Reprieve instead of death: (in trials of gypsies in Bohemia in the first half of the 18th century) or how not to count history.
The article is concerned with the persecution of Gypsies in Bohemia in the first third ofthe 18th century. As in other European countries, in cases where Gypsies had been already formally expelled from a land, Gypsy vagabondage was defined and punished as a capital crime. The article does not forget this normative aspect ofthe theme, but it nonetheless concentrates on the actual practice of persecution and above all on cases in which condemned Gypsies begged for mercy and their death penalty was in fact reduced to a more moderate punishment. The author also looks at the extensive powers of reprieve that the Prague Appellate Court (in the case ofGypsy vagabondage the tribunal offirst instance), was granted by the ruler in the 1720s. Condemned Gypsies were not explicitly mentioned in this context, but there is plenty of evidence that they were not excluded from this practice ofreprieve. The article criticises the view ofthe persecution ofGypsies that is based solely on the quantification ofincomplete data in the manuals of condemnation ofthe Appellate Court. These books not only fail to indicate when the condemned were later reprieved, but also do not allow us to reliably identify individuals condemned. There are examples of one person appearing several times in them, sometimes under different names. It is this misleading quantified evidence that has helped give rise to the idea that the persecution of Gypsies in the early modern period was the first stage of the Gypsy Holocaust in the 20th century. The article argues, on the contrary, that in relation to persecution the pre-modern differed from the modern state not only in terms of capacity, but fundamentally.
Dějiny – Teorie – Kritika, redakce, Masarykův ústav a Archiv AV ČR, v.v.i., Gabčíkova 2362/10, 180 00 Praha 8, Czech Republic
Publication order reference