Why you would take this class if you are interested in economics and political science


            We explore the late 15th and 16th centuries, during which period the Duchy of Saxony was split into the Albertine and Ernestine components.  The time is one of great upheaval, which includes Luther’s reformation, and the great forward pulses in science and art associated with Renaissance-Humanism.


            Miners were free people, as opposed to farmers and peasants. As a consequence, new orders and property forms developed, including the first form of shareholding. The silver and tin mines of the Erzgebirge brought great wealth to Saxony, but also problems of sustainability and of distribution. The Elector of Saxony – August – was a considerably smart politician, and we have to thank him for some decisions which influence the way Saxony works until today. Examples of his politics include the distribution of mining shares to the northern Saxon towns, in order to motivate them to support the southern mines with food deliveries. We will read a travel report from 1553 of a mayoral delegation from the northern town of Delitzsch which traveled to inspect the mines in which they held shares, giving interesting descriptions of towns, mines, smelters, etc. Another example is his controlling influence on the building of smelters and ore processing plants, which prevented reckless destruction of the Erzgebirge landscape. Under his governance, Bergstaedte (mountain towns) such as Marienberg, Annaberg and Schneeberg, were founded and built following a pre-conceived pattern and plan. He established an official control system of government offices in order to assure his shares, but also to be able to sustain the economic wealth flowing from the mines.


View over Annaberg from the St Annen church tower; old shaft house in Schneeberg


            Other items of political interest may include the Annaberger Bergordnung (Annaberg Mountain Law), which had become necessary in order to keep mines safe. It regulates ownership, boundaries and succession of mines. Interestingly enough, it also has provisions for the families of miners killed or injured in accidents. This basic mountain law has established the basis for mining laws worldwide, including  most European countries and even Brazil. This is particularly interesting, since this basic law has been disregarded by the mining companies in northern Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. We will find the time to find out exactly what it says and implies.



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