Money, Power, and Influence in Eighteenth-Century Lithuania
The Jews on the Radziwiłł Estates
Adam Teller



What Is This Book About?

The General Issues: Jewish Economic History

The aim of this book is to examine the economic choices made by Jews in the eighteenth-century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, to see how they were translated into action, and to explore the economic, social, and cultural effects that these choices had on both their own and non-Jewish society.

The setting was chosen because Poland-Lithuania was at that time home to the largest Jewish population in the world. Beyond that, the state’s devolved power structure had, since the late fifteenth century, seen extensive rights ceded to the szlachta (the Polish term for the nobility) at the expense of the king. This development opened up significant economic opportunities for the Jews, who actively positioned themselves to serve the needs of the burgeoning szlachta.1 As that nobility—and particularly its upper stratum, the magnates—flourished, so too did the Jews.2 They made intensive use of the economic possibilities on the seigneurial estates that allowed them to overcome the competition of their non-Jewish neighbors and greatly enrich themselves and their society. In fact, during the eighteenth century Jews effectively ran a number of key sectors in the economy—an accomplishment that gave them considerable (if unofficial) standing in estate life. Poland-Lithuania is, therefore, an ideal setting in which to examine not just the ways in which Jews in the pre-modern world went about making a living, but also how they were able to leverage their economic activity into positions of power and influence.

Jewish economic history is today a newly developing area of research.3 Before the mid-twentieth century the field had flourished among the Jews of Eastern Europe, who were influenced by socialist, even Marxist, approaches. This meant that their interest was engaged by the activity of the Jewish masses and their struggle against exploitation. In the West the field, such as it was, was deeply influenced by Werner Sombart’s book The Jews and Modern Capitalism, which saw in the Jews the progenitors of capitalism.4 Following the Holocaust and the destruction of Polish Jewry, research on Jewish economic history languished, kept alive, barely, by a handful of survivors in the People’s Republic of Poland who wrote in the state-imposed Marxist vein. It was not until the turn of the twenty-first century that the field began to revive. Recent research, carried out in a world of American-led globalization, has been dominated by questions of economic modernization as well as the accommodation of Jews to the capitalist system, particularly in the United States.5

This study is a conscious attempt to break that mold. For the vast majority of their history Jews lived and worked in socioeconomic settings that were neither capitalist nor in transition to capitalism. If the study of Jewish history has among its goals the search for commonalities (and variations) in Jewish experience in different times and places, then a more-or-less exclusive focus on a single phenomenon, even one as important as capitalism, is not helpful. To be able to generalize or even theorize about Jewish economic activity, we must have studies from a range of contexts on which to draw. Examining the Jews’ role in what is often termed “a late feudal economy,” such as that in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, is to see how Jews fared in a system that had little or nothing to do with capitalism.6

Of course, the study of Jewish economic life can tell us a great deal more than just how Jews managed under one economic regime or another. It is an important tool for examining the relations that developed between Jews and the rest of society. Most economic activity engages the individual in a broad network that extends well beyond his or her immediate surroundings. The line extending from owner of the means of production to producer, to distributor (and those servicing the market), and thence to consumer, is often very long. It crosses and re-crosses seemingly impenetrable barriers of class, ethnicity, religion, and gender (not to mention physical segregation where that existed) in the most natural way, connecting its constituent parts in a mutually beneficial relationship—irrespective of whether the benefits are equally shared. In this sense, the study of Jewish economic history is a way to understand one of the most important mechanisms of social integration that functioned wherever Jews lived—even in societies where their integration was frowned upon. This is particularly clear in the Polish-Lithuanian setting, where the Jews were at the same time a despised religious minority and key players in the economy with a social standing that few could afford to ignore.7

This situation has important implications for the kinds of questions that are asked in this study. Issues of exploitation, so dear to the hearts of previous generations of scholars of Jewish economic history, are not emphasized. “Exploitation” suggests that there was a permanent and irrevocable imbalance of powers between economic actors, with one benefitting at the other’s expense. Such a black and white view misses the ambiguities of the Jews’ economic relationships. In the terms of this study, there was indeed an imbalance of power between the Jews and the magnates, as there was in all feudal relationships. But Jews also benefitted from their dealings with their lords, both financially and in terms of social standing vis-à-vis other groups in society. It was a tradeoff—an apt term for an economic choice. So the discussion here revolves around choices: in particular, the economic choices made by Jews and by magnates as both searched to secure and improve their income and the social benefits it brought. Also examined are the implications of those choices for each group and the economy as a whole.

Though at first sight it might seem presumptuous for a book on Jewish economic history to claim to shed light on the entire economy of the country in which they lived, this is not the case. Even an economic niche almost exclusively occupied by Jews, such as the leasing of the alcohol monopoly on the noble estates of Poland-Lithuania, has no significance unless it functions within a broader economic context—in this case, that of the late feudal economy.8 Over the course of the study then it will become clear that the Jewish economic activity under examination was structured and shaped by the economic system within which it functioned.

On the other hand, since the Jews acted as part of a large network of economic actors most of whom were not Jewish, the ways in which they managed their economic lives affected broad strata of society. To put this in terms of a popular (though problematic) economic theory, if the Jews formed a “middleman minority” in Poland-Lithuania, they could only have done so in the framework of an economic system composed largely of non-Jews, who were directly affected by the Jews’ success or failure in their economic activity.9 This is thus a book that is as much about the history of Poland-Lithuania as it is about that of the Jews.

The key issue is the nature of the economic niche that the Jews inhabited. Since the sale of alcohol played a crucial role in the Polish-Lithuanian economy, particularly under the tutelage of the magnates, the Jews’ choice to enter and eventually control this niche gave them an economic importance that extended well beyond Jewish society. It also gave them an almost unprecedented standing in the broader social order. Widely recognized as agents, both official and unofficial, of the magnates, they enjoyed significant “second-hand” power: all groups in society understood that the Jews were the recipients of magnate support and so had to be treated with respect, even though as Jews they were often looked down upon and even hated. Jews did sometimes suffer attacks and persecution, but on the whole they were not only protected but could also, on economic issues at least, exert their own influence on their non-Jewish neighbors.10 Jewish economic agency brought with it a significant degree of social empowerment.

It is of course impossible to generalize about these issues without first examining them in a concrete context—in our case the Jews’ economic functions on one specific magnate estate (or to be more accurate, conglomeration of estates) in the eighteenth-century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The latifundium in question was situated in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (today’s Belarus and Lithuania) and belonged the noble and mighty Radziwiłł family.11

The Specific Issues: The Jews on Magnate Estates in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

To make a close analysis of the implications of the Jews’ economic life on the magnate estates, we first need to understand what brought them there. It was only in the early modern period that Jews in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth moved in large numbers from the royal cities to those owned by the nobility.12 In the Middle Ages the Jews in Poland, as in the rest of Europe, regarded the king, not the nobility, as their main protector. In previous centuries Jews had come to Poland as part of a broad wave of migrants from the German lands, in response to the efforts of the Polish crown to promote settlement and develop urban markets. Jewish settlement was relatively small and mostly concentrated in the royal cities. The Jews received from the king protection and rights in the form of “general privileges” (charters granted to the Jews as a group which defined their rights and duties in the state), but faced tough resistance from non-Jewish townspeople when they attempted to integrate into the urban economy.13

Only with the weakening of royal authority in Poland and Lithuania in the sixteenth century, especially following a law of 1539 that removed Jews living on noble estates from the king’s jurisdiction, did Jews began to look to the szlachta for effective protection and guarantees of their rights.14 At the same time, the nobility, the rising power in the state, began to take advantage of the Jews’ economic talents, first to undercut the urban monopoly of trade in the royal towns that was not in their favor, and then to help develop the markets and economic functioning of their estates. This was of enormous importance to the nobles because it was their estates that provided their income and the basis of their social status. Any means of enhancing their revenues was thus pursued with vigor.

