This article explores the role played by the village community in the so-called 'second serfdom', using a database of manorial court records, serf petitions, and other micro-level documents for the Bohemian estate of Frydlant between 1583 and 1692. It casts doubt on 'manorial dominance' theories which assume that the 'second serfdom' succeeded because manors were all-powerful and communes supine. But it also questions 'communal autonomy' theories, according to which villagers were largely unconstrained by manorial regulations and serfdom did not actually matter. Instead, the Frydlant evidence supports a theory of communal-manorial 'dualism', whereby serfdom required both strong manorial institutions and strong communal institutions. The Frydland findings vividly illustrate the dark side of both manorial regulation and communal 'social capital', showing how overlords and village oligarchies systematically colluded to coerce weaker villagers.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.