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SINCE 1997
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Acta Historica Tallinnensia
ISSN 1736-7476 (Electronic)
ISSN 1406-2925 (Print)
Impact Factor (2022): 0.3
Abusing Climate: The 1770s Anomaly and the First Partition of Poland–Lithuania; pp. 190–220

Dominik Collet

Poland–Lithuania served as Europe’s grain basket for centuries, playing a vital role in feeding its neighbours during times of climatic adversity. However, its ecological abundance also attracted hostile intentions. In the early 1770s, the territory experienced a twin catastrophe: a deep political crisis coinciding with a severe climate anomaly. This paper examines the interaction between climate and conflict during a period typically analysed only from the perspective of political history. It aims to reconnect significant state events, such as civil war, occupation, and partition, with their socio-ecological context, including harvest failures, famine, and epidemics. This approach challenges deterministic simplifications of climate–conflict relations and emphasises the diverse range of human responses to climatic impacts, ranging from desperation to appropriation.


1. D. Degroot. Climate Change and Conflict. – The Palgrave Handbook of Climate History. Ed. by S. White, C. Pfister, F. Mauelshagen. Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2018, 367–385;
H. Buhaug, T. A. Benjaminsen, E. A. Gilmore, C. S. Hendrix. Climate-driven Risks to Peace Over the 21st Century. – Climate Risk Management, 2023, 39, 100471.

2. P. Warde. Global Crisis or Global Coincidence. – Past & Present 2015, 228, 287–301.

3. H. H. Kaplan. The First Partition of Poland. Columbia University Press, New York, 1962; M. G. Müller. Die Teilungen Polens, 1772, 1793, 1795. C. H. Beck, Munich, 1984; T. Cegielski. Das alte Reich und die erste Teilung Polens 1768–1774. Franz Steiner, Wiesbaden, 1988; J. Lukowski. The Partitions of Poland, 1772, 1793, 1795. Routledge, London, New York, 1999; W. Konopczyński. Pierwszy rozbiór Polski. Arcana, Kraków, 2010; R. Butterwick. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth 1733–1795. Yale University Press, New Haven, 2020. The only exceptions are H.-J. Bömelburg. Zwischen polnischer Ständegesellschaft und preußischem Obrigkeitsstaat. From Royal Prussia to West Prussia (1756–1806). Oldenbourg, Munich, 1995, and an older version of this paper published as: D. Collet. “Hunger ist der beste Unterhändler des Friedens”. Die Hungerkrise 1770-72 und die Erste Teilung Polen-Litauens. – Die Teilungen Polen-Litauens. Inklusions- und Exklusionsmechanismen – Traditionsbildung – Vergleichsebenen. Hg. von H.-J. Bömelburg, A. Gestrich, H. Schnabel-Schüle. Fibre, Osnabrück 2013, 155–170.

4. The Polish Climate in the European Context: An Historical Overview. Ed. by R. Przybylak, J. Majorowicz, R. Bráydil, M. Kejna. Springer, Dordrecht, 2010. On the development of Polish climate history, see also: A. Izdebski. What Stories Should Historians Be Telling at the Dawn of the Anthropocene? – Perspectives on Public Policy in Societal-Environmental Crises: What the Future needs from History. Ed. by A. Izdebski, J. Haldon, P. Filipowski. Springer, Cham, 2022, 9–21.

5. See, for example, the “letter from Poland” printed in the Caledonian Mercury, 19.8.1772: “Within the distance of fourteen leagues there are no less than eight different armies; and the united horrors of fire, sword, pestilence, and famine combine to make it [Poland–Lithuania] the most wretched spot on the inhabitable earth.”

6. R. Nixon. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2013.

7. Caledonian Mercury, 7/12/1772. Similar remarks on the ruthless exploitation of climatic events by the Partition powers in: Scots Magazine, 1/12/1772, 649f.

8. U. Frevert. Gefühlspolitik. Friedrich II. als Herr über die Herzen? Wallstein, Göttingen, 2012;
D. Collet. Storage and Starvation: Public Granaries as Agents of ‘Food Security’ in Early Modern Europe. – Historical Social Research, 2010, 35, 234–253.

