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Order in the lake: Managing the sustainability of the Lake Constance fisheries, 1350-1900.


Around 1350 the authorities of the Lake Constance region began to regulate the local fisheries by issuing fishermen's ordinances and signing fisheries treaties with other principalities with the stated interest of protecting the fish stocks, which were considered a commons. The fishermen and their guilds were heavily involved in this process, since some of their practices--like the destruction of spawn and the catching of young fish--could have devastating consequences. The fishermen and their authorites decided regularly for more than four centuries to prioritise the long-term preservation of the fish stocks and not short-term profits to be made on the local fish markets. Thus, they avoided the disastrous outcome of a 'Tragedy of the Commons'.


Lake Constance, fisheries, guilds, commons, sustainability

Today, Lake Constance is primarily known as a tourist destination. Picturesquely located between the foothills of the Swiss and Austrian Alps to the south and the vineyards and orchards in Germany to the north it offers city dwellers an opportunity to spend their holidays or weekends swimming, sailing, cycling and hiking outdoors or visiting the many medieval or baroque churches that surround the lake. In the evening, they populate the many restaurants, enjoying the view, local wine and food. Particularly popular among patrons--visitors and locals alike--is Felchen, the local variety of whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus), which usually is served sauteed in butter with potatoes. This fish has for centuries been a staple food of the local population and the mainstay of local fishermen, long before the first tourists made their way to the lake's shores.

It is easy to take the abundance of Felchen as a given. The lake is one of the largest in Central Europe and traditionally rich in fish. In fact, the fisheries in the lake's main body of water, the Upper Lake, are closely managed by an international committee of experts nominated by the surrounding countries, the Internationale Bevollmachtigtenkonferenz fur die Bodenseefischerei (IBKF), which--among other things--has, since its foundation in 1893, regulated fishing gear, licensed the fishermen exploiting the lake and monitored fish stocks. That such a sophisticated arrangement is required for the management of the Lake Constance fisheries is due to the lake's slightly anachronistic status in international law. The Upper Lake is considered a tridominium shared by Austria, Germany and Switzerland. This makes most of Lake Constance a common property of its neighbouring countries and its fish a commonly used resource. Only defining a legal framework that bound all concerned ended a state of lawlessness in fisheries matters that threatened to harm the fish stocks in the lake. (1)

The dangers of overexploitation to which commonly used resources are prone are well-understood since the publication of Garret Hardin's seminal article 'The Tragedy of the Commons'. Despite the assumed inevitability of such a tragedy, anthropologists, economists and political scientists have searched for and unearthed examples of commonly used resources that have not fallen victim to the mechanisms described in Hardin's thought experiment. Not only have they found numerous cases of all kinds of different commons exploited sustainably over long periods of time, but they have also determined certain criteria that distinguish such successful outcomes from tragedies. Their focus, however, has been mainly the twentieth century. Historical studies taking a longue duree perspective are rare and mainly focused on agriculture. This article intends to add another dimension to the present research, examining the history of the Lake Constance fisheries over the course of more than five centuries. (2)

What makes Lake Constance such an interesting case study? Not only has it been a commons since the Middle Ages, but the precursors of today's regulatory regime also go back to those times. Around the year 1350, the local guilds took control of the free imperial cities of Constance and Lindau and quickly began to introduce regulations for the various trades and crafts. Among these were the fishermen who, from that time on, had to conform to fishermen's ordinances and from a century later also to fisheries' treaties between different principalities. For the authorities, the incentives to do so were clear. They could extend their rule to the open lake, which from time immemorial had been considered beyond their jurisdiction. Yet the regulations also reveal an interest in the long-term viability of the Lake Constance fisheries, a concern that was shared by the fishermen. Both wanted to ensure a steady supply of fish for the local populations, but--at the same time--avoid overexploitation. To do so, they had to neutralise the resource's vulnerabilities, especially the catching of young fish that had not yet procreated, a practice of potentially catastrophic consequences, as they were well-aware. How the principalities and the fishermen managed to maintain order in the lake and avoid a Tragedy of the Commons over the course of more than five centuries will be the subject of this article.


The most striking feature of Lake Constance (or Bodensee in German) is certainly its morphological heterogeneity. A quick look at a map (Map 1) could easily lead to the premature conclusion that there are, indeed, two lakes connected by a river. Traditionally, however, the Upper Lake (Obersee), the Lower Lake (Untersee) and the Lake Rhine (Seerhein) linking the two are considered an entity. Beyond this coarse division, the numerous islands and bays allow for a mosaic of even smaller spaces: the elongated bay of Uberlingen Lake (Uberlinger See); the Funnel of Constance (Konstanzer Trichter) that drains the Upper Lake; the Lake of Mercy (Gnadensee) between the island Reichenau and the town of Allensbach; and many more. This panoply of smaller and larger lakes and parts of lakes translates into a variety of different ecological conditions. The Upper Lake, the larger of the two, with its 473 square kilometres and maximum depth of 252 metres is oligotrophia. Replenished mainly by the clear and cold Alpine Rhine its waters are nutrient-poor. Thus, plankton is relatively scarce and the lake's steeply sloping shores allow only a limited habitat for littoral plants except in the Funnel of Constance and some smaller bays. The Lower Lake covers only 63 square kilometres and is at its maximum 46 metres deep. Due to the numerous islands and peninsulas, currents are mostly absent. During the isotherm in the winter the turnover of water transports nutrients from the bottom to the top making the lake eutrophic. As a consequence, the waters are rich in plankton and in the shallow waters reeds and many other water plants grow. (3)

These different ecological conditions provided--and still provide--habitats for different species offish. In the Upper Lake the members of the salmonidae family dominate the food chain. The most important species is certainly the aforementioned whitefish. It exists in several forms, two of which were of eminent economic importance for the pre-modern fisheries. (4) The Blaufelchen inhabits the deeper spheres of the open water. Only for the spawning season in November and December do they approach the surface above the deepest regions of the lake. The fertilised roe sinks to the bottom where the fry hatches before ascending towards the surface where it develops, feeding primarily on zooplankton. The Gangfisch is slightly smaller. It prefers the regions closer to the shore as its habitat and spawns on the littoral where it is easy to catch. Besides whitefish there are two other salmonidae species in Lake Constance, which are rather rare and were of little importance for the fisheries. Lake trout (Salmo trutta f. lacustris) is the top level predator in the Upper Lake, but its habitat also includes the rivers and brooks feeding the lake, for spawning adult trout return to the rivers of their birth to release the roe. The fry hatches there and descends slowly towards the lake. Char (Salvelinus alpinus) populate mainly the deepest regions of the western Upper Lake. (5)

The Lower Lake, and the densely vegetated shallow parts of the Upper Lake, are the preferred habitat for the many cyprinidae species. Abundant are roach (Rutilus rutilus), rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus) and bream (Abramis brama), while carp (Cyprinus carpio)--introduced to Lake Constance in the Middle Ages--and tench (Tinea tinea) are rarer, but not uncommon. On those and many smaller species like bullhead (Cottus gobio), dace (Leuciscus leuciscus), minnow (Phoxinus phoxinus) and gudgeon (Gobio gobio) feed predators like pike (Esox lucius) and perch (Perca fluviatilis). Fishes that prefer a current find their habitat in the Lake Rhine as well as at the mouths of the rivers and brooks flowing into the lake. There grayling (Thymallus thymallus), chub (Leuciscus cephalus) and barbel (Barbus barbus) prosper. The rarest of fish in Lake Constance are eels (Anguilla anguilla). While the Rhine falls at Schaffhausen blocked other migratory species like salmon from ascending to Lake Constance, young eel circumvented the obstacles by snaking through humid moss and greenery. Today, the many dams and power stations along the Rhine prevent young eel from ascending to the Rhine falls, let alone Lake Constance. Therefore, glass eels are artificially stocked each year for the pleasure of anglers. (6)

Thus, the morphological heterogeneity of Lake Constance results in a remarkable ecological diversity, of which the fish species represent only a small fraction. For the fishermen who caught them for a living this was a blessing, but it also complicated their business. Since there were all these different kinds of fish, they were not dependent on the behaviour and life cycle of one species and could pursue their craft all the year round. However, fish relocated from one part of the lake to another or stayed in different depths contingent on weather conditions or the season. Therefore, not all species were easily accessible at all times. To be a fisherman on Lake Constance from the distant past to the present day has required an intricate knowledge of the diverse environment, as the right choice of gear, place and time determine the success of a day's work.

The complexity of fish ecology and vicissitudes of fish behaviour were not the only challenges the fisherman had to navigate, as the political landscape of the Lake Constance region was as heterogeneous as its geography. Numerous principalities shared the lake's shore until Napoleon's mediatisation and secularisation led to the creation of larger political entities. From the eighth century onwards, the Benedictine abbeys of Reichenau and St Gallen as well the bishopric of Constance were centres of culture and learning. Their influence extended far beyond the region but their power was based on their possessions there, many of them bequeathed or endowed by the local nobility. Among these possessions were the market towns that profited from an increase in trade during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. As important north-south and east-west routes crossed there, the Lake Constance region became a hub for the long distance trade in linen cloth salt, iron and luxuries. Due to the influx of capital and resources, a class of wealthy and confident merchants and craftsmen developed in the most important towns and demanded more political responsibility and independence from their overlords. To the citizens of Constance, Lindau, Uberlingen and Buchhorn on the shores of the lake and Ravensburg, Pfullendorf, Wangen, Zurich and St Gallen in the wider region the status of a free imperial city offered exactly that. During the fourteenth century, the merchants' and craftsmen's guilds managed to break the power of the urban patrician families and established a political system that gave a substantial section of the citizenry a stake in the polity's affairs. (7)

Even at the height of their powers the free imperial cities' position was not unchallenged. From the late thirteenth century the Habsburgs consolidated their possessions and came to rule most of Lake Constance's southern shore. As a reaction to this threat, the free imperial cities of the region began to agree alliances in order to preserve their independence. The Swiss Confederacy formed with similar intentions and due to its successes in battle attracted more and more members. When Zurich joined the Confederacy in 1351 it gained its first foothold in the Lake Constance region. After a further attempt by the Habsburgs to subdue the rebellious mountain dwellers had failed at Sempach (1386) and Nafels (1388), the Confederacy started a period of aggressive expansion towards the north. With the abbey of St Gallen becoming a protectorate in 1451 and the conquest of Thurgau in 1460 the Confederacy finally reached Lake Constance's shores. The Habsburgs tried to compensate for these losses by increasing their efforts to establish a sphere of influence to the north of the lake. Between these two regional powers the numerous smaller principalities tried to survive by aligning themselves with one or the other. Threatened by the Reformation, which reinforced the political partition, religious principalities like the prince-bishopric of Constance--which had managed to acquire the abbey of Reichenau in 1540--the Cistercian abbey of Salem, the Teutonic Order's Kommende on Mainau island and the Benedictine Abbey of Petershausen sought the protection of the Catholic Habsburgs. The free imperial cities had more problems accepting Habsburg superiority and Constance paid for its resistance with the loss of its independence in 1548. Buchhorn, Lindau and Uberlingen managed to preserve their status but lost their political influence. Of the local nobility, only the barons of Bodman could hold their ground. Others, like the counties of Toggenburg, Tengen and Heiligenberg were taken over by more powerful principalities like the Confederacy, Habsburg or, in the case of the latter, the Princes of Furstenberg. This territorial consolidation of the surviving larger principalities in the region during the early modern period was accompanied by an expansion of their central administration, while the traditional rights of the local nobility and the emperor were rolled back. This gave the princes direct access to tax revenues and the duties they collected from the profitable trade across the lake--grain from the fertile Swabian fields in the north to the mountainous south, Swiss cheese and textiles in the opposite direction. (8)

