount of land, not enough for a farm, therefore often working as day laborers for others
  6. Smiths and craftsmen
  7. Schoolmasters
  8. Shepherds
  9. Laborers and maidservants

The situation was different from one village to another: in some all the farmers were "Zinsbauern", in others they were all "Scharwerksbauern", and in others they were mixed.

A person could become a schulz in several ways. In some villages it was a position purchased from the Polish nobility. In this case it could also be inherited. In some cases the position was only purchasable for some fixed period of time (for example, 20 years). In some villages it was an elected position. When a person both founded and headed a village, he was termed a frieschultz.


The above is from my electronic correspondent Alathea Anderssohn