9. G. Alfani, L. Mocarelli, D. Strangio. Italy. – Famine in European History. Ed. by G. Alfani, C. Ó’Gráda. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2017, 25–48, here 46. W. Behringer. Die Krise von 1570. Ein Beitrag zur Krisengeschichte der Frühen Neuzeit. – Um Himmels Willen. Religion in Katastrophenzeiten. Hg. von M. Jakubowski-Tiessen, H. Lehmann. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2003, 51–156, here 151.

10. M. van Tielhof. The Mother of All Trades: The Baltic Grain Trade in Amsterdam from the Late Sixteenth to the Early Nineteenth Century. Brill, Leiden, 2020. The influence of landed gentry and city traders ensured that Poland–Lithuania continued to export through bad times, even though the monarch sometimes attempted to restrict this trade. H.-J. Bömelburg. Zwischen polnischer Ständegesellschaft, 216–221. While other European territories embargoed grain exports in times of dearth, there had been no more effective export bans in Poland since 1532. See J. Kumpfmüller, Die Hungersnot von 1770 in Österreich. PhD Diss. University of Vienna, 1969, 25; J. Schaier. Verwaltungshandeln in einer Hungerkrise. Die Hungersnot 1846/47 im badischen Odenwald. Deutscher Universitäts Verlag, Wiesbaden, 1991, 514.

11. J. Sowa. Fantomowe ciało króla. Peryferyjne zmagania z nowoczesną formą [The King’s Phantom Body. A Peripheral Struggle with Modern Form]. Towarzystwo Autorów I Wydawców Prac Naukowych, Kraków 2011, 126.

12. W. Kula. An Economic Theory of the Feudal System. Towards a Model of the Polish Economy 1500-1800. NLB, London, 1976, 146, and Id. Historia, zacofanie, rozwój. Czytelnik, Warszawa, 1983.

13. J. Sowa. Fantomowe ciało króla.

14. P. R. Rössner. Das friderizianische Preußen (1740-1786) – eine moderne Ökonomie? – Vierteljahrschrift für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte, 2011, 98, 143–172, here 157.

15. Œuvres de Frédéric le Grand. Hg. von J. D. Erdmann Preuß. 30 vols. Decker, Berlin, 1846-57, here vol. 16, 3–6 as well as Die politischen Testamente der Hohenzollern. Hg. von R. Dietrich. Böhlau, Cologne, Vienna, 1986, 375. 

16. Die politischen Testamente der Hohenzollern, 509–513.

17. For the debate on the intentionality of Prussia’s expansion in Poland, see H.-J. Bömelburg. Zwischen polnischer Ständegesellschaft, 209–212; H.-J. Bömelburg. Friedrich II zwischen Deutschland und Polen. Ereignis- und Erinnerungsgeschichte. Kröner, Stuttgart, 2011, 16f., and K. Friedrich. Brandenburg-Prussia, 1466–1806: The Rise of a Composite State. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2012, 93.

18. On the concept of the grain society and its socio-ecological vulnerabilities and affordances, see D. Collet. Die doppelte Katastrophe. Klima und Kultur in der europäischen Hungerkrise 1770-1772. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 2019, 41–54.

19. On “Litte Ice Age Type Events”, see R. Brázdil, C. Pfister. Social Vulnerability to Climate in the “Little Ice Age”. An Example From Central Europe in the Early 1770s. – Climate of the Past, 2006, 2, 115–129.

20. Ibid. For a comprehensive study of the event, see D. Collet. Die doppelte Katastrophe.

21. Ibid., 54–78.

22. J. Łojek. Prasa w życiu społeczeństwa polskiego w epoce rozbiorów. – Kwartalnik Historii Prasy Polskiej, 1982, 21, 133–144, here 138.

23. See, for example, the travel report by John Marshall in: G. W. Strobel. Die wirtschaftlichen und sozialen Verhältnisse in Polen am Ausgang des 18. Jahrhunderts. – Die Erste Polnische Teilung 1772. Hg. von F. B. Kaiser, B. Stasiewski. Böhlau, Cologne, Vienna 1972, 49–74, here 67.