This seemingly stable order was turned upside down by the French Revolution and Napoleonic Rule. Secularisation and mediatisation in 1803 and 1806 spelled the end for the numerous small principalities across all of Germany including the Lake Constance region. In the north the reorganised states of Baden, Bavaria and Wurttemberg expanded to the shores of the lake while Austria lost its possessions in the region except Vorarlberg. The border to Switzerland remained unchanged. For the centralised bureaucracy in the faraway capitals of Karlsruhe, Munich, Stuttgart or Vienna, the Lake Constance region was an unimportant periphery of limited value, an economic backwater that was for a long time untouched by the industrialisation of the nineteenth century. (9)


Amid all this war, upheaval, strife and conquest the fishermen of the Lake Constance region rarely played a significant role. Although they were certainly affected directly, it is in most cases impossible to ascertain to what extent. We can assume that they had an opinion on certain developments. The lands between the northern shore of the lake and the Danube river were, for example, the hotbed of the rebellion that was put down during the German Peasants' War of 1525-26. One of the rebels' central demands was the abolishment of all rules restricting their right to fish and hunt. We can only speculate that the fishermen, and especially those living in the free cities, must have regarded this as a threat to their livelihood. The only instance in which the fishermen as a group became a prominent political actor was in Constance between the city's reformation and its conquest by the Habsburgs. The fishermen refused to abandon their established faith and became a political as well as religious minority in the city. When conflict broke out between the city's council and Emperor Charles V they not only took the Habsburgs' side but actively aided the conquest of the city. The Schultheib Chronicle, written in the sixteenth century, attributed this reluctance to the fishermen's apprehension that the end of Catholic fasting rules would result in a decline in fish consumption. There is, however, no indication that the demand for fish declined in Germany in the aftermath of the Reformation. Fish remained a coveted food, but its consumption was more evenly distributed over the course of the year. There is even some indication that Lent was observed in protestant Lindau. The fishermen certainly had more complex reasons for their allegiance to Charles V and opposition to their own city council. They had already supported the emperor's grandfather Maximilian I politically and had remained pro-Habsburg ever since. Additionally, there might have been cultural reasons. The fishermen saw themselves as successors of the Apostles whose feast days they celebrated as holidays. Becoming Protestant would have questioned this self-conception. Whatever the precise reasons for the actions of the Constance fishermen might have been, they were an exception. That the fishermen beyond this city lived through these political changes without influencing them was possibly due to the stability of the legal framework within which they pursued their trade. (10)

Surprisingly, neither the early modern principalities nor the modern states of the nineteenth century managed to carve up and territorialise all of Lake Constance, despite some efforts, especially by the Swiss, to insist on clearly defined borders and to partition the lake. In the end, they succeeded only for the Lower Lake, the Lake Rhine and the Funnel of Constance. The main body of the Upper Lake remains factually a diplomatically disputed tridominium of the neighbouring countries, Austria, Germany and Switzerland. (11) This slightly anachronistic state of things reflects the situation of the preceding centuries when most of Lake Constance was a commons when it came to the fisheries. The Lake Rhine, the Lower Lake and the immediate littoral of the Upper Lake had from the early middle ages onwards been under the jurisdiction of the neighbouring principalities or, in case of the Lower Lake, Reichenau Abbey. There, private property in fishing rights was possible, but by no means all areas close to the shore were in private possession. The deep waters of the Upper Lake were considered beyond anyone's jurisdiction. Consequently, large parts of Lake Constance were treated as a commons open to all willing and able to exploit it. (12)

Thus, from a strictly legal point of view, any inhabitant of the Lake Constance region could fish the lake. In practice, however, only the fishermen had the requisite knowledge, experience and tools to do so. They used various kinds of seines, nets and fish traps as well as fishing lines and hooks, many of them designed to catch particular species. Fishing was a highly complex craft that required not only knowledge of the lake and long personal experience but also the ability to make and use the gear. Whether it was employed properly was difficult to control. The lake covered an enormous area, which the fishermen roamed in search for the most promising fishing grounds. The authorities were incapable of supervising the fishermen's every move even when they were fishing in areas under their own jurisdiction, let alone in another part of the lake, but they found ways to regulate the craft. (13)

The Lake Constance fisheries were not a subsistence economy but relied on the market. Only there were the fishermen allowed to sell their catch to the local population. With limited means to preserve fish for later consumption their customers had to rely on the proper quality of the merchandise on offer. Due to the Catholic Church's provisions for fasting, meat was prohibited on around 140 days of the year. With fish the preferred substitute, it had an enormous cultural importance as a foodstuff. Therefore, the fish market was closely regulated by the authorities in order to protect consumers from fraud. They not only issued lists that fixed maximum prices for the most important species on offer, but also prescribed in fish market ordinances that fresh fish on offer had had to be caught on the same day and that unsellable dead fish had to be destroyed in order to protect consumers. Those rules were controlled by officials, apparently retired fishermen employed by the market town or city. (14)

The fishermen's reliance on the market also allowed the authorities to go one step further and regulate how fish was caught. They could proscribe certain practices and prohibit others by making them a precondition for the fishermen's access to the market. Their means to do so was the fishermen's ordinance. It was first developed in Lindau and Constance around the year 1350 after the guilds had wrestled power from the established patrician families. Now, they dominated the city council where political affairs were deliberated and decisions concerning the whole polity were made. In economic matters the guilds as trade organisations had a high degree of autonomy. As highly restrictive cooperative bodies, the guilds tried to regulate the most important aspects of their own trade or craft by issuing 'guild ordinances' to curb competition among their members and ensure everyone's economic survival. In all four free imperial cities on the shores of Lake Constance the fishermen were organised in such guilds, although in some cases they shared a guild with another trade. The guilds maintained a monopoly over their trade. Only members could work as fishermen and the guild controlled admission by requiring an apprenticeship and a fee. With membership came rights and privileges as well as responsibilities. The fishermen elected their guild master, had a guild house, paid contributions to the treasury and negotiated the fishermen's ordinances. (15)

The ordinances were not imposed on the guild by the authorities. We know little about the way they came into being, but the guild's members certainly had a stake in their formulation although experienced fishermen and the guild master probably played a dominant role. Only they had the knowledge to anticipate the often intricate consequences of certain regulations. The ordinances were publicly read at a regular meeting where members could bring up flaws and improvements. There was a continuous discourse on the matter, which ensured that the ordinances reacted to changes in the lake or in society. They were living documents that were adapted to the needs and requirements of the fishermen. However, the guilds were definitely not free to regulate their craft according to their wishes. Since the fishermen's ordinances were legally binding documents, the city clerk was involved in the developing process. He brought the results of discussion and dispute to paper and ensured that the content conformed to certain legal standards. Since the guild was represented in the city council and, therefore, bore some responsibility for the whole polity, the fishermen also had at all times to consider the interests of the population they were supplying. Thus, the ordinances were a result of a negotiation process that aimed at a reconciliation of the interests of the individual fishermen, the guild as a corporate body, the city council as the cities' ruling entity and the cities' populations whom the council represented. (16)

From the city council's point of view, the supply of fish for the whole population was the main purpose of the regulation of the fisheries. As Lenten food, fish had an enormous cultural importance for the catholic population and providing it was part of the council's social responsibility. Both fishermen's ordinances and market ordinances were supposed to guarantee a sufficient supply of fish of good quality all year round, but especially during Lent. The authorities ensured that the local population had privileged access to the market and in Lindau the fishermen had to provide cheap fish for the poor. For the fishermen the regulation also had distinct advantages. Through the complex rules stipulated in the ordinances they set a very high bar, which only full-time fishermen could pass. Thus the fisheries became a business of restricted entry, even if the resource was in principle open to everyone. Additionally, the ordinances standardised the gear, thereby levelling the playing field, and they limited the fishermen's access to the resource, thus protecting it from overexploitation and securing it for future generations. Another positive was legal security. The fishermen often fished in waters under the jurisdiction of a foreign principality. There, they were vulnerable to assaults by the local fishermen or even authorities. In such cases the attacked fisherman could report the incident to his authorities under the provisions of the ordinance who would attend to the matter on his behalf. (17)

These advantages for both fishermen and authorities did ensure that the ordinances were normally observed. If the ordinances had been mere legal window dressing, the many revisions and continuous discussions about them would scarcely have occurred. Apparently, there was a consensus among the fishermen that the ordinances had merit and that their long-term advantages outweighed the short-term profits to be made from an intensified exploitation of the resource. This general agreement did not preclude single fishermen from breaking the rules both on the water and on the market, despite the penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment if they were caught. There are numerous examples from all parts of the lake of fishermen being punished for infractions of various kinds. This was, however, a small minority. The majority obeyed the rules they had set themselves and made the fishermen's ordinance a successful regulatory tool around Lake Constance. (18)

The first ordinances were issued in Lindau and Constance around the year 1350. Yet apparently this tool of regulation proved such a success that it began to transcend the urban context of guilds and councils for which it had been developed. From 1450 on, Reichenau Abbey began to issue ordinances for the Lower Lake, and St Gallen soon followed suit in 1479. In both instances there was no fishermen's guild and the local fishermen had received the right to fish as a fief for which they had to pay dues. Nonetheless both abbeys adapted the instrument and fitted it for their own purposes. As monasteries they had a high demand for fish--the fasting rules for monks were stricter than for laypersons--and securing the supply was economically sound policy. Additionally, they could not only impose a regulatory standard for all the fishermen under their authority, but also for foreign ones who fished in waters under their jurisdiction. It was, however, no coincidence that it was the two most powerful monasteries that followed the cities' example. For smaller principalities, the ordinances were less attractive. They did not have such a high demand for fish and did not feature a prominent fish market where their own fishermen could sell their catch. Nonetheless, they also had an interest in controlling their fishermen and securing the fish supply. There were two solutions to this problem. (19)

Lindau integrated the fishermen from other principalities at the eastern end of the lake into the city's guild. Consequently, they were all subject to the local ordinance and had access to the Lindau fish market. This cohabitation between urban and rural fishermen was an uneasy one. The fishermen from the city considered themselves craftsmen with certain common standards and ethics--as expressed in the ordinances--and they accused their rural guildsmen, who could rely on agriculture for much of their livelihood, of ignoring the rules and endangering the resource. Enforcing the regulations could prove difficult, as the Lindau city council could not hand out any punishment without the cooperation of the culprit's local authorities. The bailiffs in the Habsburg Vorarlberg in particular were slow to react to such demands. (20)

A second way to deal with the problem was fisheries treaties between several principalities. This became the dominant form of regulation for the western Upper Lake from 1481 on, when Konstanz, Uberlingen, Mainau, Salem and Heiligenberg agreed to a set of common rules. At first, these treaties complemented the local ordinances, but with the detailed convention between Constance and Uberlingen concluded in 1536 they became the dominant regulatory tool. Over the course of the following centuries a sequence of treaties was agreed between changing constellations of partners. However, they had one thing in common. The city of Constance played a central role in the negotiations and was a partner in all agreements. (21)