An economic tradeoff between nobles and Jews resulted. Jewish merchants and businessmen served the economic needs of the nobility, and the nobility gave the Jews protection against their competitors and enemies. As a result, more and more Jews left the royal towns to settle on the noble estates.

Their numbers grew further following the Union of Poland and Lithuania, concluded in Lublin in 1569. According to the unification agreement, extensive areas of Ukraine, which was exceptionally fertile agricultural land, were transferred from Lithuanian rule to Polish. On the Polish king’s orders they were soon distributed to his counselors, magnate families, and other prominent nobles, who set about developing them. They colonized the region and invited in large numbers of settlers, including Jews, tempting them with various tax breaks and other incentives.15

This proved a highly successful strategy. Agricultural productivity grew rapidly, as did Polish grain exports to Central and Western Europe, and the estate owners profited handsomely. Jews, originally brought to the towns to enliven the urban markets, then moved into estate management by taking estates on leasehold (called arenda in Polish). They also contributed to the estate economy by managing the manufacture and sale of alcohol—a key growth sector. They did this by leasing the income from the estate owners’ monopoly on the alcohol business (prawo propinacyjne). As a result, the economic ties between Jews and magnates grew ever stronger.16

Though the violent Khmelnytsky Uprising of 1648 put an end to this period of development (which had already been slowing for several decades), many Jews continued to seek preferential terms of settlement by moving to magnate estates—especially in the economically lagging eastern regions of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. This second wave of settlement began in the second half of the seventeenth century and lasted until late in the eighteenth.17

The export market for Polish grain collapsed following the end of the Thirty Years War, so the magnate estate owners began to exploit the home market much more intensively in order to extract the revenues they needed. Alcohol sales were key to this process and grew dramatically during the eighteenth century.

The Jews’ activity as merchants, leaseholders of entire estates or of monopoly rights on estates, and in a few cases even as salaried managers, expanded, further deepening their integration into the estate economy. Their roles in the markets for commodities and particularly alcohol became highly significant. As a result, Jews also became an integral part of the estates’ social structures—a situation that, as we will see in the course of this study, was reflected in the development of Jewish society itself.

These complex processes seem to have reached their apogee in the eighteenth century, as the magnate class grew ever stronger socially, economically, and politically. Since the magnates appreciated the ways in which Jewish businessmen helped improve their revenues, they made their estates particularly comfortable for Jewish life. A vibrant Jewish society developed.

It is this interplay of the ways in which Jewish economic activity contributed to the development of the magnate estates and the importance of life on the estates for the development of Jewish society that is examined here. To do this, some effort is devoted to understanding the nature of the magnate estate, its internal workings, and the relations between the various groups that lived on it. Still, the main questions that the study asks focus on the Jews: In which ways did Jewish economic actors contribute to estate profitability? How did their activity answer the needs of the magnate estate owners? To what extent was it undertaken in response to the nobles’ conscious policy decisions in estate management? How did conditions on the estates influence both the relationships between Jews and other groups living there and the development of Jewish society itself?

Such questions necessitate a rethinking of how the East-Central European magnate estate should be studied. Until now, largely under the influence of Marxist approaches, the major focus of research has been on production, emphasizing issues of peasant labor and its administration by estate owners.18 Since Jews did not work the land and were rarely engaged in organizing the means of production, their significance in that kind of research was marginal at best. This study follows a different approach, one already current in research, arguing that a latifundium such as that of the Radziwiłłs was essentially an economic enterprise run by its owner with the highest degree of efficiency he could manage.19 Doing this brings the Jews center stage because the roles they played in the estate economy were crucial in improving its profitability.

The goal of the magnate estate owners in managing their lands was to ensure a level of income stable and high enough to finance all their many needs. In the Commonwealth, like most of pre-modern Europe, the nobility was the major political group in society, and political activity involved significant financial outlay. The higher the status, the greater the activity and so the expense.20 Beyond this, magnate status was demonstrated by stylish and opulent living. The great families spared no expense in copying the lifestyle of the French and Central European courts, which also involved considerable expenditure.21 Finally, estate management itself, especially the development and upkeep of infrastructure, was an expensive business. Since the estates were the major source of the nobles’ income, their financial management in all aspects needed to be taken very seriously. This meant not just production but distribution and sale too.

Thus, the second thread of this study is the socioeconomic complex of the latifundium. Running a latifundium was not something that any individual could undertake independently. It involved the establishment of an entire administration. The magnates might sit in their chancelleries and direct matters from on high, but running the different sectors of the individual estates on a daily basis fell to the administrators on the ground. For this reason, the questions posed here cannot be answered just by examining the direct relationships between estate owners and Jews. Though these could have significant implications for all sides, such relationships were rare. In most cases the magnates had no idea precisely who it was that was bringing them their incomes. The benefits that Jews brought to magnates came not directly, but through their activity within the estate economy and estate society.22

In the same way, magnates as individuals had little interest in or impact on the development of Jewish life. They viewed Jews as one of the groups living on their lands. Each group had its own characteristics and functioned within the broad policy of estate administration. The processes of change undergone by Jewish society can thus only be understood in the context of the estates’ complex social structure.

The huge Radziwiłł latifundium, which was one of the largest, most complex and successful sets of estates in eighteenth-century Poland-Lithuania, makes an excellent case study for examining the Jews’ roles in the estate economy and society.23 Beyond this, its very complexity adds a further dimension to the study. Since the estates had been in the family for generations, they were divided and re-divided among the heirs, sometimes passing from one branch of the family to another and sometimes even leaving the family’s control as dowries given to daughters. The latifundium thus had multiple owners. During the seventy-five-year period of our study, the Radziwiłł estates were managed by five different members of the family over three generations. This gives a comparative perspective to this study permitting the examination of both continuities and differences in the management strategies of different individuals in different places and times. As a result, the problems involved in generalizing about Jewish experience on magnate estates on the basis of a single case study are, to some extent at least, alleviated.

The focus on the Radziwiłł estates in Lithuania also makes this something of a regional study that can deepen our understanding of the evolution of Jewish society in a relatively understudied part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.24 Even though the Union of Lublin combined Lithuania and Poland into a single state, the merger was not total. It is no wonder, then, that Jewish society in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania developed somewhat differently from that in Crown Poland. This was largely because the two states had slightly different social structures and legal traditions, and the Lithuanian economy was less developed. In addition, large-scale Jewish settlement on the magnate estates of eastern Poland, especially Ukraine, began after 1569 and lasted until 1648, while the corresponding process in Lithuania was slower and accelerated only after the wars of the mid-seventeenth century.25

Though the research here is not primarily regional in nature, it does shed some light on the specifics of Jewish life in the Grand Duchy during the eighteenth century and so adds to our understanding of the diversity of experience in Eastern Europe in the early modern period.26

The Radziwiłł Family and Its Latifundium

The study covers the period from 1689 to 1764, from a time at which the Radziwiłł family’s fortunes were at a low ebb to a moment at which it was possibly the most powerful dynasty in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.27 Though clearly a period of intensive development for the family and its estates, these seventy-five years were not marked by any drastic changes in their history. Even the transfers of lands from generation to generation and from owner to owner seem to have happened without serious upheaval. It is thus an excellent period for examining continuity and change in estate administration and the ways in which these affected the economic roles of the Jews. Before we do this, however, we need first to say a few words about the history of the family and its estates before 1689.