24. R. Przybylak, P. Oliński,W. Chorążyczewski, W. Nowosad, K. Syta. Documentary Evidence. – The Polish Climate in the European Context, 167–190; J. Filipiak, R. Przybylak, P. Oliński. The Longest One-man Weather Chronicle (1721–1786) by Gottfried Reyger for Gdańsk, Poland as a Source for Improved Understanding of Past Climate Variability. – International Journal of Climatology, 2019, 39, 828–842. Reyger in Gdańsk described these years as extraordinary in his detailed observations. For 1770 he noted an extremely long winter with snow turning into incessant rain only in May 1770, resulting in “grass only appearing at the end of the month [April] due to the bad weather”. This was followed by an extremely “wet year” with endless rains in late summer and the harvest period and another “very strong and long winter” with frosts deep into May 1771 and a spring “even colder and later than 1740”, a notable extreme event throughout Europe. According to his observations the cold anomaly continued into 1772 with yet another “long and strong” winter, conditions that could be observed throughout central Europe. G. Reyger. Beschaffenheit der Witterung in Danzig. Zweyther Theil vom Jahr 1770 bis 1786, nebst Zusätzen zur Danziger Flora. Danzig, 1788, 2–10; D. Collet. Die doppelte Katastrophe, 54–78.

25. D. Balanzategui, A. Knorr, K.-U. Heussner, T. Wazny, W. Beck, M. Słowiński, G. Helle, A. Buras, M. Wilmking, E. Van Der Maaten, T. Scharnweber, I. Dorado-Liñán, I. Heinrich. An 810-year History of Cold Season Temperature Variability for Northern Poland. – Boreas, 2018, 47, 443–453; A. Zielski, M. Krąpiec, M. Koprowski. Dencrochronological Data. – The Polish Climate in the European Context, 191–218, here 210. The data on summer temperature and precipitation is less conclusive due to record bias, see ibid., 191f.

26. See the price data derived from the earlier surveys of Julian Pelc and Tadeusz Furtak (1937/38) in: B. van den Hout. Historical Prices and Wages Dataset, 2023,
IISH Data Collection, V2, UNF:6:qqYoGqaCWwQN1ryDLIbJ4w== [fileUNF] (accessed 13/06/2023). The visualization in Fig. 2 relies on additional price data collected initially by Wilhelm Abel. 

27. G. Reyger, Beschaffenheit der Witterung in Danzig. Zweyther Theil vom Jahr 1770 bis 1786, nebst Zusätzen zur Danziger Flora. Danzig, 1788.

28. For a history of the main political events, see J. Lukowski. The Partitions of Poland, 52–81, here 44–48.

29. Ipswich Journal, 7.4.1770. 

30. P. Miodunka. Krakowskie ceny zbóż a ruch urodzeń w parafiach na południe od Krakowa od XVII do XVIII wieku. – Przeszłość Demograficzna Polski, 2016, 38, 7–35, here 17. P. Miodunka. Kryzysy żywnościowe a anomalie klimatyczne od XVII do połowy XIX wieku na przykładzie Małopolski. – Historyka. Studia Metodologiczne, 2016, 46, 209–227;
C. Weikinn. Quellentexte zur Witterungsgeschichte Europas von der Zeitwende bis zum Jahre 1850. Hydrographie: Teil 4 (1701–1750). Borntraeger, Berlin, 1963, 149–151; W. Abel. Massenarmut und Hungerkrisen im vorindustriellen Europa. Versuch einer Synopsis. Parey, Hamburg, 1974, 203.

31. Pirnaisches Gemeinnütziges Wochenblatt, 16, 21/4/1770, 252. Travel report by John Marshall in: G. W. Strobel. Die wirtschaftlichen und sozialen Verhältnisse, 67.

32. Bath Chronicle, 1/8/1771.

33. On the socially mediated nexus between climate and disease in the 1770s and the identification of the plague, see D. Collet. Die doppelte Katastrophe, 279–295.