The fisheries treaties had several advantages over the ordinances. They allowed the participating principalities to establish common standards that applied on all parts of the western Upper Lake. Having only one set of rules facilitated control over the fishermen, as they could no longer claim different standards as an excuse for misbehaviour. The treaties also made it easier for fishermen from different principalities to report wrongdoings. There was certainly solidarity among the fishermen from the same city, town or village and they must have been reluctant to report each other for minor infringements. Due to traditional rivalries and competition, however, fishermen from different principalities showed no such inhibitions. The common knowledge of the treaty enabled them to observe and interpret the practices of the others in a hitherto unprecedented way. Without long-standing loyalties they were quick to report culprits to their own authorities, who would pursue the matter through diplomatic channels. Thus, an area under joint jurisdiction came into existence through those fisheries treaties, which also furthered the participating principalities' extension of their authority over the commons of the deep lake. (22)

As a consequence, five legal frameworks for the regulation of the Lake Constance fisheries developed by the mid-sixteenth century: The Lower Lake and most of the Lake Rhine were under the sole authority of Reichenau Abbey. Secondly, a group of principalities negotiated treaties for the western Upper Lake with Constance in a pivotal position. Most of the southern shore of the Upper Lake was subject to the St. Gallen ordinances and treaties, though the last one was issued in 1544. The fishermen of the eastern end of the Upper Lake were members of Lindau's fishermen's guild and on the northern shore between Lindau's and Constance's spheres of influence there was the free imperial city of Buchhorn whose fishermen belonged to neither but played only an insignificant role and will henceforth be omitted. (23)

This constellation of five legal frameworks remained in place until the late nineteenth century. An attempt by Constance to negotiate a fisheries treaty for the whole Upper Lake failed in 1790. Although the parties present at the conference agreed on a set of common rules, the proposed convention collapsed due to the indifference of the Swiss, who did not even reply to requests to join. The end of the principalities that had issued the ordinances and agreed on the treaties also had no discernible effects. The states that replaced them all passed fisheries laws in the first half of the nineteenth century, but these were designed for the conditions on the smaller lakes, ponds and rivers where most fishermen earned their living. They were not applicable to Lake Constance and in some instances excluded it from their scope. Thus, the old ordinances and treaties remained the legal framework of the Lake Constance fisheries, although the principalities and guilds that had issued them were no longer in existence and could no longer effectively enforce them. Consequently, there was at least a perception of the decline of the fisheries and many fishermen lived in poverty. A new legal framework was required, but it was not the governments who provided the final impulse. It was the fishermen who demanded a new regulation of their craft and, after several rounds of negotiations, the German states of Baden, Bavaria, Wurttemberg as well as Austria and Switzerland stipulated the Bregenz Agreement (Bregenzer Ubereinkunff) in 1893, which established the IBKF and remains the legal framework for the regulation of the Upper Lake's fisheries to this day. (24)


Even if the legal framework of the fishermen's ordinances and fisheries treaties remained remarkably stable for more than four centuries, their content was subject to frequent and at times substantial change. St Gallen proved to be an exception, since it did not reissue its ordinance after 1544, but Lindau, Reichenau and Constance revised their ordinances and treaties several times. The alterations of the provisions reveal a trend towards an increase in complexity, as the documents became longer and more detailed. Because they were clearly not arbitrary but responded to changing circumstances, these modifications allow us today to trace changes in the practices of the Lake Constance fisheries and the conditions under which the fishermen operated. Admittedly, the alteration of a single regulation is only of limited significance. An analysis of a series of ordinances and treaties issued or agreed for one of the five legal frameworks permits us not only to observe long-time trends but also to identify strategies to cope with challenges and to balance the at times conflicting interest of the fishermen and their authorities.

The fishermen's ordinances and fisheries treaties regulated six different areas of the craft. The first and most fundamental one was the gear. In order to guarantee equal conditions for all fishermen, the authorities set common standards for features of seines, nets and fish traps like mesh size or shape and forbade innovations. A second set of rules restricted or prohibited the use of specific gear at certain times or places in order to minimise harm to the fish fauna, for example during the spawning season. Thirdly, the ordinances protected certain species of fish by establishing closed seasons, prohibiting the catch of young fish or prescribing a minimal length. A fourth area was the fishermen's conduct on the water, such as the right of way under certain circumstances or how to deal with fishermen who disturbed others, while the selling of fish on the market and the penalties for violations were the fifth and sixth areas.

For the first three of these areas of regulation, we can identify recurring rules that allow us to observe not only trends but intentional strategies for the management of the resource fish over several centuries. The serial analysis of recurring regulations indicates that the fishermen and their authorities tightened, loosened, differentiated or confirmed rules. These changes were not arbitrary, but the result of a process of negotiations that tried to adjust the rules to changing conditions while satisfying the interests of all parties: the fishermen, their customers on the fish markets and the authorities.

This conclusion is based on two assumptions: that the specification of nets of the same name did not change fundamentally but gradually over the course of time and that the names of nets and fish species remained the same. If we accept those two premises--and there are good reasons to do so, given the institutional continuity, the permanent discourse about the fisheries and the intricate knowledge of past documents betrayed by these texts--the serial analysis of long-term trends excludes regulations that appeared singularly, rarely or intermittently. Therefore, it will focus on the most frequently recurring rules from those regions on the lake that issued ordinances and agreed on treaties most regularly, the Lower Lake and the western Upper Lake, while regulations from other parts of Lake Constance will be used to complement the results. (25)

A good example is the mesh size of drift nets set in the Lower Lake ordinances. It was consistently specified at 37 'mesh per Constance twisted yarn cubit' (Konstanzer Zwillichelle) (26) between the regulation's first appearance in 1455 and its last one in 1774. This is a remarkable continuity over the course of more than three centuries. (27) The rule for the mesh size for seines used in the Lower Lake provides an illuminating contrast. It was introduced in the 1522 ordinance at 24 'mesh per Constance twisted yarn cubit' and remained so until 1594 when it was reduced to 21. Thus, the mesh size was increased and the efficiency of the seines was decreased. In the ordinance issued in 1613 the mesh size stayed at 21, but an additional rule for the seine designed to catch roach was established at 24 'mesh per Constance twisted yarn cubit'. The mesh size of 24 for the roach seine remained constant until 1774, while the mesh size for the other seines was increased again to 20 in 1717 and decreased to 21 in 1774. The modulation of the mesh size of the seines demonstrates two developments: firstly, the hitherto unregulated design of seines was twice restricted through the introduction of the rule in 1522 and the significant tightening in 1594. Secondly, the rule was differentiated, probably to adjust it to the complexities of the Lower Lake fisheries. The introduction of a new rule for a specific seine meant a partial loosening of a regulation. Through an analysis of the development of mesh sizes of drift nets and seines we can identify four developments: continuity over long periods of time, tightening, loosening and differentiation of rules. (28)

The regulation of the design of nets or seines were straightforward compared to those concerning the use of gear. The example of the Lomgarn, a seine whose mesh did not contract when hauled in, reveals the complex processes of change that could occur. In 1470 an ordinance for the Lower Lake introduced a ban on the Lomgarn from 25 December to the beginning of Lent and limited its use between two weeks after Easter and 29 September to two days per week. This restriction was severely tightened in 1487 when the start of the ban was pushed back to 11 November and a second period of interdiction between four weeks after Easter and 29 September replaced the time of limited use, but not for long. In 1522 the ban on the Lomgarn during the summer was abolished, yet in 1532 it was reintroduced, though shortened by two weeks; and a new ordinance issued in 1534 returned to the status of 1487. The rule was confirmed several times until 1707, when the ban during the summer was replaced by a restriction to two uses per week during Lent and the first two weeks after Easter. This change proved to be the last one. The case of the Lomgarn is instructive, since two long periods of stability were intermitted by quite drastic change. At different times alterations that tightened or loosened the rules were tried and discarded and in the early eighteenth century a completely new shift in the timeframe was introduced. (29)

The Streiffen, a small trawling net used for the catch of bullhead or bait fish, is another intriguing example, as it appeared frequently enough for a comparison between the western Upper and the Lower Lake. For almost a century, there were two distinct variations of the restriction of its use for the western Upper Lake: a stricter one banned the net for the whole year except during Lent in 1474, 1481 and 1514; and a laxer one banning the Streiffen only between Easter and 16 October can be found in ordinances and treaties decreed in 1491, 1536 and 1551. There is no obvious correlation to a certain geographical pattern depending on place of issue or signatories, so we have to assume that the two variations did not exist at the same time in different parts of the western Upper Lake, but followed each other. That the alternation between the two varieties was due to the search for the best solution can be discerned from the compromise first established in a treaty concluded in 1566 between Constance and Mainau, which was reaffirmed in follow-up treaties between different signatories in 1589, 1599 and 1663. It tended towards the stricter version by banning the Streiffen except during Lent, but it mitigated its severity by introducing a period of limited use during the two weeks before Ash Wednesday and a time of unlimited use between 29 October and 25 November. (30)

The conclusion that this back and forth was a difficult and lengthy process of negotiations is supported by the similar development on the Lower Lake. There, the ordinance of 1450 completely proscribed the Streiffen, but apparently that ban could not be enforced. Already in 1455 its use was again permitted during Lent and the regulation was further loosened in 1487, when a period of limited use--three days each week between 11 November and 25 December--was added. Only when the net was banned for the Lake Rhine in 1494 was there a stable solution that lasted until 1707, when the rule was completely reformed. After that point in time, the use of the Streiffen was permitted on three days per week all year round. This loosening apparently had negative effects, since the Streiffen was banned again only ten years later, with an exception during Lent when the fishermen could use it twice per week. That the use of the Streiffen was so contentious is not surprising. It was a close meshed net designed for the catch of small fish and, therefore, the amount of by-catch of young fish of more valuable species must have been high. Apparently the fishermen could not do without it and accept a total ban, but they were clearly willing to search for a solution that both satisfied their economic short-term interest and sustained the resource fish in the long run. The instrument of the fishermen's ordinances and treaties allowed for exactly that. If there were negative experiences after an alteration of the rules there was always the possibility to go back to the previous state or negotiate a compromise between the two. (31)

The attention paid to the protection of the procreation of fish is particularly obvious in those regulations that restricted the catch of certain species. Perch in particular was at the centre of such regulatory efforts. No other fish or gear was subject to a comparable number of rules. The most basic one was the closed season that aimed at protecting the spawn during the second half of April when perch prefer inshore waters. Thus, the fish was easily accessible for the fishermen who could use large seines operated from the shore to devastating effect. Not only would they haul a huge catch on land, but the seine would also damage the already released roe. Thus, perch was clearly vulnerable during spawning. A consequent exploitation of this weakness would have had catastrophic effects, since perch was a food in high demand and fishermen would certainly have been able to market their catch. (32)

