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Today in Labour History

26 October 1897
Source: Freilicht Museum Finsterau (

Arson in the Countryside

Farmhands were involved in the majority of arson cases in the countryside. A common reason for committing arson on the property of the master were disputes over pay and the feeling of undervaluation. This was the case with the 22-year old Bavarian farmhand Mathias Dax, who even dressed up for the occasion: 'On 26 October 1897...I put on my best clothes, so that, if arrested, I would be smartly dressed...before leaving, I said to my fellow worker Haberthaler: "There will be a red sky tonight, all right." Another key motive for arson by farmhands was premature dismissal. Normally a farmhand was hired only twice a year: before sowing started in the spring, and to reap the harvest in autumn. If he was fired, it was difficult for him to find new work as no farmer would take on a farmhand who had left his job in the middle of the harvest; he was considered unreliable.

Regina Schulte, The Village in Court. Arson, infanticide and poaching...1848-1910 (Cambridge 1994) 27-31

More info: The Village in Court (Publication)