In the sixteenth century the Radziwiłłs were one of the leading noble dynasties in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Their status improved dramatically in 1547, when Barbara Radziwiłł married Zygmunt August, the heir to the throne, a development that extended their influence into Poland. The family’s powerful position continued into the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, particularly in the colorful figure of Mikołaj Krzysztof Radziwiłł. Baptized a Calvinist, he converted to Roman Catholicism, made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and wrote an account of the experience. A staunch monarchist, he held many high positions in Polish-Lithuanian society as well as donating much time, effort, and money to religious and cultural causes.28 He substantially enlarged his estates around the town of Nieśwież (Nesvizh, Belarus) and earned great prestige for his family.29 Following his death in 1616, however, the family’s status began to decline and continued to do so during the wars of the mid-seventeenth century.30

At that time Janusz and Bogusław Radziwiłł were the leading figures in the family. Janusz played an active role in the Commonwealth’s military operations against Bohdan Khmelnytsky’s Cossack rebellion. When, at the end of that conflict, Russian forces invaded Lithuania from the east, Radziwiłł decided to conclude a separate Lithuanian treaty with the Swedish king, then attacking Poland from the north. These separatist ambitions were supported by his cousin Bogusław, who also decided to throw in his lot with the king of Sweden. This proved an expensive blunder. Within five years the Swedish forces had been repelled and the Radziwiłł cousins were condemned as traitors to the Polish crown. In retribution the king confiscated many of the family estates.31

For most of the later seventeenth century the Radziwiłł family’s political status remained in the doldrums.32 Bogusław maintained connections with the Holy Roman Empire, marrying off his daughter Ludwika Karolina first to Louis of Brandenburg, and then, after Louis’s death, to Charles Philip, Count of Palatinate-Neuburg and future elector Palatine. Her dowry, particularly for her second marriage, comprised a number of major Lithuanian properties (which later became known as the Neuburg estates). The income they brought the family was thus lost,33 yet another blow to the status of the Radziwiłłs at home. It took decades to recover.

That process really began in 1689, when at the age of twenty Karol Stanisław Radziwiłł inherited the family estates, which were mired in debt.34 A popular figure among the Lithuanian nobility, Karol Stanisław was a nephew of King Jan III. After the king’s death Radziwiłł supported the candidacy of Augustus, Elector of Saxony, a prescient choice. Once Augustus was elected king, Karol Stanisław became a favorite and was even named grand chancellor of Lithuania. Not a particularly hardworking character, he did his best to reinstate the family fortunes, though his efforts were hampered by the enormous destruction wrought by the Great Northern War of 1702–1720. Still, when he died in 1719, he did leave his wife and son a latifundium in better shape than when he received it.

The rise of Karol Stanisław thus launched a new era for the Radziwiłłs and their estates. He had also inherited the bulk of the family’s property in Lithuania and so became the central figure in the large and widespread family.35 For the next seventy-five years he, his wife Anna (née Sanguszko), their two sons Michał Kazimierz and Hieronim Florian, and their grandson Karol Stanisław, the son of Michał Kazimierz, made up the dominant branch of the dynasty.

After his father’s death, Michał Kazimierz inherited the majority of the estates; only a relatively small number were left to Karol’s wife Anna. She was a smart and hardworking woman who administered her lands with some efficiency—so much so that she was able to teach Michał the intricacies of estate management when he was still a young man. Anna devoted much time and effort to increasing her revenues and making innovations in the running of her estates, including the establishment of glass and textile manufactories.36

She was also instrumental in bringing back the lands that had been lost in the marriage of Ludwika Karolina, which she did by arranging a union between her younger son, Hieronim Florian, and the princess of Sulzbach, Elizabeth Wittelsbach, who had inherited them. Under an agreement drawn up before their marriage (which never took place), the Neuburg estates were restored to Anna’s control.37 In exchange the Radziwiłłs agreed to pay millions of złoty to the elector Palatine, plus two million to the Sapieha family (another magnate dynasty) so that they would relinquish their claim to the property.38 When Hieronim Florian turned twenty-one, Anna transferred to him most of the estates that she had administered until then.39

Michał Kazimierz Radziwiłł, the eldest son, was a somewhat colorless character, probably best known to posterity through his nickname “Rybeńko,” roughly translated as “Honey,” a term of endearment he used in everyday speech. He had an extremely successful career administering his estates. Not only did he increase the revenue they brought in, he also substantially added to their number, boosting his income still further and making the family a dominant force in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth during the reign of Augustus III (1734–1763).

His marriage to Franciszka Urszula Wiśniowiecka also advanced his fortunes. The only daughter of Janusz Wiśniowiecki, she was a highly educated and cultured figure, more so than her husband. She was a talented writer of drama and helped establish a theater in Nieśwież, the Radziwiłł family seat.40 On the death of her father in 1741 Franciszka Urszula inherited extensive estates in southeastern Poland that became part of the family latifundium.41 Michał Kazimierz also acquired other estates in the region, especially Żółkiew (Zhovka, Ukraine), which he purchased from the Sobieski family in 1740. His political advancement continued until in 1744 he was named to the highest office in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the województwo of Wilno (Vilnius, Lithuania). One of the perks of holding such a position was for him to take over the running of crown lands and adding them to his latifundium.42

Michał Kazimierz’s brother Hieronim Florian was a totally different type.43 He showed little enthusiasm for either public affairs or the administration of his estates. His main interest in life was his private army, and particularly the officer training school that he founded in Słuck (Slutsk, Belarus). A man of sadistic inclinations, he caused a great deal of grief and suffering not only to his family—especially his wife—but also to anyone who came into contact with him.44 In his early years he succeeded in making his estates more profitable, thanks mainly to his employment of Shmuel Ickowicz, a highly talented Jewish businessman and entrepreneur, who acted as his agent. After Ickowicz was arrested in 1745, revenues began to decline.45 Quite unexpectedly they received a significant boost when Marcin Mikołaj Radziwiłł, Hieronim Florian’s cousin, was declared insane and locked away.46 This meant that Marcin’s estates and their incomes fell into the hands of his cousin, who managed them until his death in 1760. At that point, all of Hieronim Florian’s estates, including those of Marcin Mikołaj, passed to his brother, Michał Kazimierz.

Michał Kazimierz himself died just two years later, leaving one of the largest latifundia in the country to his son Karol Stanisław. These estates, which included more than two thousand cities, towns, and villages, had a total value estimated at 150 million–180 million złoty.47 They brought in some 1.3 million thaler a year in revenues.48

Research on the family’s latifundium in the eighteenth century has shown that because the revenues it brought were the source of the family’s wealth, the family’s rise in Polish-Lithuanian society should be understood in the context of its success in enlarging its landholdings.49 This raises another question, very pertinent here: Did the ways in which the Jews helped increase revenues from the latifundium also play a role in boosting this family’s power and status in Polish-Lithuanian society and making it one of the two leading dynasties in the Commonwealth?

Karol Stanisław Radziwiłł was only twenty-eight years old when his father died. Known as “Panie Kochanku” (“My Dear Sir”), which was how he addressed his friends and acquaintances, he was a disreputable character, notorious among the szlachta for being a drunkard and a wastrel, totally lacking in self-control.50 When in 1764 King Stanisław August was elected to the throne with Russian backing, the young Radziwiłł took up arms and barricaded himself and his troops in his palace at Biała Podlaska. After the new king’s supporters declared him an enemy of the state, he waged an armed struggle against the Russian forces that had invaded Lithuania.51 He was defeated and many of his estates were expropriated to be given to his main rival, Michał Czartoryski, and his supporters. Karol Stanisław himself fled the country and went into exile for a number of years.52

This marked a major break in the history and administration of the estates, many of which were not restored to the family for a decade or more. The year 1764 then is a natural endpoint for this study. It was also a year of significance for both Poland-Lithuania and its Jewish population as a whole, marking the beginning of reforms undertaken by King Stanisław August Poniatowski, as a part of which the Jewish parliament, known as the Council of Four Lands, was abolished.53 In fact, the seventy-five-year period studied here corresponds more or less to the years of the Saxon Wettin dynasty in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1697–1763), when the power of the magnates was at its height.

