Effects of social and climatic factors on building activity in the Czech lands between 1450 and 1950: a dendrochronological analysis

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Year of publication 2022
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Journal of Quaternary Science
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Science

Web https://doi.org/10.1002/jqs.3381
Doi http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jqs.3381
Keywords building activity; Central Europe; dendrochronology; early modern period; tree-felling dates
Description The development of settlement and building activity is the result of socioeconomic, political and demographic changes in the past. However, accurate information on temporal variation in building activity is rather limited. Dendrochronological databases containing dated historical wooden constructions provide an important resource. We used 6514 tree-felling dates to reconstruct building activity in the Czech lands for the period 1450-1950. Comparing felling dates with historical events demonstrated that building activity was negatively associated with intense wars, particularly during the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648). After the Peace of Westphalia (1648), socioeconomic renewal and demographic growth were reflected in an upsurge of building activity, especially ecclesiastical buildings. While the construction of ecclesiastical and noble buildings culminated around the 1720s, rural buildings peaked in the 1780s and the 1820s. Although no direct effect of climate was demonstrated, adverse climatic conditions leading to harvest failures and subsequent famines (e.g. the 'Hunger Years' 1770-1772) significantly contributed to declines in building activity. In contrast, a higher number of felling dates were detected when strong and/or frequent windstorms occurred. This study provides a comprehensive understanding of building activity in Central Europe and advocates the use of dendrochronological databases for the investigation of human activities in history.
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