A closed season for perch on the Lower Lake was first established in the 1450 ordinance. It lasted forty days for the Lower Lake and, interestingly, fifty days for the Upper Lake. During the following centuries such a long closed season remained a singular exception, although it might have been due to its starting at Easter. As the date for this holiday was subject to variation of almost a month the closed season had to cover for all contingencies. Already in the following ordinance of 1455, the closed season was reduced to a mere fifteen days between 15 April and 1 May. It remained unchanged until 1522 when it was extended by one week, now beginning on 8 April. Apparently, this rule worked, as it remained in place until 1583, but it was not precise enough to cover all variations of fish behaviour. From that year onwards, the closed season still lasted three weeks, but its starting point became flexible. Each year the Abbot of the Reichenau sent a letter to the neighbouring principalities informing them of the start of the closed season. We can safely assume that the Abbot did not question the fishermen himself, but that his officials determined the date at short notice according to recent observations. While the flexible starting point proved its value over the course of the next centuries, the duration of the closed season was again extended to one month in 1594 and to five weeks in 1707. (33)

The Hurling, as the young perch in its first year is called in the local dialect, was the species' second vulnerable point. It was widely considered a delicacy and consumers were willing to pay for the pleasure. Due to its not yet having spawned, catching the Hurling would hurt the reproductive capabilities of perch all over Lake Constance. A total ban was impossible to achieve, as a failed attempt in the late eighteenth century would demonstrate, but the fishermen and their authorities restricted the catch quite drastically. For the Lower Lake the first regulation was introduced in 1455 when a closed season between Easter and 4 July was proscribed. Apparently, this was too long for the taste of many fishermen and the closed season was adjusted to the full-grown perch's one in 1522. It now lasted from 9 April until 1 May. This rule was confirmed in 1532, but in 1542 replaced by its predecessor, to be reinstated again in 1550. After 1550 the closed season for the Hurling disappeared from the Lower Lake ordinances. Through all these years the closed season was accompanied by a period of limited fishing. It, too, was also introduced for the Lower Lake in 1455 and lasted from 4 July to 8 September. During this period the fishermen were permitted to catch Hurling only on three days per week. Already in 1465 this was shorted by three weeks and lasted only until 15 August. This step was reversed in 1522, when the closed season was reduced dramatically, thus disturbing the seamless segue between the two regulations. Maybe this was the cause for a general reform. In 1532 the catching of Hurling was permitted all year round only four times per week and a quota was introduced. Each fisherman was allowed to catch only one half of a Viertel, the equivalent of 4.8 litres. This regulation remained in place until 1594 and, thus, outlasted the closed season. In that year the rules were tightened and catching Hurling was generally allowed only three times per week except between 25 July and 29 September when it was permitted on four days. This apparently went too far and in 1613 the general restriction was cancelled, while the special regulation was differentiated. Until 9 September--the beginning was not mentioned, but plausibly was either Easter, the flexible end of the closed season for perch or a date in July--catching Hurling was allowed on three days per week and from 9 to 29 September four days a week. This regulation was confirmed in 1717 and 1774, but the beginning of the first period was now determined flexibly by the Abbot. (34)

The development for the western Upper Lake was similarly complex. The oldest regulations can be found in the Lower Lake ordinances of 1465 and 1470 as well as in the Constance ordinance of 1474. They all prescribed a closed season for the Hurling between Easter and 25 July. This was confirmed in the Constance ordinances of 1491 and 1527 as well as in the fisheries treaty between Uberlingen and Constance that was concluded in 1536. A Constance ordinance issued in 1537 extended the closed season by more than two months until 29 September, while a treaty concluded in 1551 between Constance and the fishermen of the village of Ermatingen on the Lower Lake's southern shore reduced it again by setting its end at 9 September. This was the last appearance of a closed season for the Hurling in the western Upper Lake and it occurred around the same time as in the Lower Lake. Apparently the fishermen and authorities of both legal frameworks had come to similar conclusions at the same time and abolished the closed season in favour of year-round limitation of the catch. As in the Lower Lake, such restrictions had a long tradition. The mention of a limitation can be found in an undated ordinance issued in Constance during the fourteenth century that limited the catching of Hurling to two days per week. In 1491 the rule was loosened and fisherman could catch Hurling three times per week between 25 July and 15 August, following the recently introduced closed season. An ordinance issued in 1527 tightened the regulation again by abolishing the period of restriction and replacing it with a general limit of catching Hurling on three days per week. Apparently, this was again too severe, since the treaties of 1566, 1589 und 1599 prescribed a limitation to three days a week only from 25 April to 9 September. A comparison between the western Upper Lake and the Lower Lake demonstrates how closely related those alterations were. Since fishermen from both regions regularly fished in each others' waters, they were well aware of the current state of regulations in both. The same must have been true for the authorities. The pattern thus again demonstrates that the alterations of the ordinances were by no means arbitrary. (35)

Yet the processes of negotiations that informed the actual regulations did not necessarily result in positive long-term consequences for the resource fish. The catching of Hurling can again serve as an instructive example. Apparently the abolition of the closed season had negative consequences down the road. When a conference of most principalities with a stake in the Upper Lake fisheries was convened in Constance in 1790, the catching of Hurling was the prime reason. In order to improve the poor condition of the fisheries and thus the economic situation of the fishermen, Constance proposed a total ban for three years to give the species time to recover. During the negotiations the ban was even extended to ten years, a drastic and unprecedented step. This proposal demonstrates that the authorities as well as the fishermen had clearly identified the catch of Hurling as a potentially harmful practice. How strong the incentives were for--at least partially--ignoring this insight can be deduced from the failing of the treaty. When the Swiss refused to join in, those principalities closest to Switzerland could no longer enforce it. In some border villages one part of the fishermen were subject to the treaty while another was not. Watching their neighbour profit from Hurling was apparently too much. After only a few weeks the agreement collapsed and the catching of Hurling continued according to the old ordinances and treaties for a further century under the new regime of modern states. (36)

The protection of fish in their first year--besides Hurling there were regulations concerning whitefish and bleak (37)--was not the only way to ensure that fish had spawned at least once before they were caught. By prescribing a minimum length, the authorities could easily ascertain at the market if the sold fish were mature. The exact length was plotted in the ordinances and treaties while the fishermen had to carve it in their boats in order to prevent them from making excuses. However, it would be premature to compare these drawings in the existing documents with today's regulations. In the past, the minimum length was measured without the fishtail and it is impossible to determine its exact definition (38)

There were distinct regional differences and a considerable variation over time. The minimum length for trout, for example, was more frequently plotted in Lower Lake ordinances than in those for the Upper Lake. There, it appeared only twice in the treaties with a length of 17.5 cm in 1536 and 16.5 cm in 1589. The first minimum length for the Lower Lake, of 17 cm, was issued at around the same time, in 1542. It was modified in 1550 when its validity was limited to the period between Easter and 16 October, but after a few decades the original state was restored in 1594. After more than a century in use, a quite drastic tightening of the rule took place in 1707, when the minimum length was extended to 23.5 cm; this was confirmed in 1717 and 1774. (39)

In the case of the minimum length of pike we find a reversed regional distribution. It was far more frequently issued for the Upper Lake, although the species was rare there. The treaty for the western Upper Lake of 1481 mentioned a minimum length for pike for the first time, although it was not plotted in the preserved document, and the treaty for St Gallen of 1544 and a fishermen's ordinance from Constance issued in 1514 prohibited only vaguely the catching of fish that were too small. A first plotted minimum length can be found in a fisheries treaty for the western Upper Lake in 1513 that put it at 23 cm. In 1536 it was lengthened to 26 cm and confirmed at that level in 1566 and 1599 until it was again extended, to 27 cm, in 1663. The rules in regional

ordinances issued by St Gallen in 1534 (24.5 cm) and Lindau in 1552 (26.5 cm) lay also within this range. The failed treaty for the whole Upper Lake of 1790 would have set it at a considerably longer 32.9 cm. (40)

Rules specifying the minimum length for tench were equally distributed among both parts of Lake Constance. For the western Upper Lake it was introduced in 1536 when it was determined at 17.5 cm. In 1566 it was shortened to 16 cm and its next two appearances in 1589 (16.5 cm) and 1663 (16 cm) demonstrate a certain stability. The failed fisheries treaty of 1790 would have set it to 17.7 cm, thus reverting to the original state. The ordinances for the Lower Lake show a more significant development. A minimum length for tench was prescribed for the first time in 1522 at 13 cm and it was confirmed in 1532 and 1542. In 1550 it was tightened to 15 cm and remained that long through the 1594 ordinance, but in 1613 it was shortened by one centimetre to 14 cm. In 1707 there was a second tightening, when the minimum length was extended to 17.5 cm, and it remained at this level in 1717 and 1774. (41)

Although the minimum lengths for trout, pike and tench all showed the trends of tightening, loosening and continuity, an analysis over the whole period under consideration reveals that the rules tended to become stricter. If the rules were loosened, only small steps were taken or a previous alteration was reversed. The tightening of a regulation was quite frequently a drastic step. This trend towards a general tightening over the course of several centuries can also be observed for the other kinds of regulations and can be interpreted as a means of securing the fish supply. A closer look at the minimum lengths reveals that the tightening was not uniform but occurred primarily in two periods. Around the year 1500 most of the rules regarding a minimum length were introduced, while the Lower Lake ordinance of 1707 extended the minimum length for all species except carp and tench. During the period between 1450 and 1550 as well as the beginning of the eighteenth century the tightening or differentiating of rules culminated also in other areas. At the turn of the sixteenth century the tool of the fishermen's ordinance was perfected, which might partially explain the many changes. The Lower Lake ordinance was the first renewal after a hiatus of more than seventy years. This need for action might have been a reaction to changing circumstances.

However, it was probably no coincidence that these periods of heightened regulatory activity were periods of strong population growth that pushed the capacity of agricultural production to its limits. Fish was a more elastic source of food whose exploitation could be intensified in years of dearth. Although neither correspondence nor treaties give indication of regulations being relaxed during periods of famine, it is probably safe to assume that they were not as strictly enforced. Even a detailed study of the emergency measures by Uberlingen in order to ensure food supplies during the crisis of 1770-71 found no references regarding an increased presence of meat, milk and fish as a means to fend off hunger. Maybe we can conclude from this silence that these foodstuffs--and fish in particular--were available even when grain was scarce. Perhaps the enforcement of existing rules was relaxed while the established regulatory framework remained in place. Price lists with maximum prices for fish would still have curbed speculation, while market rules guaranteeing the freshness of the product made the storage of such a perishable food impossible. Therefore, the catch would come on the market instantly, lowering the pressure on grain reserves. These shortages of grain were rather short, extending over a couple of years. If more abundant years followed those of dearth and if the rules regulating the fisheries were observed, the lake could recover. If some of the rules were ignored in times of scarcity this was only a temporary measure for an emergency situation. The continuing growth of the population, however, put general pressure on the resource and required a more extensive answer. (42)

While a growing demand was one consequence of an increasing population, the supply side was also affected, since the number of fishermen grew at a similar rate. A compilation of the tax lists of the citizens of Constance between 1350 and 1460 reveals an increase in the number of taxpaying fishermen. However, we have to be cautious when interpreting this data. It reveals only an increase in the number of households, but not how many sons, menials, journeymen or apprentices were working in each besides its head. Nonetheless, the tax lists give an indication of a growing number of urban fishermen servicing the increasing demand, despite the guild's stated purpose to limit the number of people plying one trade. In the villages where no cooperative framework existed the growth might have been unchecked. A discourse among the principalities during the eighteenth century, another period of population growth, might be an indication for such a development. At the fisheries conference held in 1790 the unsustainable number of fishermen was a main issue. The delegates discussed two ways to solve the problem: either to limit the amount of gear per fishermen or to reduce the number of fishermen. Since less gear would have resulted in an even lower income per capita, the second approach was chosen. Those principalities where the number of fishermen had risen significantly above previous levels were instructed not to accept new fisherman and to collect the gear of all those who had another source of income. This decision by the conference was, of course, inconsequential, since the treaty of which it was part collapsed. However, it demonstrates an awareness of a problematic situation with potentially devastating consequences for the resource fish and for the economic viability of the Lake Constance fisheries. (43)

The increased demand for fish can explain the loosening and some differentiations of regulations as a means to satisfy the needs of a growing population, but not the tightening of rules concerning minimum lengths and closed seasons. It seems plausible to conclude that the short-term interest of increasing the supply lost out against the long-term preservation of the resource. This was an intentional and political decision that is difficult to imagine without a grasp of the concept of sustainability among the fishermen and the authorities.