34. In 1771 uncensored British newspapers reported 160,000 deaths from plague and famine in Poland. In the Podolian town of Kajanez alone, 1,200 inhabitants had supposedly perished. Bath Chronicle, 1/8/1771; Scots Magazine, 1/1/1771. Similar mortality figures are given by F. S. Bock. Versuch einer wirthschaftlichen Naturgeschichte von dem Königreich Ost- und Westpreussen. Bd. 1. Buchhandlung der Gelehrten, Dessau, 1782, 817. Due to the fragmented record modern research on the demographic impacts is limited. Comparative studies and occasional information on baptisms seem to confirm the notion of a substantial crisis. Cf. P. Miodunka. Famines in the Manorial Economy of the Eighteenth-Century. – Rural History, 2022, 1–20
and Id., Krakowskie ceny zbóż a ruch urodzeń w parafiach na południe od Krakowa od XVII do XVIII wieku. – Przeszłość Demograficzna Polski, 2016, 38, 4, doi: 10.18276/pdp.2016.4.38-01.

35. Politische Correspondenz Friedrichs des Großen. Hg. von G. B. Volz et al., 48 Bd. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, 1879–2015, Bd. 31, 268, 307.

36. D. Collet. Storage and Starvation. 

37. The beneficiaries included above all the soldiers, the colonists in the Oder reclamation areas and the population of Berlin. Geheimes Staatsarchiv Berlin (in the following: GStA), PK, I. HA, Rep. 96b, No. 139, fol. 305r, 315r. 

38. Frederick II to Legationsrat Borcke in Dresden, 15/9/1770, in: Politische Correspondenz Friedrichs des Großen, Bd. 30, 142. The king regularly repeated these accusations, which supported his view of Saxon decadence and Prussian prudence. Ibid., vol. 31, 179, 529, 706, 770.

39. The embargoes initially applied to the grain producing areas of Magdeburg, Halberstadt and East Prussia. Shortly afterwards all other Prussian territories were added. Cf. F. Magen. Reichsexekutive und regionale Selbstverwaltung im späten 18. Jahrhundert. Zur Funktion und Bedeutung der süd- und westdeutschen Reichskreise bei der Handelsregulierung im Reich aus Anlass der Hungerkrise von 1770/72 (Historische Forschungen 48). Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, 1992, 21f. 

40. Cf. for example on the armed border conflicts with Saxony: GStA PK I., HA Rep. 41, No. 1316-1318.

41. G. E. Rothenberg. The Austrian Sanitary Cordon and the Control of the Bubonic Plague: 1710–1871. – Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 1973, 28, 1, 15–23;
R. Reith. Umweltgeschichte der Frühen Neuzeit. Oldenbourg, München, 2011, 21.

42. J. Lukowski. The Partitions of Poland, 70; M. G. Müller. Die Teilungen Polens, 36.

43. A. Skalweit. Die Getreidehandelspolitik und Kriegsmagazinverwaltung Preußens 1756–1806 (Acta Borussica, Getreidehandelspolitik 4). Parey, Berlin, 1931, 275f.

44. J. T. Alexander. Bubonic Plague in Early Modern Russia. Public Health and Urban Disaster. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1980, 103, 250.

45. “… on account of the indespensable communication which the carrying of provisions occasions.” London Magazine, September 1770. The assumption proved to be correct. However, the transmission route via the rat or rat flea as carriers of the plague bacterium hidden between the sacks was not yet known. See J. T. Alexander. Bubonic Plague, 108.

46. The sanitary cordons around Moscow, for example, served military as much as medical needs during heavily publicised plague uprising of 1771. They were closely linked to the strategic famine policy of the authorities and allowed them to deny the existence of the plague in the bordering counties. N. Kuhl. Der Pestaufstand von Moskau 1771. – Volksaufstände in Rußland. Von der Zeit der Wirren bis zur “Grünen Revolution” gegen die Sowjetherrschaft. Harrasowitz, Wiesbaden, 2006, 325–396, here 328; M. Stuber, S. Hächler. Ancien Régime vernetzt. Albrecht von Hallers bernische Korrespondenz. – Bernische Zeitschrift für Geschichte und Heimtakunde, 2000, 62, 125–190, here 177. The conflation of medical and military terms is now so engrained that during the current Russian aggression against Ukraine, President Putin called for a “sanitary zone” to be established on (occupied and then annexed) Ukrainian territory. (accessed 13/6/2023). 

