Franconia’s Great Famine of 1771-1772

Recounted through the eyes of Johann Ulrich Sponsel, Lutheran Minister of Burgbernheim.
By Robert A. Selig

Zur Nachricht auf folgende Zeilen merke ich hier an, daß darum heuer so wenige Hochzeiten sind, weil der Getreidemangel so groß ist, das für baares Geld keines zu bekommen, und der Preis davon täglich steiget.

As information for the lines that follow, I add here that the reason why there are so few marriages this years is because the dearth of grain is so great that none can be had for cash and the price of it is daily rising.

With these words Johann Ulrich Sponsel (1721-1788), a well-known theologian during the late 18th century, began his entries in the Kirchenbuch für Trauungen (the Church Records for Weddings) for the year 1771. In 1770, there had been 17 marriages in Burgbernheim, a small village in the Markgraviate of Ansbach-Bayreuth situated about 40 miles west of Nuremberg and Erlangen, 16 miles north-west of Ansbach, and 35 miles south-east of Würzburg in northern Bavaria. In 1772, he wed 15 couples, but in 1771 that number had dropped precipitously to all of five weddings, the last one for 1771 celebrated on 23 April. Sponsel explained this decrease by the high prices for grain which left neither the capital, nor the inclination, for weddings while the future looked bleak.

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