Indeed, we can identify such a discourse in preambles of fisheries treaties and in the correspondence between different fishermen's guilds. The preamble to the fisheries treaty concluded by Constance and Uberlingen in 1536 is particularly intriguing. In it both parties state that the agreed document was negotiated with the 'common benefit in the lake' in mind and that it intended to 'restore the lake' explicitly by protecting the spawn and young fish. That such measures were necessary was attributed to the misconduct of the fishermen. The preamble of the treaty between Constance and Mainau of 1566 went one step further, claiming that the whole lake was 'desolate and exhausted due to this disorder' because the 'roe was disrupted, ground and destroyed'. This had negative consequences not only for the fishermen whose livelihood depended on the resource, but also for 'the common poor man' who had to suffer due to a shortage offish. Although we should take these text passages about the poor condition of the resource and the misconduct of the fishermen with more than just a grain of salt, they nonetheless betray an awareness of an interconnected social responsibility and ecological vulnerability. (44)

Some of the changes in the environment were exogenous and thus beyond the realm of human agency. Limnological research has concluded that the climate has some influence on the development of the spawn of whitefish in Lake Constance. Thus, we can deduce that the Little Ice Age must have affected at least this species, but probably the whole ecosystem. Unfortunately we do not have sufficient source material to articulate any informed judgement on the effects of past climate change on the Lake Constance fisheries. However, it is noteworthy that the issuing of fishermen's ordinances and fisheries treaties did not correspond with climatic developments. (45)

Epizootics among fish were another phenomenon that occurred without human intervention. In 1536 Uberlingen warned Constance that a plague had broken out among roach in the eastern part of the Upper Lake. Lindau and Bregenz had already forbidden trade in the species, but Constance saw no necessity to act as long as the disease did not reach its own fishing grounds. Lindau refrained from taking regulatory action beyond the market and roach were not even mentioned in the 1537 Lindau ordinance. The Abbot of Reichenau reacted very differently when an epizootic decimated pike in the Lower Lake in 1790. He decreed that the minimum length for the species was to be extended by 7.6 cm, a considerable tightening of the existing regulation clearly intended to protect the stock. Pike was a prestigious food and its protection might have had a higher priority. Nonetheless, these cases demonstrate that not only the consumer deserved protection in the event of an epizootic, but also the resource fish. (46)

The fishermen could only react to natural occurrences such as climate and disease, but they also had to cope with change in the local environment inflicted by human actions. From the Middle Ages onwards, the construction of water mills changed aquatic ecosystems along many rivers and brooks all over Europe. By damming flowing water watermill owners created additional habitats for carp, tench and pike while hindering the migrations of salmon, sturgeon or eel. These changes primarily affected flowing water bodies, but around Lake Constance the effects were also felt. Water mills inhibited the migrations of trout, which spawn in the rivers and brooks discharging into the lake. Of the most palpable consequence, however, was the construction of a new mill in 1580 that was located on the bridge connecting Constance with the northern shore of the Lake Rhine. Contemporary depictions show a funnel made of wattling that was supposed to direct the feeble current of the Lake Rhine onto the millwheel. In 1582 the city of Zurich complained that the new mill obstructed their bargees. However, the runnel was not only a traffic block for ships but also for whitefish. (47)

Around the same time, complaints began to accumulate indicating that the catch of Gangfisch during its spawning had decreased considerably. Traditionally, the spawning of the Gangfisch was the most profitable season for fishermen on the Lake Rhine. Tens of thousands of fish congregated to release their roe on the densely vegetated littoral. There, they were easy to catch in enormous numbers. Given the richness of the fishing grounds, it is no surprise that no other part of Lake Constance had an equally high number of private fishing rights. Among the most sought after was a share in the huge seines that were used to catch Gangfisch. The fishing rights necessary for their use were in the possession of authorities like the bishop or the city of Constance. They leased the right to fish to a limited number of fishermen who had to pay a defined number of fish as an annual duty. Each year, when the spawning season of the Gangfisch approached in November, the fishermen assembled the seines from their own smaller gear and fished the Lake Rhine in a cooperative effort. (48)

From 1580 on, the fishermen of the Gangfisch-seines began to accumulate enormous amounts of debt. They asked their liege lords to reduce the annual duty or introduce an option to pay it in the form of money. In 1606 the city of Constance relented and agreed to convert a debt of 36,000 Gangfisch into 40 guilders payable in two instalments. The annual duty was lowered from 3,000 to 2,000 Gangfisch, but only for the following six years. These concessions were explicitly justified with reference to the changes effected by the new watermill. This reduction was not an isolated incident. The provost of the cathedral chapter had to conclude a similar agreement. These reductions had, however, no discernible consequences. Apparently, the fishermen were not able or willing to service the reduced payments and between 1629 and 1650 they again accumulated a debt of 44,000 Gangfisch. (49)

The impact that the new watermill on the Rhine bridge had on the Gangfisch was--by all accounts--significant. However, we should again accept the many complaints only with a grain of salt. The obstruction of the spawning was certainly a welcome occasion for fishermen and owners of fishing rights to reduce their duties or get compensation from the city of Constance. The reduction of duties for a share in the Gangfisch-seines had a long tradition. Around the year 1300 the fishermen had paid 30,000 Gangfisch as an annual duty to the Bishop of Constance. Over the course of the following centuries this amount was continuously reduced, while huge debts were incurred. The conversion of duties payable in fish to those payable in money was also an existing trend that had begun in the early sixteenth century and was only reinforced by the problems caused by the watermill. This new form of payment had advantages for both parties. The fishermen could sell their whole catch on the market and make more than the equivalent they had to pay to their liege lords. At a time of rising prices for food and other goods for which they relied on the local markets they might have had to monetise their catch more thoroughly in order to maintain their standard of living. The authorities again gained a secure source of income. Nevertheless, both forms of payment remained options, probably due to the high consumption offish in the clerical principalities. (50)

Yet all these objections cannot obscure the fact that the new Rhine bridge clearly had negative effects on the fisheries. Otherwise, the city of Constance would not have compensated the abbey of Petershausen with two fishing rights for lost income and the price for fishing rights in the Lake Rhine would not have dropped substantially. The value of a share of the Gangfisch-seine of the city of Constance decreased from 46 to 13 guilders between 1594 and 1602 and it only minimally increased to 14 guilders in the period to 1615. Such a dramatic decline within eight years can hardly be explained by deflation at a time of inflation in most of Europe. A lack of sources leaves much room for speculation about the reasons, but given the many complaints related to the new watermill, it must be the most plausible explanation. (51)

The watermill on the Rhine bridge demonstrated to fishermen and authorities alike the effects human interventions could have on an important part of Lake Constance's ecosystem. Yet such change was local and therefore limited. Persistent overfishing could have devastating results for the whole lake even before the introduction of nylon nets and motorboats. The example of the Zeller See showcases the devastating potential of the medieval fisheries. In the mid-fourteenth century the local fishermen agreed to pay the Archbishop of Salzburg an annual duty of 27,000 whitefish and eighteen trout for the right to exploit the Lake. After one human generation, the stocks of whitefish collapsed. When pike were introduced as a compensation, they prospered off trout. The fisherman had to ban any kind of fishery for three years and afterwards introduced closed seasons and protected areas. (52)

Lake Constance was spared such a disaster. The sources do not indicate a general collapse of the fishing stocks or of those of a single species. The lake's size provided a buffer that could absorb a temporary intensification of fishing, for instance in case of a famine. The fishermen, however, must have experienced the negative consequences of their actions. The preambles of the fisheries treaties between Constance and Uberlingen of 1536 and between Constance and Mainau in 1566 demonstrate that the fisherman attributed a poor year or a decline in catch to their own actions. Even if they avoided a collapse of fish stocks or even the extinction of a species, they were well aware that such an outcome was within their powers. Their experience showed that some practices were harmful or even dangerous, and the only means to avoid them was by regulating the craft.

Since the mid-fourteenth century the ordinances were a means to do so and secure the resource. Over the course of the following centuries the tool grew more sophisticated, but the aim remained the same. The many changes, reversals and innovations in the ordinances and treaties demonstrate that this process was a difficult and complicated one. Not only did different principalities compete for access to the resource. Within the principalities diverging interests had to be balanced. The rules and regulations codified in the ordinances and treatises were the result of these negotiations between different parties. They were not the result of a master plan to ensure the sustainability of the Lake Constance fisheries, but of trial and error.

The fishermen's guilds played the central role in those negotiations. As a corporate body of citizen-craftsmen and as part of the council the guild provided an inclusive framework for discussion and for balancing diverging interests. There the expertise on fishing matters was concentrated and concerns regarding the fisheries could be articulated. If complaints had to be brought before the council the guild's voice was heard. If conflicts between members of the guild arose the guild was the place to find a solution that took the interests of all into account. Thus, the guild regulated its own affairs but within the political system of each city. It bore responsibility and was rather autonomous in choosing its means to do so. It could set rules for its members and the local market, thus establishing a binding legal framework for fisheries. Those unwilling to commit themselves to the ordinances and treaties were excluded or punished, while the fishermen within the system could rely on equal conditions and limited competition that guaranteed a modest if stable income not only for the present, but also for future generations of fishermen.