47. A. Skalweit. Die Getreidehandelspolitik, 275f.

48. On the use of the occupation to provide food for the soldiers (“Natural-Verpflegung an Brod und Fourage”), see Cabinet order to Major Generals Alvensleben and Belling of 9/12/1770, in: A. Skalweit. Die Getreidehandelspolitik, 275. Prussian soldiers were automatically allocated magazine grain when prices surpassed a fixed price, an allowance also meant to feed their families. Major General von Billerbeck therefore remarked “that if the Commißbrod [granary rations] should cease, the misery here is likely to become indescribable”. The shortage in Prussia was so dramatic that soldiers on leave returned voluntarily to duty in order to “share in this beneficium of bread”. In many Prussian towns, the families of soldiers constituted a considerable proportion of the population. Ibid., 107.

49. A. Skalweit. Die Getreidehandelspolitik, 276.

50. “The King of Prussia has notified in form to the States-General, that the reports propagated concerning his designs upon Dantzick and a part of Poland are void of all foundation; that the great force which he has spread along the confines of Poland was merely to prevent a communication of the plague.” Scots Magazine, 1/3/1771.

51. “The Prussians, who first under the pretence of forming a line to prevent the spreading of infection … had sent several considerable bodies of troops into Regal or Polish Prussia, was oppressive and arbitrary in the highest degree; excessive contributions [of grain] were raised.” Annual Register, 1771, ch. 8, 86.

52. A. Skalweit. Die Getreidehandelspolitik, 112f. Politische Correspondenz Friedrichs des Großen, Bd. 31, 50.

53. Politische Correspondenz Friedrichs des Großen, Bd. 31, 461 and 396 (all translations from Frederick’s correspondence in French are by the author unless otherwise indicated).

54. GStA PK II. HA, Gen. Dir. Ostpreußen II, No. 3522: Instructions to Kammerpräsident Domhardt as well as letter to the Legationsrat Benoit in Warsaw dated 17/3/1771, in: Politische Correspondenz Friedrichs des Großen, Bd. 31, 28f. By autumn at the latest, Friedrich acknowledged that the hunger in Poland was not solely due to the actions of the Confederates, but also the result of weather-related crop failures. Ibid., 382.

55. GStA PK I. HA, Rep. 96B, No. 72 (1771), here p. 146: Cabinet order to Johann Friedrich Domhardt of 14/4/1771 and to Karl Heinrich Graf von Hoym of 29/7/1771. A. Skalweit. Die Getreidehandelspolitik, 282.

56. GStA PK I. HA, Rep. 96B, No. 72 (1771), p. 342.

57. Berlinische Nachrichten, 24/3/1772.

58. A. Skalweit. Die Getreidehandelspolitik, 302.

59. GStA PK I. HA, Rep. 96B, No. 72 (1771), p. 333.

60. GStA PK I. HA, Rep. 96B, No. 72 (1771), p. 61. A. Skalweit. Die Getreidehandelspolitik, 75. 

61. A. Skalweit. Die Getreidehandelspolitik, 77.

62. Scots Magazine, 1/1/1771, 42. A. Skalweit. Die Getreidehandelspolitik, 77. GStA PK I. HA, Rep. 96B, No. 72 (1771), p. 324.

63. A. Skalweit. Die Getreidehandelspolitik, 78f. On the Russian and Polish protests, see Politische Correspondenz Friedrichs des Großen, Bd. 31, 733.

64. A. Skalweit. Die Getreidehandelspolitik, 299; Politische Correspondenz Friedrichs des Großen, Bd. 31, 268.

65. A. Skalweit. Die Getreidehandelspolitik, 79f.; M. Bär. Westpreussen unter Friedrich dem Grossen. 2 Bd. Hirzel, Leipzig, 1909, Bd. 2, 17ff.

