What Was Maria Theresa's Attitude Towards Serfdom?


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In the Enlightenment period, the institution of serfdom was so evident that sometimes peasants had to sell their children to reveal the financial burden on them. Maria Theresa felt some sympathy for the serfs although she did not want to challenge the power of the nobles. By 1740, it was becoming clear that not only serfdom was cruel, but as a system of agriculture, it was inefficient and restrictive. Maria Theresa's first reform came in 1753, when she abolished the nobles' control over serf marriages. In 1753, a decree was issued which meant that instead of the nobles acting as judges, the responsibility was given to the central court.

On crown estates, serfdom was abolished and the robot was reduced in many provinces. In Hungary and Bohemia, the robot was reduced to three days after a review of serfdom following a famine in the two countries in the 1770s. However, the powerful Magyar nobility refused this which led to a peasants revolt. During the revolt, Maria Theresa learned to become more cautious when introducing reform.

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