Approaching the Subject

The Sources

The main source for this study is the Radziwiłł family archive, which contains documentation shedding light on the family’s life as well as the day-to-day administration of its estates. In more than four hundred years of political, social, and economic activity, the Radziwiłłs amassed a vast collection of papers that they preserved in their personal archive, primarily as an aid to managing the family’s affairs, but also to create a historical record, and so a priceless sociocultural pedigree. A huge number of these documents are now held in the Central Archives of Historical Records in Warsaw.54 Others are scattered among numerous archives in Eastern Europe with the most important collection being in the National Archive of the Republic of Belarus in Minsk.55 It is a truly enormous archive: the part held in Warsaw takes up 250 meters of shelf space, while that in Minsk holds some 25,000 files.

The Radziwiłł papers contain records of purchases, inheritance, sales, and leases of the estates in the latifundium; documents on the political activity of family members; correspondence; and personal documentation (for example diaries).56 In addition there are documents on the running of the estate, such as administrative instructions, reports from clerks, requests from subjects, contracts, and bills.57 Records of the Jews’ activity in the estate economy are found here and for the eighteenth century they are extremely extensive.58

In contrast to the vast amount of documentation to be found in the Radziwiłł family archives, the records that have survived from the archives of Jewish communities on the Radziwiłł estates in Lithuania are extremely limited. Only one Jewish community record book (Hebrew pinkas, plural pinkassim) from the Radziwiłł estates in Lithuania in the period in question exists, that of Zabłudów.59 There are, however, several pinkassim from places near the Radziwiłł estates in Lithuania (for example, Boćki, Horki, Włodawa, and Tykocin), that provide important comparative material.60 The record book of the Council of the Land of Lithuania also sheds light on the activity of the Jews and Jewish communities on the Radziwiłł estates and in Lithuania in general.61 Another sort of record book used here is that of the burial society of the Słuck Jewish community.62

The great imbalance between sources of Polish and Jewish provenance provides a serious challenge to a study focusing on economic choices made by Jews. Though the existing documentation gives excellent detail on the running of the estate economy and the ways in which Jews acted within it, it says much less about their motivations. The problem is not as great as it might seem, though, for some of the documentation in the archive is correspondence between Jews and the Radziwiłłs or their administration. In addition, many of the reports written by administrators shed light on the Jews’ actions. “The Jewish voice” can thus be heard even in documents of non-Jewish provenance.

More importantly, the estate records, by helping us grasp the economic system within which the Jews acted, do allow for an understanding of motivation. Economic agency is never wielded in a vacuum. The choices any individual makes are to a very great extent determined by their context. While personal, social, cultural, or religious factors may come into play, the basic parameters for these decisions are a function of the possibilities that the wider economic context allows. In short, by analyzing the economic system within which the Jews acted, we can understand why they made the choices they did. The gaps that remain can be covered through the use of either archival sources of Jewish provenance from other settings or literary sources written by Jewish estate residents.

Of those, memoirs of Jews who lived on the estates, such as Solomon Maimon, a philosopher born and raised on the Radziwiłł latifundium, can be extremely revealing.63 Rabbinic literature, especially responsa and homiletic works, is also useful for understanding the religious, and even cultural, background for Jewish life on the estates from the point of view of the rabbinic leadership.64 Two of the leading Polish-Lithuanian rabbis of the period started their careers on the Radziwiłł estates: Rabbi Ezekiel Landau (later chief rabbi of Prague and author of the famous collection of responsa, Noda‘ Bi-Yehudah) and Rabbi aim Ha-kohen Rapoport (who led the rabbinical side in a disputation with the Frankists in Lwów [L’viv, Ukraine] in 1759).65 Since religious and cultural values clearly spread well beyond the boundaries of any single latifundium, however, there is no need to focus exclusively on their works.

Historiographical Underpinnings

The conceptual basis for this study is derived in no small measure from developments in the field of economic history pioneered by scholars trained in economics rather than in history. “New institutional economics (NIE)” started as a revolt of economists against the level of abstraction utilized by economic theorists in creating the models they use to predict economic activity. The NIE school under the tutelage of Oliver Williamson, among others, argued that the assumptions of neoclassical economics, such as individuals having perfect knowledge of the state of the market, or complete freedom to act in their economic best interest (as laid down by the neoclassicists), were totally unrealistic. To create a credible model of economic activity that would truly explain why people acted as they did, it was necessary to develop a model that would be able to take into account the limitations and uncertainties that daily life imposes on everyone.66

Various economic thinkers took up the challenge and developed a theory constructed around the concept of economic institutions. Though this was by no means a new idea in the 1980s and 1990s when NIE became influential, these new institutional economists broadened it significantly. Ronald Coase laid special emphasis on “the institutions of a country: its legal system, its political system, its social system, its educational system, its culture, and so on.” He continued, “In effect, it is the institutions that govern the performance of an economy, and it is this that gives the ‘new institutional economics’ its importance.”67

Douglass North, another leading proponent of NIE, though one who specialized in historical research, fleshed out this definition in the introduction to his book Understanding the Process of Economic Change:

Economics is a theory of choice—so far so good. But the discipline neglects to explore the context within which choice occurs. We choose among alternatives that are themselves constructions of the human mind. Therefore how the mind works and understands the environment is the foundation of this study. But what is the environment? The human environment is a human construct of rules, norms, conventions, and ways of doing things that define the framework of human interaction. . . . The new institutional economics . . . focuses on . . . the institutions (political, economic, and social) that they [i.e. humans] create to shape that environment.68

For Avner Greif, a prominent NIE historian, North’s definition is problematic on two counts. First, it does not explain why individuals are prepared to accept these institutions and to go along with their prescriptions. Greiff argues that it is crucial to integrate into any theory of institutions the cultural, religious, and even psychological motivations that bring members of any society to accept its economic institutions and follow their rules. Second, according to him, North’s formulation fails to deal with the issues of causality and function: “A major fault line in institutional analysis separates those who adopt an agency perspective of institutions from those who adopt a structural perspective. According to the former, individuals shape institutions to achieve their goals; according to the latter institutions transcend individual actors . . . and shape their interests and behavior.” Greif emphasizes that this is a false dichotomy and suggests that both perspectives need to be taken into account.69

The NIE’s approach is extremely powerful for the economic historian trained in history. The focus on institutions, whether as organizations or cultural attitudes towards economic activity, allows the historian to keep his or her eye on the specifics of the historical situation. And, of course, questions of social structure and cultural development are now bread and butter for most historians. This study too follows the NIE, paying special heed to Greif’s call for the integration of the structural and agency perspectives: On the one hand, it analyzes the magnate estate and its functioning from an institutional perspective, showing how its economic structures shaped the choices Jews took about how to improve their income; on the other, it shows how by pressing willing Jewish businessmen into service the magnate estate owners were able, at least to a certain extent, to remold the estate economy in order to respond to changing conditions. This allows for a degree of dynamism in the discussions and helps explain further the processes of economic empowerment enjoyed by the Jews over the eighteenth century.

