‘Freut euch, es ist ein Bergwerk entstanden’ (‘Rejoice, a mine has come into being’; *Schwazer Bergbuch*), 1556

Below Ground

Mining in the Habsburg Lands


From the late Middle Ages mining played an important role in the economy of the Habsburg lands, reaching its peak in the sixteenth century. In addition to salt it was above all iron and silver that were mined. While the Habsburgs brought all salt mining under their control and made it more or less part of the state administration, it was above all private financiers and co-operatives that were active in ore mining. But they too were subject to strict regulations imposed by the authorities, which on occasion led to conflicts. Mining products and the goods manufactured from them, for example scythes, were important items of trade which were exported to the whole of Europe, bringing considerable income to the inhabitants of the mining towns and regions as well as to the rulers themselves. Salt and iron are still being mined in Austria today, whereas the mining of silver came to a standstill as early as the seventeenth century as a result not only of religious conflicts and the Thirty Years’ War but also of the high rate of extraction.

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