Lienhard Thaler








I was born and raised in Brixen, South Tyrol, the medieval centre of a historical bishopric in the heart of the Alps. After having completed my studies at the local business college, I moved north, to Innsbruck. There, I studied History and German and graduated in 2015 (magister philosophiae). My MA-thesis was dedicated to the Tyrolean Capuchin Mission in Manchuria between 1933 and 1954. The next stop was Vienna, where I successfully completed the final teacher training year at the G19/Döblinger Gymnasium. But I did not stay a teacher for long, because my passion for research led me back to academia. Prof. Thomas Ertl (then Department of Economic and Social History) supported my plan to start a PhD-project on late medieval princes’ finance, and in 2017 I was amongst the lucky few who received an uni:docs-Fellowship at the University of Vienna. I spent the following three years (2017–2020) as a fellow at the Department of Economic and Social History, where I worked on my project and other publications, took part in several and organised one international conference (“Fürst und Pfand”, November 2015), and used my teaching skills at the academic level (Guided Reading, Basics of Historical Research, BA-Seminar). Currently, I am working on the completion of my PhD-thesis and am, together with Thomas Ertl (now Friedrich-Meinecke-Institute, FU Berlin), editing a volume on medieval pledge policy for the Vierteljahrschriften für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte. 

Research Interests:

I am particularly interested in medieval economic and social history and at the moment I focus on financial systems, accounts as historical sources, metrology, hence measurements and weights, on prices, wages, and the value of money. Recently, I have also started to look into the history of the Black Death and its economic consequences. My regional foci lie on Tyrol and the eastern alpine region, but as I enjoy drawing comparisons, I am also interested in other European and non-European territories, such as Flanders, England, or Manchuria. The latter is connected to another, rather different, main research interests of mine: Mission history, especially the Capuchin Missions in Eastern Asia in the 20th century.

Current Research Project: Counts’ Accounts The Finance of the Late Medieval Tyrolean Counts in Comparison to the Counts of Flanders’ and other European Princes (13th to 15th centuries)

 “Tyrol is a purse, into which one never reaches in vain”, Maximilian I. (r. 1490–1519) allegedly stated. The aim of the project is to study on the basis of the Tyrolean example, how this alleged cornucopia was filled: Which sources of income did a late medieval prince have? As the gross revenues are not enough to get an appropriate picture of the financial situation, the expenses must also be taken into account: What did a territorial ruler spend how much of his income on? Since costs seem to have exceeded revenues frequently, borrowing has to be taken into account: What did the credit market look like and how was it used by the princes? To understand how the princes’ financial system worked and how the sources were generated, one has to study the financial administration as well: Who managed the princes’ property, and how? In order to contextualise and interpret the Tyrolean case appropriately, not only synchronic, but also diachronic comparisons have to be made: How did the Tyrolean financial system change during the period of investigation? How did other contemporary rulers’ finances work? All these topics and questions exist in the wider context of the theory of the transition from the domain state to the tax state in the late medieval and early modern period. Already discussed by the Austro-American economist Joseph Schumpeter in 1918, this theory was further developed by Rudolf Goldscheid, E. Ladewig Petersen, Kersten Krüger and others. The most recent model for historical financial systems was proposed by Richard Bonney and William Mark Ormrod in 1999. In spite of its high potential for the analysis of medieval princes’ finances, it has hardly been used so far, especially when it comes to late medieval central European territories. This PhD-project aims to employ the Bonney-Ormrod-Model to analyse the Tyroleans’ finance in comparison to those of other European princes’ between the 13th and the 15th century. The main sources for the project are the Tyrolean Account Books (Tiroler Raitbücher), flanked by estate, tax, and toll registers, charters and chancellery books. The account books contain the annual reckonings of the princes’ chamber and local officials but have scarcely been assessed by financial historians. The books have been preserved since 1288 and for the period between 1288 and 1519, a total of 115 volumes is stored in archives in Innsbruck, Munich, Trento, and Vienna. Only half a dozen of them have been edited so far, so this project entails the linguistic and palaeographical challenge of working with many originals. The sheer amount of sources demands methodical decisions when it comes to sampling: As it is not possible to assess the whole series quantitatively within a single PhD-project, three sample periods for have been chosen for data collection: The first spans three late years (1289–1291) of the reign of Meinhard II, the “founder of Tyrol” (r. 1258–1295), a period of economic prosperity. The second sample (1333–1335) relates to the end of a period of financial crises under Meinhard’s son Heinrich (r. 1295–1335) at the edge of the Tyrolean war of succession between three great houses of the Holy Roman Empire: Luxembourg, Wittelsbach, and Habsburg. The third sample (1425–1428) corresponds to the beginning Tyrolean “silver boom” under Friedrich IV., or “Friedl with the Empty Pockets” (r. 1406–1439). Large deposits of this coinage metal were discovered near Schwaz and Sterzing and altered the financial and social structure of the county massively. Original data collection and assessment are only the quantitative part of the study: For the qualitative research, various sources as well as the existing specialist literature on different aspects of princely finance, such as coinage, tolls or salt production, are analysed. The comparative elements are mostly based on existing studies on the finance of the medieval rulers of England, Flanders and Burgundy, Austria, Saxony, Bavaria and others. The output of the project will be the first comprehensive monographic study on the finance of the late medieval counts of Tyrol in comparison to other European territories. It will contribute to a deeper understanding of pre-modern rulers’ finance before (“domain state”) and during the development of the “tax state”, add to our knowledge about the economic framework that influenced political and social events in medieval Tyrol and beyond and provide material for further discussions on the European convergences and divergences in pre-modern financial systems and their influence on the “Little Divergence”.


  • Wertewandel im spätmittelalterlichen Tirol. Wechselkurse, Münzgewicht, Maße und Preise zwischen 1290 und 1500 [Changing Values in Late Medieval Tyrol. Exchange Rates, Coin Weight, Measurements and Prices between 1290 and 1500]. In: Geschichte und Region/Regione e Storia 29 (2020), 38–61 [forthcoming].
  • Weiße Mönche, schwarze Zahlen. Die Stamser Zisterzienser und die Entstehung der ältesten Tiroler Rechnungsbücher [White Monks, Black Numbers. The Cistercians of Stams and the Genesis of the Earliest Tyrolean Account Books]. In: MIÖG 128 (2020), 22–48.
  • Missionskreuz – Kruckenkreuz – Hakenkreuz. Die Tiroler Kapuzinermissionare in der Mandschurei und der „Anschluss“ 1938. [Missionary Cross – Crutch Cross – Swastika. The Tyrolean Capuchin Missionaries in Manchuria and the “Anschluss” 1938]. In: Geschichte und Region/Storia e Regione 27/1 (2018), 217-223.