The study departs from Greif and most of the other new institutional economic historians in that it is unwilling to use its specific analysis in order to create a prescriptive model.70 The analysis here is meant to explain a particular historical situation rather than human economic behavior in general. There is also no attempt to explain the rise of capitalism—a goal of most NIE historians, even Greif in his study of medieval trade networks.71 To the extent that this work does present the reader with a model, it is one that shows how a particular magnate latifundium functioned in the eighteenth century. When generalizations are drawn, they are done only by means of comparison with other studies that treat different estates that functioned in the same broad geographic and chronological context.72

Particularly important for making such generalizations is the classic study by Witold Kula, An Economic Theory of the Feudal System: Towards a Model of the Polish Economy 1500–1800, originally published in Polish in 1962. In this work, Kula attempted to create a general model of the Polish economy in the early modern period. His starting point was Marxist—the feudal system as precursor to capitalism—but he restricted his focus to conditions in Poland before the advent of capitalism, thereby avoiding a teleological approach. Eschewing views of feudalism as a largely political-legal, social, or cultural phenomenon, he treated it as a set of economic relations, predominantly between the noble estate owners and their peasants.73 Concentrating on feudalism in this way led him to a close examination of conditions on the noble estates—particularly as regards production and control of the means of production. His interest in the market was limited to the question of the relations between production and price, and among his most startling findings was that increases in grain prices could depress rather than stimulate production.

Another of the main thrusts of Kula’s analysis was his insistence that this was a rational economic system, even though its rationality was quite different from that of capitalism. Kula showed that some parts of the estate economy, including natural resources and labor, had a value that could not be measured in monetary terms, since there was no market on which they could be sold. Exploiting them in the feudal system in the same way as in a capitalist environment where everything has a monetary value would have been quite illogical. In turn, this meant that the accounting system of the day could really only deal with goods that could be sold on the market and so have a monetary value. This affected not only how profitability was measured, but also the ways economic actors viewed the choices they could make. By their own lights, they were acting rationally; it was just that the nature of that rationality was determined by their historical situation.74

Kula’s study, therefore, is extremely important for its description and analysis of the economic structures of the estate system examined here. It also helps lay bare some of the cultural views, such as the importance of mercantile activity, the value of labor, and the meaning of value itself, that underlay it. On the other hand, Kula’s limited interest in the workings of the market in the system, as well as the limitations imposed on him by the conditions in the People’s Republic of Poland, meant that he could not really investigate those aspects of the economy in which Jews were active and so assess their roles.75 That is, of course, the goal of this study.

I did not write it in a historiographical vacuum. Scholarship such as that of Jacob Goldberg and Gershon Hundert, who examined the Jews’ economic roles on the magnate estates, was extremely helpful.76 In particular Hundert’s study of the private town of Opatów in eighteenth-century Poland was enlightening in its attribution of the landlord’s support for Jewish economic activity to a desire to improve economic conditions in the town and its discussion of the importance of the Jews for the urban economy.77

The only comprehensive examination of the history of the Jews in a particular latifundium is that by Murray Jay Rosman.78 His book focuses on the economic relations between the Sieniawski family—and then the Czartoryskis—and the Jews who lived on their estates in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. In this pathbreaking study that provided much of the conceptual groundwork on which my book is based, Rosman took a stand against the prevailing opinion, of Jewish and Polish historians alike, that relations between the Jews and the magnates were based on rank exploitation. He argued that the Jews’ economic interests were consistent with the economic goals of the Sieniawski and Czartoryski families, particularly in commerce and leasing, and that this prompted the magnates to support the Jews and their economic activity.79

In fact Rosman took his argument a step further, claiming that magnates and Jews had “common interests.” He described their relationship as “a marriage of convenience,” emphasizing that “marriages of convenience are still marriages.”80 For him it was the direct relationship of magnate and Jew that was the key to understanding developments on the estates.

In working on the Radziwiłł materials, I found this idea somewhat problematic. In the hierarchical relations of the feudal estates I was studying, the only interest that counted was the noble owner’s. All that was left for his subjects was to answer his needs as best they could. The magnate was not, therefore, “wedded” to his Jewish subjects any more than to other groups on his estates. He pressed them all into his service, each in its own way. Since it was only to the extent that the Jews were able to provide him with added incomes that they could derive maximum benefit from their economic activity, they did what they could to meet his demands. These should then be seen less as “common interests” and more as Jews finding new and more effective ways of serving their lords.81

For the most part this was not personal service. Only a very few extremely wealthy and prominent Jews worked directly for the magnate. The vast majority lived their lives and earned their livings without any direct dealings with their lord at all. Contact with the estate administration was almost exclusively with administrators and officials, many of whom were not too concerned about what their master saw as his best interests as far as Jews were concerned.82 In fact, most Jewish economic actors did not serve the estate administration directly at all; they just got on with making their daily bread. Doing that brought them into much greater contact with the other populations who lived on the estates: peasants, townspeople, the local nobility, and the clergy. As a result, the Jews should be viewed not as simply providing economic services to the magnate in person but rather as part of a broad estate economy, put in place to serve the lord’s needs, and encompassing all the different groups of his subjects.83

The Eastern European historiography of the magnate estates is not helpful in understanding how that system worked. Studies have dealt mostly with the peasants and the estate administration, almost totally ignoring other groups, especially the Jews. Soviet Belorusian historiography is particularly frustrating in that regard, though Polish-language scholarship is only a little better.84 While there are studies of many different estates and their economic activity, issues such as exchange, sale, and marketing—not to mention the Jews—are given short shrift.

Janina Bergerówna’s 1936 book about the Kock estate in eastern Poland under the management of Princess Anna Jabłonowska in the late eighteenth century is a welcome exception. Though she did not deal with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Bergerówna made a conscious effort to examine the interactions of the different groups on the estate. Jews were treated in just a few pages, but they did at least appear as major players.

A more recent study to examine the place of the Jews in estate society is that of Adam Kaźmierczyk, which is a monograph entirely devoted to the juridical integration of the Jews into the estate system from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries.85 This work has special importance here because it examines the different jurisdictions on the noble estates where trials concerning Jews could be heard. Since the legal system was one of the major institutions regulating economic life on the estates, Kaźmierczyk’s study makes a crucial contribution to understanding how life on a latifundium shaped the development of Jewish society.

In all, though the existing historiography sheds light on some of the economic institutions of the magnate latifundium, it leaves in the dark much of the processes of exchange and sale that allowed the magnate to turn the agricultural product of his estates into cash income. This is strange, because without those processes the estates would have been worse than useless to their owners, whose main interest was in increasing cash revenues. Of course it was precisely into the sectors of exchange and sale that Jewish businessmen moved en masse in order to help boost their masters’ (and their own) incomes. It is that move and those processes, then, that will form the focus of this study, which aims to provide a new model for understanding the functioning of the magnate latifundium by placing at its center the economic institutions that controlled the marketing process and the Jews who used them.

The book opens with a discussion of the demographic background, asking how many Jews settled on the Radziwiłł estates in this period and why they did so. It then looks at the town as the major setting for Jewish life, examining it as an economic institution to see what roles it and the Jewish community played in improving estate revenues.

The analysis then moves on to examine those economic institutions on the latifundium whose role was to create cash revenue from agricultural production. Chapter Three explains the different strategies of revenue generation used by the Radziwiłłs, thus mapping out the major economic institutions on their estates. Using this as a guide, the following chapters examine the ways in which the Jews functioned within them.

The first of these deals with the extremely lucrative field of estate leasing, whose riskiness dissuaded many Jews from engaging in it. The discussion revolves around two Jewish brothers who leased almost the whole of Hieronim Florian Radziwiłł’s estates in the early 1740s. The next chapter looks at the popular business of leasing the incomes from alcohol manufacture and sale. It asks both why the estate administration preferred Jewish leaseholders and why Jewish businessmen flocked to this sector. The last chapter examines the roles Jews played in trade, noting that while they were active in some commodities they were much less so in others. Again it asks why the administration steered Jewish merchants into the fields it did and why the Jews were so enthusiastic in answering its call.