Elinor Ostrom's research on commons that challenged Hardin's hypothesis of 'The Tragedy of the Commons' highlighted the relevance of several factors for a sustainable management of commonly used resources. By comparing common properties of several regulatory regimes managing different common pool resources over long periods of time she identified eight 'design principles', of which seven apply to the Lake Constance fisheries: the boundaries of the common pool resource fish were clearly defined, if not the number of those using it; the rules regulating the use of the resource were conceived locally and reacted to local conditions; the users collectively were involved in the process of devising and modifying those rules; the users themselves monitored adherence to these rules; sanctions for violating the rules were graduated according to their gravity; there were mechanisms to resolve conflicts either within the group of users or by the authorities; and the organisation of the users and its right to devise its own rules were recognised by the authorities. (53)

The first three principles were of particular importance for ensuring the sustainable exploitation of the Lake Constance fisheries: the exclusion of strangers from the exploitation of the resource, the participation of all users in the development and perpetuation of regulations for the access to it and the development of the rules according to local conditions and requirements. They were all in place in the free imperial cities of Constance and Lindau from the mid-fourteenth century onwards and spread to other principalities over the course of the following two centuries. The increasingly sophisticated rules ensured that only full-time fishermen had access to the market, even if the number of potential users was not strictly defined. With export from the region being impossible before railways and refrigeration reached the lake, the ordinances limited the ability of others to catch fish. Legally, everyone who could handle a fishing rod or small net was still allowed to catch his dinner, but compared to the abilities of the fishermen to exploit the resource, the impact of such practices must have been negligible. Thus, the fishermen's ordinances and fisheries treaties managed to exclude from the business all those who were not part of the local regulatory framework. (54)

Besides this exclusionary function, the regulatory framework was also integrative. It ensured that the ordinances and treaties were not imposed on the fishermen, but that all of them had a say in the conception and development of the rules they operated under--the third of Ostrom's design principles. This is not to say that the regulation of the Lake Constance fisheries was a democratic process with a majority deciding the outcome of a dispute. Yet the regular meetings of fishermen ensured that disagreeing opinions and worrying observations were heard by both the authorities and the more influential fishermen. The fishermen could contribute by introducing their experience of the condition offish stocks, but also the effectiveness of net designs, closed seasons and minimum lengths. This participatory process was far from producing perfect results, as the many revisions of the ordinances and treaties demonstrate. However, they produced a certain commitment to the regulations. It was the fishermen who effectively monitored compliance to the rules and sanctioned infringements according to their gravity--the fourth and fifth design principle. The fishermen made the ordinances and treaties their own and thus took the responsibility for the future of the societies they lived in.

The guilds were instrumental in the establishment of the regulatory framework with its integrative and exclusionary aspects that were so important for the sustainable management of the Lake Constance fisheries. They provided an institutional framework for the resolution of conflicts between its members but also between their members and fishermen from other principalities, the sixth design principle. That the guilds were integral parts of the cities' political system endowed them with the necessary authority and ensured the recognition of the fishermen's say in the design of the regulations, the seventh design principle.

The critical role played by the guilds was not a local phenomenon. As Martina de Moor has shown recently, this was also the case elsewhere in western Europe. The guild as a corporative institution was apparently created for the sustainable management of commonly used resources of all kinds and it proved its value. That it worked well for the Lake Constance fisheries for more than four centuries is testament to its adaptability as a regulatory regime. Yet we should not forget that, only one hundred years after its inception, the legal framework of fishermen's ordinances and fisheries treaties had transcended the guilds of the cities of Constance and Lindau. Principalities like the abbeys of Reichenau and St Gallen adapted their established regulatory framework for legally completely different circumstances. They gave their fishermen, whom they possessed as a fief, a share of the responsibility and they profited from the dedication of the fishermen to their rules. (55)


Through fishermen's ordinances and fisheries treaties the authorities and the fishermen on Lake Constance succeeded in sustainably managing the resource fish for more than four centuries. This was, however, not the result of perfectly executed planning or of an inalterable code. Instead, they succeeded by establishing a flexible and adaptable regulatory framework that allowed them to react to changes both in the environment and in society. We cannot reconstruct today how close the fisherman came to overexploiting the lake. The sources, however, make it strikingly clear that both the authorities and the fishermen were aware that the latter had the power to harm or even irreparably damage the fish stocks on which they all relied as a source of a culturally important food or as the foundation of their livelihood. To do so they had to forego or at least limit such profitable practices as fishing during spawning season and catching young fish. The market and demand necessary to support such unsustainable methods were present, and the self-interest to increase income--both due to sold fish and higher tax revenues--certainly was, too. The path towards a Tragedy of the Commons was marked and viable, but the fishermen and their authorities refrained from treading it. Again and again they prioritised their long-term interest and the inhabitants of the Lake Constance region are still profiting today from this chain of decisions.

Neuere und Neueste Geschichte FB III Universitat Trier 54286 Trier, Germany


(1.) Bernhard Schuster, Die Entwicklung der Hoheitsverhaltnisse am Bodensee seit dem Drei[beta]igjahrigen Krieg unter besonderer Berucksichtigung der Fischerei (Constance: Merk, 1951); Gunter Keiz, 'Die Bregenzer Ubereinkunft und ihr Instrument. Die Internationale Bevollmachtigtenkonferenz'; in B. Wagner et al. (eds), Bodenseefischerei. Geschichte--Biologie und Okologie--Bewirtschaftung. Zum WOjdhrigen Jubildum der Internationalen Bevollmachtigten-Konferenz fur die Bodenseefischerei (Sigmaringen: Thorbecke, 1993) pp. 10-30.

(2.) Garret Hardin, 'The Tragedy of the Commons', Science 162 (1968): 1243-1248. Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Cambridge: CUP, 1990); id., Roy Gardener and James Walker, Rules, Games, and Common-Pool Resources (Ann Arbor, MI: Univ. of Michigan Pr., 1994); id., 'Coping with Tragedies of the Commons', Annual Review of Political Science 2 (1999): 493-535; id. (ed.), The Drama of the Commons (Washington, DC: National Academy Pr., 2002); David Feeny et al., 'The Tragedy of the Commons: Twenty-Two Years Later', Human Ecology 18 (1990): 1-19; John A. Baden and Douglas S. Noonan (eds), Managing the Commons 2nd ed. (Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1998); James Wilson, 'Scale and Cost of Fishery Conservation', International Journal of the Commons 1 (2007): 29-41. On the history of agricultural commons, cf. Martina de Moor, Leigh Shaw-Taylor and Paul Warde (eds), The Management of Common Land in North-Western Europe, c. 1500-1850 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2002); Hartmut Zuckert, Allmende und Allmendenaufhebung. Vergleichende Studien zum Spatmittelalter bis zu den Agrarreformen des 18./19. Jahrhunderts (Stuttgart: Lucius & Lucius, 2003). For a historical study on fisheries, cf. T. C. Smout, 'Garret Hardin, The Tragedy of the Commons and the Firth of Forth', Environment and History 17 (2011): 357-378. The argument of this article is a condensed version of the one presented in Michael Zeheter, Die Ordnung der Fischer. Fischerei und Nachhaltigkeit am Bodensee (1350-1900) (Cologne: Bohlau, 2014).

(3.) Internationale Gewasserschutzkommission fur den Bodensee (ed.), Der Bodensee. Zustand--Fakten--Perspektiven, 2nd ed. (Bregenz: Self-published, 2004), p. 9; Jurgen Schwoerbel, Einfuhrung in die Limnologie, 8th ed. (Stuttgart: Gustav Fischer, 1999), p. 15; Friedrich Kiefer, Naturkunde des Bodensees, 2nd ed. (Sigmaringen: Thorbecke, 1972), pp. 44-68.

(4.) Of the other two forms only the Sandfelchen still exists todays. The Kilch (Coregonus acronius) is considered extinct since the lake's eutrophication during the 1970s. Manfred Klein, 'Wissenswertes uber den Felchen', in Wagner et al., (eds), Bodenseefischerei, pp. 73-7; Reiner Berg, 'Uber die Fische im Bodensee', in ibid., p. 61. I choose not to follow the taxonomy of the Lake Constance coregonidae proposed by Maurice Kottelat and Jorg Freyhof in their Handbook of European Freshwater Fishes (Cornol: Kottelat, 2007) pp. 361-4, since its definition of four distinct species is highly contentious and relies heavily on out-dated literature.

(5.) Klein, 'Felchen', p. 75; Berg, 'Fische', p. 62; Christian Ruhle and Theo Kindle, 'Wissenswertes uber die Seeforelle. Artenschutzprobleme im Bodensee und in seinem Einzugsgebiet', in Wagner et al. (eds), Bodenseefischerei, pp. 93-5; Wilhelm Schweizer, Der Gangfisch im Bodensee (Obersee und Untersee), sein Fang und seine Pflege (Frauenfeld: Huber, 1926); Carl B. Klunzinger, Bodenseefische, deren Pflege und Fang, (Stuttgart: Enke, 1892) pp. 10-4.

(6.) Berg, 'Fische', pp. 62-8; id., 'Wissenswertes uber den Aal', in Wagner et al. (eds), Bodenseefischerei, pp. 82-6; Augustin Kramer, 'Wissenswertes uber den Barsch', in ibid., pp. 78-81; Klunzinger, Bodenseefische, p. 19-31; Richard C. Hoffmann, 'Der Karpfen (Cyprinus carpio L.). Der lange Weg eines "Fremdlings" in die Schweiz' in, Heide Huster Plogmann (ed.), Fisch und Fischer aus zwei Jahrtausenden. Eine fischereiwirtschaftliche Zeitreise durch die Nordostschweiz (Augst: Romermuseum, 2006), pp. 161-7. In the late nineteenth century, further species like rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) or zander (Sander lucioperca) were introduced in order to support the fisheries.

(7.) Otto Feger, 'Anfange und fruhe Gro[beta]e', vol. 1 of Geschichte des Bodenseeraumes 4th ed. (Sigmaringen: Thorbecke, 1975); id., 'Weltweites Mittelalter', vol. 2 of Geschichte des Bodenseeraumes, 3rd ed. (Sigmaringen: Thorbecke, 1983) pp. 135-6; Friedrich Horsch, Die Konstanzer Zunfte in der Zeit der Zunftbewegung bis 1430 unter besonderer Berucksichtigung des Zunftbuches und der Zunftbriefe (Sigmaringen: Thorbecke, 1979); Peter Eitel, 'Die Stadte des Bodenseeraums. Historische Gemeinsamkeiten und Wechselbeziehungen', Schriften des Vereins fur die Geschichte des Bodensees und seiner Umgebung 99/100 (1981/82): 579; Bernhard Kirchgasser, ' Strukturfragen von Handel und Verkehr des Bodenseeraums im Mittelalter', in J. Wysocki (ed.), Bernhard Kirchgasser. Wirtschaft--Finanzen--Gesellschaft. Ausgewdhlte Aufsatze zu seinem 65. Geburtstag, (Sigmaringen: Thorbecke, 1988) p. 248; Stefan Sonderegger, 'Politik, Kommunikation und Wirtschaft uber den See. Zu den Beziehungen im Bodenseegebiet im Spatmittelalter', Heimatkundliche Blatter fur den Kreis Biberach 31 (2008): 34-45.

