The use of taxation records in assessing historical floods in South Moravia, Czech Republic
Since the second half of the 17th century, tax relief has been available to farmers and landowners to offset flood damage to property (buildings) and land (fields, meadows, pastures, gardens) in South Moravia, Czech Republic. Historically, the written applications for this were supported by a relatively efficient bureaucratic process that left a clear data trail of documentation, preserved at several levels: in the communities affected, in regional offices, and in the Moravian Land Office, all of which are to be found in estate and family collections in the Moravian Land Archives in the city of Brno, the provincial capital. As well as detailed information about damage done and administrative responses to it, data are often preserved as to the flood event itself, the time of its occurrence and its impacts, sometimes together with causes and stages. The final flood database based on taxation records is used here to describe the temporal and spatial density of both flood events and the records themselves. The information derived is used to help create long-term flood chronologies for the rivers Dyje, Jihlava, Svratka and Morava, combining floods interpreted from taxation records with other documentary data and floods derived from later systematic hydrological measurements (water levels, discharges). Common periods of higher flood frequency appear largely in the periods 1821–1850 and 1921–1950, although this shifts to several other decades for individual rivers. A number of uncertainties are inseparable from flood data taxation records: their spatial and temporal incompleteness; the inevitable limitation to larger-scale damage and restriction to the summer half-year; and the different characters of rivers, including land-use changes and channel modifications. Taxation data have considerable potential for extending our knowledge of past floods for the rest of the Czech Republic, not to mention other European countries in which records have survived.