The conclusion addresses three questions that run like a thread through the whole book. First, what can the experience of the Jews on the Radziwiłł estates teach us about the nature of Jewish economic agency in a non-capitalist setting? Second, what forms did Jewish economic empowerment take in this period and how did they affect the development of Jewish society? And third, what were the consequences of the Jews’ economic activity not only for the Radziwiłł family, but for the Poland-Lithuania as a whole. It will become clear that the Jews’ economic activity was by no means a marginal, or even sectorial, phenomenon, as most previous studies have assumed. It was, rather, a factor of major importance in the history not only of Eastern European Jews, but of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth itself during the eighteenth century.


1. Goldberg, Ha-evrah ha-yehudit, 90–124. For explanations of the Polish terms used in this book, see the Glossary.

2. The magnates were exceptionally rich nobles with extensive landholdings who were also members of the Senate. Their power and influence inside Poland-Lithuania was enormous. For a discussion of the development of the magnates as a group: H. Litwin, “The Polish Magnates”; Kersten, “Problem władzy”; and Czapliński, “Rządy oligarchii,” 130–63.

3. For a brief historiographical survey with references to the relevant literature: Kobrin and Teller, “Purchasing Power,” 1–24.

4. Sombart, The Jews and Modern Capitalism.

5. See, in particular, Muller, Capitalism and the Jews; Lederhendler, Jewish Immigrants; and Kobrin, ed., Chosen Capital. For a refreshingly different view: Karp, “Economic History and Jewish Modernity,” 249–66. Another recent study to move away from the focus on capitalism is Trivellato, The Familiarity of Strangers.

6. The lack of the medieval legal underpinnings of feudalism in early modern Poland-Lithuania has led some to question the use of the word “feudalism” to describe it. Interestingly, research on medieval Western Europe has suggested that these very legal underpinnings were missing there, too: Reynolds, Fiefs and Vassals. Nonetheless, what developed in Poland-Lithuania shares enough of the social and economic structure of what is classically understood as feudalism to justify using the term here, especially if it is qualified as “late feudalism,” which can refer only to the system employed in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

7. For basic surveys of Polish Jewish history: Baron, A Social and Religious History; Weinryb, The Jews of Poland; and Hundert, Jews in Poland-Lithuania.

8. On the niche as an economic concept: Tisdell and Seidl, “Niches,” and Morales, Ethnic Niches, 10–56. See also Popielarz and Neal, “The Niche,” 65–84.

9. Zenner, Minorities. The classic formulation of middleman minority theory can be found in Bonacich, “A Theory.” Middleman minority theory has been subject to much criticism. In the context of this study, which understands the Jews as an integral part of the feudal system in Poland-Lithuania, the very idea of a middleman minority is problematic. Since the feudal system was by its nature hierarchical, the Jews, though indeed middlemen, were by no means the only ones: parts of the nobility, the non-Jewish townspeople and even the wealthier peasants were also middlemen. Thus the definition loses its specificity and so its value.

10. On the issue of Jewish empowerment and its limits: Teller, “In the Land of their Enemies,” 431–46.

11. The name is pronounced Rad-ji-viw, with the accent on the second syllable. The final w is, actually, a soft l.

12. Hundert, Jews in Poland-Lithuania, 21–56.

13. Zaremska, Żydzi w średniowiecznej Polsce, 108–215.

14. Teller, “Telling the Difference.”

15. On the process of colonization: H. Litwin, Napływ szlachty.

16. On the Jews’ roles in the colonization of Ukraine: Ettinger, “elkam shel ha-yehudim.”

17. In this period the larger magnate latifundia tended to swallow up smaller noble estates, which were less economically viable. Kozłowskij, “Struktura własności,” and Mieleszko, “Formy i struktura.”

18. For literature of this type on the estates and their economy: Serczyk, Gospodarstwo magnackie; Wyczański, Studia; Rychlikowa, Klucz wielkoporębski; Rychlikowa, Produkcja zbożowa; Homecki, Produkcja i handel; and M. Topolska, Dobra szkłówskie. See also Bergerówna, Księżna pani.

19. Of special importance in this regard is Rutkowski’s study on the economic activity of royal estates in Poland in the sixteenth century, Historia gospodarcza, 132–414. See also the theoretical approach in Kula, An Economic Theory. On the importance of Kula for this study, see below.

20. Pośpiech and Tygielski, “The Social Role.”

21. On the lifestyle of the Polish-Lithuanian nobility in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: Czapliński and Długosz, Życie codzienne; and Kuchowicz, Człowiek. On the cost of political activity: Zielińska, “Mechanizm sejmikowy.”

22. For an overview of relations between the nobility and the Jews: Goldberg, Ha-evrah ha-yehudit, and Goldberg, “The Changes.”

23. On the Radziwiłł family and their estates: Anusik and Strojnowski, “Radziwiłłowie.”

24. Not a great deal of attention has been devoted to early modern Lithuanian Jewry (although many aspects of pre-partition Lithuanian Jewish history are discussed in works on the history of Polish Jewry). The recent doctoral dissertation by Mania Cieśla, “The Jews in the Grand Duchy,” offers perhaps the broadest perspective on the social and economic history of Lithuanian Jewry in the early modern period. The only other monograph specifically on this topic is that of Bershadskiĭ, Litovskiye Yevrei, which was published in the nineteenth century; it focuses mainly on the Middle Ages and the sixteenth century. Between the two world wars a group of historians in Soviet Belorussia (Belarus), Israel Sosis prominent among them, produced a number of studies on the social and economic history of pre-partition Lithuanian Jewry. They published in the Minsk-based journal Tsaytshrift, which was issued from 1926 to 1930. On this: Alfred Greenbaum, Jewish Scholarship, and Yalen, “Red Kasrilevke.” Post-Holocaust scholarship has focused mainly on the history of Lithuanian Jewry in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. For example, in Masha Greenbaum’s survey, The Jews of Lithuania, the period from the sixteenth century to the late eighteenth century takes up only about eighty of four hundred pages. For an excellent, if dated, Hebrew-language survey, see Kloizner, “Toledot ha-yehudim be-Lita.” Also noteworthy among regional studies are two monographs on the history of the Jewish communities in the large royal towns of historical Lithuania: Nadav, The Jews of Pinsk, and Kloizner, Toledot ha-kehillah- ha-‘ivrit be-Vilna.

25. Discussion of the demographic development of Lithuanian Jewry in this period is not extensive. See Stampfer, “The 1764 Census,” 91–121. The distinction between conditions in Poland and Lithuania did not go unnoticed by the Jews. For example, the separation of the Lithuanian and Polish treasuries in the 1620s apparently led to the resumption of activity of a separate council of Lithuanian Jewish communities. On the establishment of the Council of the Land of Lithuania in 1623: Michałowska-Mycielska, Sejm Żydów Litewskich, 27–37. Simon Dubnow, the editor of the modern edition of the council’s record book, Pinkas Medinat Lita, did not make the connection between the formation of the council and the re-organization of the Lithuanian treasury. The early history of the institution is unclear. Israel Halperin found a regulation issued by a Lithuanian council before the Union of Lublin (1569), but there is no evidence that the council continued as a regularly functioning body in the years before 1623. See Halperin, Yehudim ve-yahadut, 48–54.