(8.) Eitel, 'Stadte des Bodenseeraums', 580-5; Otto Feger, 'Zwischen alten und neuen Ordnungen', vol. 3 of Geschichte des Bodenseeraumes 2nd ed. (Siegmaringen: Thorbecke, 1981) pp. 259-61, 281-2; Volker Press, 'Vorderosterreich in der habsburgischen Reichspolitik des spaten Mittelalters und der fruhen Neuzeit', in H. Meier and id. (eds), Vorderosterreich in der fruhen Neuzeit, (Sigmaringen: Thorbecke, 1989) p. 13-21; Wilhelm Baum, 'Friedrich IV. von Osterreich und die Schweizer Eidgenossen', in P. Ruck (ed.), Die Eidgenossen und ihre Nachbarn im Deutschen Reich des Mittelalters, (Marburg: Basilisken-Presse, 1991) pp. 91-6; Alois Niederstatter, 'Die ersten Regierungsjahre Kaiser Friedrichs III. und der Sudwesten des Reiches', in ibid., pp. 113-4; Wolfgang Dobras, 'Konstanz zur Zeit der Reformation', in M. Burkhardt, idem and W. Zimmermann, Konstanz in der fruhen Neuzeit. Reformation. Verlust der Reichsfreiheit. Osterreichische Zeit, (Constance: Stadler, 1991) pp. 130-46; Frank Gottmann, Der Getreidemarkt am Bodensee. Raum--Wirtschaft--Gesellschaft (1650-1810) (St. Katharinen: Scripta Mercaturae, 1991); Dieter Stievermann, 'Osterreichische Vorlande', in Der Sudwesten, vol. 5 of A. Schindling and W. Ziegler (eds), Die Territorien des Reichs im Zeitalter der Reformation und Konfessionalisierung. Land und Konfession, 1500-1650 (Munster: Aschendorff, 1993) p. 259; Albert Tanner, 'Korn aus Schwaben--Tuche und Stickereien fur den Weltmarkt. Die appenzellische Wirtschaft und die interregionale Arbeitsteilung im Bodenseeraum, 15.-19. Jahrhundert', in P. Blickle and P. Witschi (eds), Appenzell--Oberschwaben. Begegnungen zweier Regionen in sieben Jahrhunderten (Constance: UVK, 1997) pp. 299-307; Karl-Friedrich Krieger, Die Habsburger im Mittelalter. Von Rudolf I. bis Friedrich III. 2nd ed. (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2004) pp. 151-3.

(9.) Wolfgang Hein, 'Zur Theorie der regionalen Differenzierung kapitalistischer Gesellschaften in der industriellen Revolution. Die okonomische Basis der politischen und gesellschaftlichen Entwicklung der Konstanzer Region', in G. Zang (ed.), Provinzialisierung einer Region. Regionale Unterschiede und liberale Politik in der Stadt und im Kreis Konstanz im 19. Jahrhundert. Untersuchungen zur Entstehung der burgerlichen Gesellschaft in der Provinz (Frankfurt/Main: Syndikat, 1978) pp. 31-133; Georg Wieland, 'Die Integration der Stadte in die neuen Staaten', in D. Hohrath, G. Weig and M. Wettengel (eds), Das Ende Reichsstadtischer Freiheit. Zum Ubergang schwabischer Reichsstadte vom Kaiser zum Landesherren. Begleitband zur Ausstellung 'Kronenwechsel'. Das Ende reichsstadtischer Freiheit (Ulm: Kohlhammer, 2002) p. 94; Heiner Stauder, 'Auf Umwegen nach Bayern. Die Mediatisierung der Reichsstadt Lindau', in R. Muller, H. Flachenecker and R. Kammerl (eds), Das Ende der kleinen Reichsstadte 1803 im suddeutschen Raum (Munich: Beck, 2007) pp. 66-95.

(10.) Elmar L. Kuhn (ed.), Der Bauernkrieg in Oberschwaben (Tubingen: bibliotheca academica. 2000). Dobras, Reformation, pp. 77, 144; Johann Marmor, Fuhrer durch das alte und neue Konstanz fur Heimische und Fremde. Aus handschriftlichen Quellen des hiesigen Stadt- und Spitalarchivs aus eigener Anschauung und aus mundlichen und schriftlichen Uberlieferungen bearbeitet (Constance: Stadler, 1857) pp. 64-5; Peter Meisel, Verfassung und Verwaltung der Stadt Konstanz im 16. Jahrhundert (Constance: Thorbecke, 1957) p. 24; Ursula Lampen, Fischerei und Fischhandel im Mittelalter. Wirtschafts- und sozialgeschichtliche Untersuchungen nach urkundlichen und archaologischen Quellen des 6. bis 14. Jahrhunderts im Gebiet des deutschen Reiches (Husum: Matthiesen, 1997) p. 42; Gerda Leipold-Schneider, 'Die Lindauer Schiffer- und Fischerzunft von den Anfangen bis ins 18. Jahrhundert', in B. Marquardt and A. Niederstatter (eds), Das Recht im kulturgeschichtlichen Wandel. Festschrift fur Karl Heinz Burmeister zur Emeritierung (Constance: UVK, 2002) p. 64.

(11.) Schuster, Hoheitsverhaltnisse.

(12.) Felix Stoffel, Die Fischereiverhaltnisse des Bodensees unter besonderer Berucksichtigung der an ihm bestehenden Hoheitsrechte. Historisch-dogmatische Studie (Bern: Stampfli, 1906); Richard Kunz, 'Fischereirechte im Untersee und Seerhein. Eine rechtshistorische Untersuchung uber die Entstehung, Ausbildung und Weiterentwicklung von Fischereirechten' (Ph.D. diss., Univ. Fribourg, 1994).

(13.) For a contemporary list of gear in use during the late eighteenth century, see Protocol fisheries conference 1790, Stadtarchiv Konstanz (hereafter StA KN), DI Fasc. 45 or transcribed in Zeheter, Ordnung der Fischer, pp. 138-177; or, for the late nineteenth century, see Klunzinger, Bodenseefische. On the history of the Lake Constance fisheries, see Anton Strigel, 'Die Fischereipolitik der Bodenseeorte in alterer Zeit mit besonderer Rucksicht auf Uberlingen' (Ph.D. diss., Univ. Freiburg, 1910); Erich Maier, 'Die Fischerei am Untersee (Bodensee) in ihrer historischen, rechtlichen und wirtschaftlichen Entwicklung' (Ph.D. diss., Univ. Graz, 1957); Hans-Ulrich Wepfer, 'Aus der Geschichte der Bodenseefischerei', Schriften des Vereins fur die Geschichte des Bodensees und seiner Umgebung 99/100 (1981/82): 145-164.

(14.) On the fish markets: Fish market ordinance, Constance 1433, StA KN DI Fasc. 44; Fishermen's ordinance, Constance 1491, StA KN DI Fasc. 44; Maius consilium of 26 Jan. 1415, in O. Feger (ed.), Vom Richtebrief zum Roten Buch. Die altere Konstanzer Ratsgesetzgebung (Constance: Thorbecke, 1955) p. 79; Otto Feger (ed.), Das Rote Buch (Constance: Merk, 1949) p. 123-4; Leipold-Schneider, 'Schiffer- und Fischerzunft', 68. Numerous price lists can be found in the regional archives. For Constance, cf StA KN DI Fasc. 28, 36, 44 and DI Band 43; for the Lower Lake, cf. StA KN DI Band 38, 39, 40, 42 and Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe (hereafter GLA KA) 96/405; for Lindau, cf. Stadtarchiv Lindau (hereafter StA LI) A III 55,2; and for Uberlingen, cf. Stadtarchiv Uberlingen (hereafter StA UL) C 988. The information on the number of days of fasting varies considerably. Richard C. Hoffmann, 'Footprint Metaphor and Metabolic Realities: Environmental Impacts of Medieval European Cities', in P. Squatriti (ed.), Natures Past: The Environment and Human History, (Ann Arbor, MI: Univ. of Michigan Pr., 2007) p. 301 calculates c. 135 days per year; Lampen, Fischerei, p. 41 calculates c. 150 days. Being unable to judge the different ways of calculation, I have chosen the middle.

(15.) Leipold-Schneider, 'Schiffer- und Fischerzunft'; Klaus D. Bechtold, Zunftburgerschaft und Patriziat. Studien zur Sozialgeschichte der Stadt Konstanz im 14. und 15. Jahrhundert (Sigmaringen: Thorbecke, 1981).

(16.) Urs Amacher, 'Die Fischermaien. Die Gerichtstage der Fischer zwischen eigener Reglementierung und herrschaftlicher Machtausubung', in T. Meier and R. Sablonier (eds). Wirtschaft und Herrschaft. Beitrage zur landlichen Gesellschaft in der ostlichen Schweiz (1200-1800) (Zurich: Chronos, 1999) pp. 279-94.

(17.) Leipold-Schneider, 'Schiffer- und Fischerzunft', 64-5. An example of a fisherman, a certain Mathaus Sulger, seeking redress for an attack by an official in the year 1671 can be found in StA KN DI Fasc. 30.

(18.) Bechtold, Zunftburgerschaft, p. 56; Peter Schuster, Eine Stadt vor Gericht. Recht und Alltag im spatmittelalterlichen Konstanz (Paderborn: Schoningh, 1997) pp. 133-4. Report by Constance sent to Uberlingen in 1531 on the arrest of a fishermen from Uberlingen, Complaint by Uberlingen sent to Salem in 1560 about a fisherman from Maurach, StA UL C976/1; Complaint by Constance sent to Reichenau in 1606 about the fishermen from Ermatingen, StA KN DI Fasc. 37; Complaint by the fishermen from Constance sent to the bailiff of Thurgau in 1610 about the fishermen of Landschlacht, StA KN DI Fasc. 32; Complaint by the fishermen of Lindau sent to Constance in 1716 about the fishermen from Staad, StA LI A III 110,16.

(19.) The oldest fishermen's ordinance in the region was issued in Lindau in 1349, cf. Leipold-Schneider, 'Schiffer- und Fischerzunft', p. 60; and Constance, cf. Fishermen's ordinance, Constance undated (14th century?), StA LI AIII 101,8. Reichenau and St Gallen Abbeys followed: Fishermen's ordinance, Lower Lake 1450, StA KN DI Fasc. 44; Fishermen's ordinance, St. Gallen 1487, in Stoffel, Fischereiverhaltnisse, p. 18. Similar regulations regarding the use of forests have been issued by principalities in south-western Germany since the twelfth century; Siegfried Epperlein, Waldnutzung, Waldstreitigkeiten und Waldschutz in Deutschland im hohen Mittelalter. 2. Halfte 11. Jahrhundert bis ausgehendes 14. Jahrhundert (Stuttgart: Steiner, 1993) pp. 64-79.

(20.) Stoffel, Fischereiverhaltnisse, pp. 152-4. The difficulty in enforcing the rules can be easily discerned from the frequent correspondence between Lindau and bailiffs in Vorarlberg, e.g. Lindau to bailiff of Fussach, 23. Nov. 1723, StA LI A III 110,7; Petition by the fishermen's guild to the council of Lindau of 22 Jul. 1663, StA LI A III 110,9.

(21.) Stoffel, Fischereiverhaltnisse, pp. 106-7, 129.

(22.) There is no evidence that the fisheries treaties were closed with further diplomatic intentions in mind, although many were agreed during periods of conflict in the region. They lack the formal attributes of more prestigious treaties, like seals or signatures, and their preambles do not betray motives like reconciliation or consolidation. The changing composition of the treaties' signatories might be due to fluctuations in the quality of diplomatic relations between neighbours, but neither the content nor the frequency of agreements seems to reflect political events in the region. Fisheries treaties were low key affairs negotiated between the fishermen, but supervised by the city clerk as legal expert. The result was later approved by the authorities.

(23.) On St. Gallen, see Stoffel, Fischereiverhaltnisse, p. 8. The fishermen's ordinance issued by St. Gallen in 1544 can be found in StA KN DI Fasc. 44. The history of Buchhorn's fisheries is obscure since the city archive was destroyed by Allied bombers in 1944. Some basic information can be derived from the older literature, see Stoffel, Fischereiverhaltnisse, pp. 131-6; and Karl Otto Muller, 'Fischerordnungen von Buchhorn-Hofen im 16. Jahrhundert', in Schriften des Vereins fur die Geschichte des Bodensees und seiner Umgebung 54 (1926): 11-27.