66. See Politische Correspondenz Friedrichs des Großen, Bd. 32, 233: “[As I see from your report] that many Poles, and especially Prince Sulkowski, show much ill will in this, there is no other means than to impose execution on the recalcitrant without exception.” The term “execution” here probably refers to implementation, but shootings were also used on occasion; see ibid., 287.

67. Quoted in A. Skalweit. Die Getreidehandelspolitik, 82.

68. J. T. Alexander. Bubonic Plague, 249. Reports from Petersburg and Warsaw in: Leeds Intelligencer, 30/6/1771 and 5/11/1771; Scots Magazine, 1/1/1771, 42.

69. J. J. Lerche. Lebens- und Reise-Geschichte von ihm selbst beschrieben. Curts Witwe, Halle, 1791, 424; Scots Magazine, 1/5/1771.

70. On the one hundred carriages that set out daily from Vienna under military protection on pontoon bridges over the flooded Danube, see E. Weinzierl-Fischer. Die Bekämpfung der Hungersnot in Böhmen 1770-1772 durch Maria Theresia und Joseph II. – Mitteilungen des österreichischen Staatsarchivs, 1954, 7, 478–514, here 495f. Supply from Poland was impracticable in view of geographical barriers.

71. On the situation in Bohemia, see E. Weinzierl-Fischer. Die Bekämpfung der Hungersnot; R. Brázdil, H. Valásek, J. Luterbacher, J. Macková. Die Hungerjahre 1770-1772 in den böhmischen Ländern. Verlauf, meteorologische Ursachen und Auswirkungen. – Österreichische Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaften, 2001, 12, 44–78. On the Austrian Erblande, see J. Kumpfmüller, Die Hungersnot von 1770 in Österreich.

72. E. Weinzierl-Fischer. Die Bekämpfung der Hungersnot, 486, 492f., 510.

73. Ibid., 491, 493, and J. Kumpfmüller, Die Hungersnot von 1770 in Österreich, 59, 69–71, 120–123. After violent riots the population in Prague was supplied from the military granaries on the direct orders of Joseph II. Shortly afterwards, another million guilders had to be withdrawn from the treasury for those war magazines to feed the starving population of the city. See F. X. Huber. Neue Kronik von Böhmen vom Jahre 530 bis 1780 [...]. Schönfeld, Prague, 1780, 406; J. Kumpfmüller, Die Hungersnot von 1770 in Österreich, 58.

74. The emperor even had a patent drafted declaring the complete abolition of serfdom to get control of the situation. See D. Collet. Die doppelte Katastrophe, 197–199.

75. Britain had to finance the acquisition of the bankrupt East India company and save a range of banks collapsing under caving consumer demand. In Sweden, the famine provided the backdrop to Gustav II absolutist coup. In France riots proliferated preventing the King from leaving Versailles in summer and even in the Dutch Republic the administration lived in feared of uprisings. See D. Collet. Die doppelte Katastrophe, 110–116.

76. Derby Mercury, 10/7/1772.

77. On Polish exports to Swabia and Würzburg, cf. Anonymus. Lesenswürdige Beschreibung von der Theurung. Die sich von anno 1770. bis 1772. fast ganz in Europa zugetragen dergleichen bey Mannsdenken nicht erlebt worden, welches man zu einem eigen Andenken dem geneigten Leser beysetzen wollen, mit dem Wunsche, daß unsere Nachkommen dergleichen Jammer und Elend nimmer mehr erleben, viel weniger erfahren dürften. Johann Georg Bullmann, Augsburg, 1773, o. P. 

78. Bath Chronicle, 18/6/1772.

79. J. T. Alexander. Bubonic Plague, 105–107.

80. P. Miodunka. Famines in the Manorial Economy; R. Brázdil, H. Valásek, J. Luterbacher, J. Macková. Die Hungerjahre 1770–1772, 63.

81. Annual Register, 1771, ch. 8, 84: “… the king of Prussia in the beginning of the year, purchased prodigious quantities of corn to supply his magazines and had afterwards, upon the same account, prevented or impeded the conveyance of corn by the Vistula from Poland to Dantzick. Both these circumstances contributed much to the general distress of Germany.” Even Adam Smith suspected similar knock-on effects for the whole of Europe: A. Smith. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. 2 vols. Strahan, London, 1776, vol. 1, 249. 