26. In the course of the discussion here, details of the activity on the Radziwiłłs’ estates outside Lithuania are sometimes given but only to shed light on what was happening on the Lithuanian estates. A special case is the city of Biała Podlaska and the surrounding estate. Although Biała was part of Crown Poland, its proximity to the Radziwiłłs’ estates in Lithuania meant that it was managed together with them, and so we treat it here as part of the Lithuanian holdings. See Wasilewski and Krawczak, Z nieznanej prześłości.

27. There is extensive literature on the Radziwiłł family. Basic studies on its history include Kotłubaj, Galerja nieświeżka; Eichhorn, Stosunek; Zielińska, “Archiwa Radziwiłłów”; Rostworowski, ed., Polski Słownik Biograficzny, 30: 132–414.

28. One of his major achievements was commissioning a map of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from the well-known geographer Maciej Strubicz. This map, which survives in only one copy from that period, is an important source for the history of Lithuania in the early seventeenth century: Alexandrowicz, Rozwój kartografii, I: 75–136. The diary of Mikołaj Krzysztof Radziwiłł’s pilgrimage, published in Polish and Latin translation, is an important source on the history of Palestine in the late sixteenth century; see M. Radziwiłł, Podróż do Ziemi Świętej. Radziwiłł’s pilgrimage was remembered in Jewish folklore too. According to a popular tradition, during his travels Radziwiłł met Rabbi Meir ben Samuel Katzenellenbogen in Padua and was so impressed with him that he developed a highly favorable opinions of Jews in general. The legend tells that Radziwiłł later met Katzenellenbogen’s son (Saul Wahl), who was studying in Lithuania, and as a result Wahl came to serve as king of Poland for a day. The story is retold in Pinhas Katzenellenbogen’s book, Sefer yesh manilin, 143–50. Zevi Hirsh Edelmann wrote an entire book, Gedulat Shaul, about Saul Wahl.

29. Siekierski, “Landed Wealth.”

30. In the first half of the seventeenth century Janusz Radziwiłł invited to his court Joseph Solomon Delmedigo, a Jewish physician from Crete, known by the acronym of his Hebrew name as Yashar of Candia. Delmedigo lived in Lithuania from about 1620 to 1624, and in a letter he referred to the place as “my second homeland.” He was in touch with the Karaites in Troki and corresponded with Polish intellectuals, such as Jan Brożek of the Kraków Academy. See Barzilay, Yoseph Shlomo Delmedigo, 59–76, and Halperin, Yehudim ve-yahadut, 388–93.

31. The logic behind the decision to support the king of Sweden was that both Russian and Swedish forces had invaded Lithuania and it was hard to fight on two fronts.

32. Codello, “Rywalizacja.” On the administration of Bogusław Radziwiłł’s estates in this period: Miluński, “Zarząd dóbr,” 195–282.

33. Lesiński, “Spory.”

34. See note 23 above.

35. The Radziwiłłs’ latifundium was based on three entailed estates (Polish, ordynacja): Nieśwież, Ołyka (Olika, Ukraine), and Kleck (Kletzk, Belarus). These were estates that family members were not allowed to sell or divide; each had to be passed down complete from generation to generation within the family. Karol Stanisław’s preeminent position within the family was based in no small measure on the fact that he held two of them. When Marcin Mikołaj Radziwiłł was imprisoned without heirs (see note 46), the third, Kleck, passed into the hands of Karol Stanisław’s sons too. On the institution of the ordinacja: Zielińska, “Ordinacje,” 17–30.

36. Karkucińska, “Działalność gospodarcza i kulturalna,” 229–41. For more on the manufactories and the Jews’ roles in them, see Chapter Six.

37. They remained in her control even after the wedding was called off: Lesiński, “Spory.” For a biography of this fascinating character: Karkucińska, Anna z Sanguszków Radziwiłłowa.

38. The last payment was made after just fourteen years. Afterwards Hieronim Florian estimated that the entire transaction had cost more than 6 million złoty. See Kotłubaj, Galerja nieświeżka, 427.

39. On this: Zielińska, “Przyczynek do kwestii konfliktu,” 132–39.

40. Sajkowski, Od Sierotki do Rybeńki, 133–74.

41. This latifundium contained approximately eighty cities, towns, and villages along with extensive agricultural land: Anusik and Strojnowski, “Radziwiłłowie,” 45–46.

42. Falniowska-Gradowska, Królewszczyzny, 23–52, and Zielińska, Magnateria polska, 86–93.

43. Not much has been written on him. See the entry by Hanna Dymanicka-Wołoszyńska in Rostworowski, ed., Polski Słownik Biograficzny, 30: 187.

44. His brutality also manifested itself towards Jews. Memoirs from the time tell of him holding target practice in which the targets were Jewish-looking dolls tied to pigs’ backs: Matuszewicz, Diariusz, I: 572. On Hieronim Florian’s army, see Kitowicz, Opis obyczajów, 387–88, and Lech, “Milicje Radziwiłłow,” 33–60. See also Pasztor, “Milicje magnackie,” 140–46.

45. On this affair, see below, Chapter Four.

46. Marcin Mikołaj Radziwiłł was a scandalous figure. He seems to have been a psychopath and was accused of having committed a number of murders. He took an interest in religious issues, particularly connected with Judaism, eventually adopting a Jewish way of life (observing the Sabbath on Saturday and eating only kosher food). He even had a Jewish advisor and confidant named Szymon. In 1748 Marcin Mikołaj was declared insane and was imprisoned in the family palace in Słuck; he remained there until his death in 1782. (Szymon was also arrested in 1748 but his fate is unknown.) See Matuszewicz, Diariusz, I: 251–52 and 284–86; and Kotłubaj, Galerja nieświeżka, 518–22.

47. All the figures are drawn from Anusik and Strojnowski, “Radziwiłłowie,” 45–46.

48. A thaler was worth eight złoty at the time.

49. Anusik and Strojnowski, “Problemy majątkowe,” 79–112; Anusik and Strojnowski, “Radziwiłłowie,” 29–57.

50. There is a vast literature on this character. See the entry by Jerzy Michalski in Rostworowski, ed., Polski Słownik Biograficzny, 30: 248–62. For a contemporary description of the man and his behavior by one of his Jewish subjects, see Solomon Maimon, An Autobiography, 80–88.

51. The battle between the Russian army and Radziwiłł’s forces at Slonim in 1764 is described in a Hebrew document, Kamenetskiĭ, “Yevreĭskiĭ dokument,” 311–17.

52. Karol Stanisław returned after a few years and took part in the Confederation of Radom in 1767. He fought against the granting of rights to Protestants and to Greek Orthodox clergy and collaborated with Russia to achieve these goals. Shortly thereafter, in the Confederation of Bar, he turned against Russia. In the late 1760s he returned to exile.

53. On the period as a whole, see Lukowski, Disorderly Liberty.

54. Archiwum Główne Akt Dawnych w Warszawie (AGAD), Archiwum Radziwiłłow. On the history of the archive there is an unpublished essay by the man who was the family archivist in the interwar period: Taurogiński, “Geneza.” For a description of the archive and its structure: Zielińska, “Archiwa Radziwiłłów,” 105–29, and Zielińska, Informator, 195–203. In what follows, the name of the archive is abbreviated to AR, the numbers of the different fonds (collections) are given in Roman numerals, and the file numbers in Arabic numbers. Page numbers follow, after a colon.

