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Estates Archives

History and Contents

The upper and lower nobility that was assembled in the Provincial Diet and was subjected to the Provincial Laws, as well as the representatives of sovereign towns and market towns formed the "classes" and from the Late Middle Ages to the Constitutional Reform of the 19th Century they, in total, presented the "Dukedom", "The Province Styria" or, in short, "The Estates of the Country" ("Landschaft") – thus being the counterpart to the relevant sovereign, the duke.

Initially, records concerning the activities of the "The Estates" were scarce and elusive with the main documents (on vellum) being confided to singular members of the classes. With more affordable paper on the rise, administration became more written, and when the classes had been taking their seat within the Palace of the Diet ("Landhaus"), it was only a question of time for a well ordered filing department to appear. The year 1528 functioned as a turning point, as it was in this year that the board of delegates, the “government” of the Estates between the Provincial Diets, was founded. It was also assigned to collect decrees and scripts and thus; the facts of the Provincial Diet emerged, which can be compared to the copial books in the State Archives Department of the Chamber of Lower Austria that appeared at about the same time.

The staff of the Estates was increasing continuously; where there had originally been just one clerk, this one had advanced to the post of a "secretary" and had various supporting public officers working next to or under him. The General Collectors Office with accounting departments and mark-up departments ("Aufschlagsämter"), construction offices and other departments formed the branches of the Estates administration to the outside. This administration structure that had been headed by the Province Commission since the 19th Century, only found its end a few years after the end of WWI when, in the course of the constitutional and administrative reform, the autonomous provincial administration. (Graz-Palace of the Diet/"Landhaus") was put together with the former sovereign-governmental province administration (Graz-Castle/"Burg") in 1925.

The great achievements of the Estates - on enormous financial expanses – made in many fields of defense, economy, social structure and culture of the Province Styria can be well documented on the basis the archival bequest.

The comprehensive Estates Archives – containing, in its present set-up, (excluding District Representatives Files) over 3.000 documents, about 3.700 slipcases, circa 4.500 volumes and approximately 4.700 fascicles – is divided into the following archival bodies:

1. The Estates Documents are the key documents to the constitutional self-conception of the dukedom and the Crown land Styria from the 12th until the late 19th Century, from the Georgenberger Handfeste (historical document of the treaty of inheritance that declares the inheritance of the country to the Babenbergs) from the year 1186 to documents concerning taxation and debts, as well as bills of purchase or donation of buildings of the Estates, schools and museums. The following and permanently continued collection of bills of purchase, exchange and lease, as well as debentures and reversal documents of the Province Styria were devolved into the Archive of the Provincial Government.

2. The Antiquum (until 1996 "Old Archives") has been in the state of permanent organisation for about one century and a half, but is still well useable. It includes the Old Filing Department until the year 1792, yet not in the former set-up under the terms of a store- and fascicle system, but under the terms of a systematic arrangement since the 19th Century. The core of this archival body that led to the founding of the Styrian Provincial Arhcies when being united with the Joanneum Archive (existing since 1811) in 1868, is currently built up by fourteen groups. A basic new and particulate arrangement is currently in progress, yet it is again oriented on the already existing group schema. Particular focus is laid on the reallocation of land between Antiquum and related holdings.

3. The systematics concerning filing departments in the year 1792 with the introduction of subject fascicles, which are well useable due to protocols and indices made by the year, led over to the archival body that is called Medium and that includes files up to the year 1861 (with little overlapping with later years). This archival body arrived at the Provincial Archive in 1906.

4. The third and last era of the Estates administration is kept within the archival body called Rezens, starting with the law order 1861 and ending with the unification of the autonomous and sovereign-governmental land administrations in the year 1925.

Next to those four major groups, following holdings taken out of the ambit of the Estates administration were handed over to the Provincial Archives (again, with the temporal upper limit 1925, but also exceeding this):

Chair related files, Province Commission and Provincial Government of the late 19th and early 20th Century

Chief Collectors Office: Since 1768 the financial authority.

Technical Provincial Office (provincial construction office)

Provincial Construction Office

Procinvical Rail

Provincial Hospital, Foundling-and Birthing Hospitals

Joanneum Provincial Museum

Society for Agriculture and Farming

A specific characteristic within the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy was marked by the Styrian District Representatives (files including about 3.700 cardboard boxes and a few hundred volumes), which worked as autonomous administration cost centres on a regional scale- not to be confused with the district administrations that were still existing in addition. The duties of the district representatives, who were, elected at first and later appointed by the provincial government, were mainly focused on the fields of traffic system, health care, and welfare system, as well as on provincial culture. 

Gernot P. Obersteiner

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