82. Politische Correspondenz Friedrichs des Großen, Bd. 31, 63. See also ibid., 98, and J. Lukowski. The Partitions of Poland, 74–77.

83. L. Atorf, Der König und das Korn. Die Getreidehandelspolitik als Fundament des brandenburgisch-preußischen Aufstiegs zur europäischen Großmacht. Duncker und Humblot, Berlin, 1999, 182, 214.

84. Frederick II converted reports of Austrian purchases of Hungarian grain into troop contingents in his head immediately and ordered his ambassador in Vienna: “I can only attribute this enormous accumulation of grain to secret military intentions, which you must undertake to reveal completely.” Politische Correspondenz Friedrichs des Großen, Bd. 31, 584.

85. Politische Correspondenz Friedrichs des Großen, Bd. 31, 396. Numerous similar statements in: Ibid., vol. 32, 242, 298, 400, 416 as well as Müller, Teilungen, 38.

86. “The [Austrian] troops will probably march some weeks later, as there is a difficulty in forming the necessary Magazines in Hungary, since the large Exportation of corn from thence for the relief of Bohemia and Moravia.” (Ciphered) report of the British Ambassador in Vienna, David Murray, Viscount Stormont, 19/4/1771 in: National Archives London (NA in the following), State Papers 80/209, no. 19.

87. On the transports that could not be kept secret due to the supply problems, cf. NA, SP 81/109, reports 17/3/1771 and 31/3/1771 as well as NA, SP 80/209 report on 10/4/1771. In May and June 1771 alone, 2,200 soldiers passed through the starving city of Regensburg. K. Beck, Regensburg. Sammelstelle der Auswanderer nach Südosteuropa und Rußland im 18. und frühen 19. Jahrhundert, 2 vols. Roderer, Regensburg 1996/2000, vol. 1, 137f. 

88. Pirnaisches Gemeinnütziges Wochenblatt 16, 21/4/1770, 250. The Saxon troops did not seem ready for action due to their poor supplies. NA, SP 103/88, report on 7/7/1771.

89. “Should a general war be inevitable, it seems to me that the greatest obstacle would be the construction of magazines for the maintenance of the troops until the next harvest. The famine is already felt in various countries, and according to the news from Saxony, it has risen to the point that the people in the neighbourhood of Pirna are digging up dead dogs for food.” Politische Correspondenz Friedrichs des Großen, Bd. 31, 640.

90. The Newcastle Courant, 14/12/1772. The Annual Register, 1771, ch. 8, 85. saw a similar connection between the supplies and Prussia’s bargaining power: “Things carried much the appearance of war both at Vienna and Berlin at the beginning of the year…. Everything bespoke some great event at hand. It is not improbable that the great scarcity of corn, and the public calamities which afterwards took place, contributed to the preservation of the general tranquillity. It was said that the king of Prussia was beforehand with the Emperor in filling his magazines, a measure which the later afterwards found impracticable.”

91. Letter to the Minister of State von Rohd in Vienna, 23/9/1771, in: Politische Correspondenz Friedrichs des Großen, Bd. 31, 472. According to eyewitnesses, the French military was similarly inoperational during the crisis: H. Pleschinski Nie war es herrlicher zu leben. Das geheime Tagebuch des Herzogs von Croÿ. C. H. Beck, Munich, 2011, 251. 

92. The political struggle around the agreement is described (without reference to grain or famine) in: J. Lukowski. The Partitions of Poland, 71–81.

93. M. Bär. Westpreussen unter Friedrich dem Grossen, Bd. 1, 33 and Bd. 2, 60–63. The last sections of the connecting Bromberg canal were completed in 1774.

94. Ibid., Bd. 1, 86; L. Atorf. Der König und das Korn, 226; W. Naudé. Deutsche städtische Getreidehandelspolitik mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der Stettiner und Hamburger Getreidehandelspolitik. Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig, 1889, 387f. 