55. Natsional’niĭ Arkhiv Respubliki Belarus’, Minsk (NABRM), Fond 694. Most of the materials date from after 1764, particularly the nineteenth century, but there are records from the eighteenth century and even earlier. The Central State Historical Archives in Kiev have a division of records from the Radziwiłł family archives, but most of them concern the family’s estates in Ukraine: Bańkowski, “Polskie archiwa,” 172–73. The documentation pertaining to the Radziwiłłs in the Lithuanian State Historical Archives in Vilnius deals mainly with the activity of various family members as wojewody of Wilno and therefore shed no light on estate administration. I thank Ewa Lechniak of Poznań for bringing this to my attention. The documents concerning the management of the Radziwiłł jurydika in Wilno during the eighteenth century can be found in AR XVIII, 261 and AR XVIII, 266.

56. From our period, the Radziwiłł collection in Warsaw holds the diaries of Karol Stanisław (the grandfather), Hieronim Florian, and Michał Kazimierz Radziwiłł: AR VI 79–II, 80–II, 81–II. Excerpts from the diary of Hieronim Florian and a selection of his other writings have been published as Hieronima Floriana Radziwiłła diariusze i pisma różne. Another manuscript, apparently from his youth, with remarks on a variety of topics, can be found in the Czartoryski family archives in Kraków, MS 1721. On Michał Kazimierz’s diary: Zielińska, “Więż rodowa.”

57. Some of the economic orders found in the Radziwiłł archives have been published: Baranowski, et al., eds., Instrukcje gospodarze, 299–394 and 446–72. These documents, however, pertain to the Nieborów estate, which came into the family only in 1774.

58. As a methodological note, it is worth emphasizing that not only documents that actually mentioned Jews were consulted (though they were extremely numerous). Without reading more general documentation about estate administration, it would have been impossible to understand the context of what was being studied.

59. The National Library of Israel (NLI), Manuscript Division, Heb 4º 103. A few pages of this pinkas have been published: Assaf, “Mi-pinkas Zabludova,” 307–17. Two pinkassim of the Jewish community of Nieśwież containing material from the eighteenth century are held by the Vernadsky National Library in Kiev, but none of the documentation they contain is from the period discussed here; thanks to Prof. Gershon Hundert for this information. Sumptuary legislation of 1751 from the Nieśwież Jewish community (apparently from a different pinkas, kept in the city until the Holocaust) has been published: “Litwin, “Mi-pinkasei Nishviezh,” 161–62. A few Hebrew and Polish documents from Jewish communities on the estates can be found in the Radziwiłł collection in Warsaw: AR XXV, 240; AR V, 15467.

60. I consulted two manuscript pinkassim: AGAD Archiwum Roskie, 321 (Boćki); NLI, Manuscript Division, Heb 4º 920 (Horki). The comparative materials from Włodawa and Tykocin I read in published form: Weinryb, Texts and Studies, 221–86, and Pinkas Kahal Tiktin.

61. On this institution, see the Glossary.

62. NLI, Manuscript Division, Heb 4º 927.

63. See Solomon Maimon: An Autobiography. For an assessment of the reliability of this source see Teller, “Zikhronot.” Memoirs of non-Jews who lived on the estates in this period also contain valuable first-hand accounts of life there. Particularly valuable for this study was Matuszewicz, Diariusz.

64. Some of the problems involved in the use of rabbinical literature to study the socioeconomic history of Polish Jewry are discussed in Soloveichik, Halakhah, 14: “the [business affairs] of the group of merchants who operated on an international scale from the port of Danzig in the period prior to . . . 1648 are not mentioned in the rabbinical literature from Poland. To a certain extent this was because the wealthiest businessmen were sometimes beyond the control of the kahal [the governing body of the local Jewish community], but mostly it was because they preferred to settle their affairs among themselves, and when they had to consult halakhic authorities, they would ask their questions orally. . . . Thus the rabbinical literature often does not reflect the activity of this wealthy elite.” This also applies to the period discussed here.

65. Ezekiel Landau was the rabbi of Jampol (Yampil, Ukraine), for ten years until 1756. On his period as rabbi there see Gelman, Noda‘ Bi-Yehudah, 1–14. aim Ha-kohen Rapoport was the rabbi of Słuck in the 1730s and afterwards the rabbi of Lwów. See Dembitzer, Kelilat Yofi, 137–40. Sadly, hardly any of their writings contain first-hand accounts of their life on the Radziwiłł estates. On Rapoport’s connections with the Radziwiłł family see AR IV, 470: 16.

66. Williamson, “The New Institutional Economics.”

67. Coase, The New Institutional Economics.”

68. North, Understanding the Process, 11.

69. Greif, Institutions, 40–41. All the same, Trivellato, in The Familiarity of Strangers, 17, criticizes Greif for falling into the very same trap.

70. This aspect of NIE historical research was the target of one of Boldizzoni’s critiques in his sweeping condemnation of the school in general: Boldizzoni, The Poverty of Clio, 12–17. For a more balanced view: Cipolla, Between History and Economics, 69–70.

71. Greif, Institutions. North also devoted much time and effort to this in Structure and Change, 71–210. North came under intense (though not always convincing) fire from Boldizzoni for doing so; see the Boldizzoni citation in the previous note.

72. See notes 18 and 19. Even these studies do not adequately address the role of the Jews in marketing processes.

73. Kula defined the Polish-Lithuanian feudalism he studied, as “a socioeconomic system which is pre-dominantly agrarian and characterized by a low level of productive forces and of commercialization,” and “a corporate system in which the basic unit of production is a large, landed estate surrounded by small plots of peasants who are dependent on the former both economically and juridically, and who have to furnish various services to the lord and submit to his authority.” Kula, An Economic Theory, 9.

74. Kula, 165–75.

75. Kula, 18.

76. Goldberg’s articles on this topic are to be found in Goldberg, Ha-evrah ha-yehudit, 159–70 and 232–50. See also Hundert, Jews in Poland-Lithuania, 32–56.

77. Hundert, The Jews in a Polish Private Town, 46–68 and 134–55. For an overview of the Jews in private towns: Opas, “Sytuacja ludności,” 3–37.

78. Rosman, The Lords’ Jews. Little has been written on the history of the Jews on the Radziwiłł estates, but see Bardach, “Żydzi w Birżach,” 199–220; Halperin, Yehudim ve-yahadut, 277–88; Lech, “Powstanie chłopów”; Zielińska, “Kariera i upadek,” 33–49. Teller, “Radziwiłłowie a Żydzi” is a Polish-language summary of the main conclusions of the present study.

79. Rosman notes what he describes as negative effects of this situation, especially restrictions on the autonomous activity of the Jewish communities. For the most part, however, in attempting to change the standard picture presented in the literature, he stresses the support that the Jews received and their increased strength. Rosman, The Lords’ Jews, 64–68.

80. Ibid., 210.

81. Coser’s comments on the Court Jews of the eighteenth-century Holy Roman Empire seem apposite here too: “Though the Court Jew performed highly important services for the Prince . . . their relations remained asymmetrical. . . . The Prince expected particular loyalty and gratitude from the Jew. [The Court Jew] was permanently in debt to the ruler who had raised him up from the depths.” See Coser, “The Alien,” 574–81, especially 577.

82. Anna Radziwiłł was aware of this and wrote in one of her letters: “I know that when our administrators come to the Lithuanian estates, they do whatever they feel like doing—and the Jews are afraid of this.” AR IV, 627, letter 582, 13/1/1740.

83. The Tatars, a Muslim group, were another minority group relocated onto the Radziwiłł estates to serve particular needs in administration. See Borawski, “Tatarzy” and “Tatarzy w miastach.”

84. For instance Gritskevich’s Sotsiyal’naia borba, a monograph on social conflict in Belarusian cities in the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries that includes chapters on “class struggle” within urban society and national-religious conflict in the private towns of the region, does not mention the Jews at all. His other studies are no different; see, for example, his Chastnovladel’cheskiye goroda.

85. Kaźmierczyk, Żydzi.