University of Cambridge > > Violence and Conflict Graduate Workshop, Faculty of History > Muster Rolls and Polynomial Functions: A Historical and Statistical Study of Mid-Eighteenth-Century Hapsburg Armies

Muster Rolls and Polynomial Functions: A Historical and Statistical Study of Mid-Eighteenth-Century Hapsburg Armies

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Ilya Berkovich.

Muster rolls were introduced in Europe from the second half of the seventeenth-century as part of a broader trend to shift the responsibility for maintaining troops from semi-independent military entrepreneurs to the control of a centralised state-apparatus. These documents, submitted at given time intervals to the ministry of war, contained the names of men serving in a specific unit, their numbers and condition. While their original function is largely fiscal, the rolls also include material on individual soldiers who served in the army. Moreover, when figures from numerous muster rolls are combined, they contain much information on military mobility, units’ strength, desertion and even discipline.

All this presents a wealth of data which can contribute greatly to the understanding of social and cultural realities of eighteenth-century military forces. However, when used to study the conditions of an army as a whole, rather than that of an individual unit, the use of muster rolls is not easy at all. For instance, how the material contained in documents covering different units of varied size, and over inconsistent time periods, could be united into a single comprehensible model, which, in turn, could be subjected to a consistent statistical analysis?

This paper will present a database devised following the study of 150 individual muster rolls covering the Austrian army under the reign of Empress Maria Theresa. The material which was included, the way it was organised and studied will all be discussed. The talk will conclude by presenting some of the results this analysis, and the ways those can be integrated in broader discussions on discipline, motivation and service conditions in the armies of old-regime Europe.

This talk is part of the Violence and Conflict Graduate Workshop, Faculty of History series.

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