95. A. Stollenwerk. Der Regierungsbezirk Koblenz während der großen Hungersnot 1816/17. – Jahrbuch für Geschichte und Kunst des Mittelrheins und seiner Nachbargebiete, 1970/71, 22–23, 109–149, here 119f.

96. F. Karpiński. Poezje wybrane. Wybór: T. Chavhulski. Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich, Wrocław, 1997, 193. Translation by Ada Arendt. 

97. D. Collet. Die doppelte Katastrophe, 253–263.

98. E. Weinzierl-Fischer. Die Bekämpfung der Hungersnot, 511.

99. On Frederick II’s use of Jewish grain merchants as scapegoats, see D. Collet. Die doppelte Katastrophe, 259–264. On his anti-Judaism and his creation of anti-Polish images, see M. Gailus. Die Erfindung des “Korn-Juden”. Zur Erfindung eines antijüdischen Feindbildes des 18. und frühen 19. Jahrhunderts. – Historische Zeitschrift, 2001, 272, 597–622, here 608;
H.-J. Bömelburg. Friedrich II. zwischen Deutschland und Polen. Ereignis- und Erinnerungsgeschichte. Kröner, Stuttgart, 2011, 78–89. Polish Jews became favourite targets of abuse in Europe. As Jews, they were considered usurers and profiteers, and as Poles, they were suspected of transmitting the plague. See F. S. Bock. Versuch einer wirthschaftlichen Naturgeschichte, Bd. 1, 817. Churbaierisches Intelligenzblatt, 31/10/1770, 281, 285. On the concept of “asymmetrische Gegenbegriffe”, see R. Koselleck. Vergangene Zukunft. Zur Semantik geschichtlicher Zeiten. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt a. M., 1989.

100. See J. Lind. Letters concerning the present state of Poland. Payne, London 1773, 3.

101. On the very real crisis in Prussia, see U. Kluge. Hunger, Armut und soziale Devianz im 18. Jahrhundert. Hungerkrisen, Randgruppen und absolutistischer Staat in Preußen. – Freiburger Universitätsblätter, 1987, 26, 61–91. Irrespectively, luminaries such as Friedrich Nicolai proclaimed that the famine of 1771/72 had turned him from a critic into an admirer of Frederick II, since he “managed to get advice from his stores to the smallest towns; so that the misery among us, although very great, was nevertheless by far not so terrible”. F. Nicolai. Anekdoten von König Friedrich II. von Preußen. Bd. 1. Nicolai, Berlin, Stettin, 1788, XII.

102. In the period 1764–1784, almost two-thirds of all magazine grain originated not in Prussian territories, but in Poland. A. Skalweit. Die Getreidehandelspolitik, 100–102.

103. U. Frevert. Gefühlspolitik, 101f. On a “Song of the People, When the King let the Poor have Bread, and the Farmer Seed. 1771”, see H. Böning, R. Siegert. Volksaufklärung. Biobibliographisches Handbuch zur Popularisierung aufklärerischen Denkens im deutschen Sprachraum von den Anfängen bis 1850. Bd. 1. Frommann-Holzboog, Stuttgart, 1990, 442. On the similarly strategic use of anti-Polish resentment in Austria, see the remarks by Ambrosius Zesch, who uses the exclusion of Poland as that “corner of Europe [where] infernal discord emerges from its steaming maw” to celebrate Maria Theresa as their “bread mother”. A. Zesch. Kanzelrede [...] an dem Dankfest gesprochen [...] in der Stifft- Pfarr- und Mutterkirche für die von Ihrer Röm. Kaiserl. und Apost. König. Majest. Marien Theresien in der Zeit der Hungersnoth empfangenen Getraidhülf vor dem Altar Gottes am 14. August 1771 ist erstattet worden. Burggau, 1771, 10, 19.

104. D. Collet. Die doppelte Katastrophe, 264–345.

105. See, for example, the use of historical data and conflict series in: S.M. Hsiang, K. C. Meng, M. A. Cane. Civil Conflicts are Associated with the Global Climate. – Nature 476, 2011, 438–441.

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