(24.) Protocol fisheries conference 1790; Waldemar Hoenninger, Bodenseefischereirecht im Neunzehnten Jahrhundert (Rastatt: Uhrig & Reuter, 1907); Keiz, 'Bregenzer Ubereinkunft'.

(25.) Eighteen fishermen's ordinances for the Lower Lake were issued between 1450 and 1774, and eight ordinances as well as thirteen fisheries treaties for the western Upper Lake. They were, however, not equally distributed over the whole period under consideration. Ordinances were most frequent between 1450 and 1550, while most fisheries treaties were closed between 1536 and 1599.

(26.) It was impossible to ascertain the length of the Konstanzer Zwillichelle. In Constance two different kinds of cubit were in use, a short one and a long one. The question of which one was used for measuring mesh size cannot be answered with any certainty; see Frank Gottmann, 'Altes Ma[beta] und Gewicht im Bodenseeraum. Systeme und Kontinuitaten', Zeitschrift fur wurttembergische Landesgeschichte 48 (1989): 38-40.

(27.) Fishermen's ordinances, Lower Lake, 1455, 1613, StA KN DI Fasc. 44; 1522, StA KN DI Fasc. 37; 1542, 1550, StA KN Band 37; 1594, StA KN DI Fasc. 27; 1707, StA KN, DI Band 39; 1717, StA KN DI Band 40; 1774, StA KN DI Band 42. Klunzinger, Bodenseefische, pp. 173-7.

(28.) Fisheries ordinances, Lower Lake 1522; 1532, StA KN DI Band 37; 1542; 1550; 1594; 1613; 1707; 1717; 1774. Klunzinger, Bodenseefische, pp. 178-207.

(29.) Fisheries ordinances, Lower Lake, 1470, 1487, StA KN DI Fasc. 44; 1522; 1532; 1542; 1550; 1594; 1613; 1707; 1717; 1774. Klunzinger, Bodenseefische, pp. 201-3.

(30.) Fishermen's ordinances, Constance 1491, 1514, StA KN DI Fasc. 44; Fishermen's ordinance, Constance for Upper and Lower Lake 1474, StA KN DI Fasc. 44; Fisheries treaty, western Upper Lake 1481, Fisheries treaty between Constance and Uberlingen 1536, Fisheries treaty between Constance and Ermatingen 1551, StA KN DI Fasc. 44; Fisheries treaty between Constance and Mainau 1566, StA KN DI Fasc. 35; Fisheries treaties, western Upper Lake 1589, 1599, 1663, StA KN DI Fasc. 24. Klunzinger, Bodenseefischerei, 156-9.

(31.) Fishermen's ordinances, Lower Lake 1450; 1455; 1465, StA KN DI Fasc. 44; 1487; 1522; 1532; 1542; 1550; 1594; 1613; 1707; 1717; 1774.

(32.) Kramer, 'Barsch', pp. 78-81.

(33.) Fishermen's ordinances, Lower Lake 1450; 1455; 1465; 1470; 1487; 1522; 1532; 1542; 1583, StA KN DI Fasc. 44; 1594; 1613; 1707; 1717; 1774; Fishermen's ordinance, Constance for Upper and Lower Lake, 1474. Notifications of the start of the closed season or perch from the Abbot of Reichenau to the city of Constance, 15 Apr. 1600, 18 Apr. 1601, 7 Apr, 1604; 6 Apr 1609, GLA KA 96/398; 6 Apr. 1639, StA KN DI Fasc. 27; 12 Apr. 1688, StA KN DI Fasc. 29.

(34.) Fishermen's ordinances, Lower Lake 1455; 1465; 1470; 1487; 1522; 1532; 1542; 1550; 1594; 1613; 1717; 1774; Fishermen's ordinance, Constance for Upper and Lower Lake 1474.

(35.) Fishermen's ordinance, Constance undated (14th century); 1491, 1527, StA KN DI Fasc. 44; 1537, StA KN DI Fasc. 35; Fishermen's ordinance, Constance for Upper and Lower Lake 1474 StA KN DI Fasc. 44; Fisheries treaties, western Upper Lake 1589, 1599; Fisheries treaty between Constance and Mainau 1566; Fisheries treaty between Constance and Uberlingen, 1536; Fishermen's ordinances, Lower Lake 1465; 1470.

(36.) Protocol fisheries conference 1790; Correspondence Constance to Lindau, 5 Jul. 1790, StA LI A III 55,2; Correspondence Lindau to Constance 20 Jul. 1790, Correspondence Constance to St Gallen, 30 Jul. 1790; Correspondence Munsterlingen to Constance, 3. Jan. 1791, StA KN DI Fasc. 36.

(37.) Rules for young whitefish were frequently included: Fishermen's ordinances, Constance undated (14th century); 1514, StA KN DI Fasc. 44; 1527; Fishermen's ordinance, Mainau 1526, StA UL C 976/1; Fisheries treaties, western Upper Lake 1481; 1513, 1517, StA KN DI Fasc. 44; 1589; 1599; 1663; Fisheries treaty between Constance and Uberlingen 1536; Fishermen's ordinances, Lower Lake 1450; 1455; 1465; 1470; 1487; 1522; 1532; 1542; 1550; 1594; 1613; 1707; 1717; 1774. A closed season for young bleak was mentioned only twice: Fishermen's ordinance, Lower Lake 1542; Fisheries treaty between Constance and Uberlingen 1536.

(38.) Fishermen's ordinances, Lower Lake 1707; 1717; 1774.

(39.) Fisheries treaty between Constance and Uberlignen 1536; Fisheries treaty, western Upper Lake 1589. Fishermen's ordinances, Lower Lake 1542; 1550; 1594; 1707; 1717; 1774.

(40.) Fishermen's ordinances, Lower Lake 1613; 1707; 1717; 1774. Fisheries treaties, western Upper Lake 1481; 1513; 1589; 1663; Fishermen's ordinance, Constance 1514; Fisheries treaty between Constance and Uberlingen 1536; Fisheries treaty between Constance and Mainau 1566; Fishermen's ordinance, Lindau 1552, StA LI A III 55,2; Fishermen's ordinance, St. Gallen 1534, in Stoffel, Fischereiverhaltnisse, p. 22; Fisheries treaty, St. Gallen, 1544; Protocol fisheries conference 1790.

(41.) Fisheries treaties, western Upper Lake 1589; 1663; Fisheries treaty between Constance and Uberlingen 1536; Fisheries treaty between Constance and Mainau 1566; Protocol fisheries conference 1790. Fishermen's ordinances, Lower Lake 1522; 1532; 1537; 1550; 1594; 1613; 1707; 1717; 1774.

(42.) Christian Pfister, Bevolkerungsgeschichte und historische Demographie (Munich: Oldenburg, 1994) pp. 8-24; Alexander Kessler, Die Bevolkerung der Stadt Radolfzell am Bodensee des 17. und 18. Jahrhundert. Demographische Strukturen einer 'Ackerburgerstadt' vor Beginn der Industrialisierung (Constance: Hartung-Gorre Verlag, 1992) pp. 13-21. Frank Gottmann, 'Die Versorgungslage in Uberlingen zur Zeit der Hungerkrise 1770/71' in id. (ed.), Vermischtes zur neueren Sozial-, Bevolkerungs- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte des Bodenseeraumes. Horst Rabe zum Sechzigsten, pp. 75-134 (Constance: Hartung-Gorre Verlag, 1990).

(43.) Bechthold, Zunftburgerschaft, pp. 161-263. Protocol fisheries conference, 1790.

(44.) Fisheries treaty between Constance and Uberlingen 1536; Fisheries treaty between Constance and Mainau 1566. The preamble of a fisheries ordinance issued by the French King Philip IV in 1289 indicates that those complaints were a topos beyond the Lake Constance region; cf Richard C. Hoffmann, 'Economic Development and Aquatic Ecosystems in Medieval Europe', American Historical Review 101 (1996): 648.

(45.) Reiner Eckmann and Ursula Gaedke, 'Effects of Climatic and Density-Dependent Factors on Year Class Strength of Coregonus lavaretus in Lake Constance', Canadian Journal for Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 45 (1988): 1088-93. During the Maunder Minimum between 1675 and 1700, the peak of the Little Ice Age, no ordinance was issued for the Lower Lake. On the Maunder minimum in central Europe generally, see Rudiger Glaser, Klimageschichte Mitteleuropas. 1000 Jahre Wetter, Klima, Katastrophen (Darmstadt: Primus, 2001), pp. 163-4 and for the region Christian Pfister, Klimageschichte der Schweiz 1525-1860. Das Klima der Schweiz von 1525-1860 und seine Bedeutung in der Geschichte von Bevolkerung und Landwirtschaft, Vol. 1, 2nd ed., (Bern: Haupt, 1985), pp. 127-9.

(46.) Correspondence Contance to Reichenau, 11 Sep. 1536, StA UL C 976/1; Correspondence Reichenau to Constance, 8 May 1790, StA KN DI Fasc. 29.

(47.) Hoffmann, 'Aquatic Ecosystems', 640-3; Correspondence Constance to Zurich, 26 Aug. 1582, StA KN Dili Fasc. 33.

(48.) Klunzinger, Bodenseefische, pp. 197-207.

(49.) Memorandum 1604, GLA KA 209/306; Contract between the Provost of the Costance cathedral chapter and fishermen 1591, GLA KA 5/291; Compilation of debts, GLA KA 95/47.

(50.) Kunz, 'Fischereirechte', p. 31; several treaties, GLA KA 5/398. On the 'price revolution' in Germany, see Hans-Jurgen Gerhard, 'Ursachen und Folgen der Wandlungen im Wahrungssystem des Deutschen Reiches 1500-1625. Eine Studie zu den Hintergrunden der sogenannten Preisrevolution', in E. Schremmer (ed.), Geld und Wahrung vom 16. Jahrhundert bis zur Gegenwart. Referate der 14. Arbeitstagung der Gesellschaft fur Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte vom 9. bis 13. April in Dortmund (Stuttgart: Steiner, 1993), pp. 69-84; and on the development of market prices for food in Germany, see Wilhelm Abel, Agrarkrisen und Agrarkonjunktur. Eine Geschichte der Land- und Ernahrungswirtschaft Mitteleuropas seit dem hohen Mittelalter 2nd ed. (Hamburg: Parey, 1966); id., Massenarmut und Hungerkrisen im vorindustriellen Europa. Versuch einer Synopsis (Hamburg: Parey, 1974).

(51.) Report 1581, GLA KA 95/44; Contracts 1594, 1595, 1603, 1616, StA KN DI Fasc. 29.

(52.) Hoffmann, 'Aquatic Ecosystems', 648.

(53.) The eighth one--that use, monitoring, enforcement, conflict resolution and governance should be organised in multiple layers of nested entreprises--applies only to larger systems. Ostrom, Governing, pp. 88-102.

(54.) Ibid, 178-181.

(55.) Martina de Moor, 'The Silent Revolution: A New Perspective on the Emergence of Commons, Guilds, and Other Forms of Corporate Collective Action in Western Europe', International Review of Social History 53 (2008): 179-212.
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Author:Zeheter, Michael
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Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Nov 1, 2015
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