I have a summary of construction of a road build by Austria in 1818-1823, the document is from 1823: cost summary

What is Handtag and what is Zugtag mentioned in Beköstigung/An Robot column?

These are times when there was no railway nearby (it was built only in ca. 1885), so Zug definitely does not mean a train here...

I guess Zugtag ment that a person was working with a horse or an ox and Handtag was a construction equivalent of Fusstag (so... working without such an animal) for peasant/field works (see Die Entwicklung des gutsherrlich-bäuerlichen Verhältnisses in Galizien (1772-1848)), but I'd like to confirm it :)

And two bonus questions:

  • What is the unit under Ganzfertige Strasse? It seems to be some old one, no longer in use...
  • What are Schläuche in Herstellung/Durchlässe column? Is it just the same construction as the one depicted in Durchlass article on Wikipedia (i.e., a pipe under a road)?

1 Answer 1


The key word here is actually "Robot". Before the Industrial Revolution changed a lot of things, it was common for centuries that peasants had to perform a certain amount of work for their local lords or land owners. In English, you can find terms and concepts like Corvée.

In German, the applicable term was Frondienst. While "Frondienst" or "Fron" today refers mostly to a heavy hardship or work that is imposed on someone, it originally referred to something like "what belongs to the land owner / to the territory's ruler". A peasant was obligated to work on his lord's behalf, for example to work on the lord's fields, to build a road, to transport something or any number of other work. They were generally not paid for this work. When the use of money started to become more common, peasants could get the chance to pay a certain sum instead of actually doing the Fronarbeit (if they actually had any money, which was quite rare). So this obligation started to become more like a tax.

Another term for Fronarbeit was "Robath", "Robot", "Robott" or similar. As a side remark, this term harkens back to the Slavic term "robota" for "work", where the modern term robot also has its roots.

In later time periods, every resident of a municipality had to perform a certain amount of Hand- und Spanndienste or hand and hitch-up services. In Austria, the similar term of "Hand- und Zugdienste" was common. "Handdienste" referred to the manual labor one was obligated to perform, "Spanndienste" or "Zugdienste" were the duties that were performed with a hitched-up cart or another vehicle.

So, a "Handtag" would be one day of somebody performing "Handdienste", a "Zugtag" would be one day of somebody performing "Zugdienste".

  • 3
    Nope. "Handtag" is correct. But "Zugtag" is a day that counted more, when a peasant brought their own animal (horse or cattle) and cart.
    – tofro
    Apr 21 at 19:16
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    Hand- und Spanndienste are still legal in Germany, they are explicitly exempt from the ban on forced labor (Verbot der Zwangsarbeit). However, like other similar concepts (military service, mandatory fire service, dyke service), they have to withstand strict constitutional scrutiny. But Hand- und Spanndienste do indeed still exist in some smaller, remote, rural municipalities that are too small to have their own maintenance department and too remote to bring in services from a nearby town. Apr 22 at 6:13
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    Of course, nowadays, Hand- und Spanndienste are not performed for the liege lord, but for the democratically elected government. And Spanndienste refers generally to any service where you have to bring your own tools, which could be something as simple as a shovel, or as complex as a tractor. It does not generally mean you have to bring your own horse and plow :-D Apr 22 at 6:15
  • @JörgWMittag: I'd think the work is performed for the municipality, not for any government. Similar to: the 5 h of work per year I owe to my sports club are owed, well, to the sports club itself, not to its board (even though someone from the board may organize the work). Apr 22 at 13:48
  • 1
    The term "Robot" was indeed quite specific to the Habsburgermonarchie: de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frondienst#Robath,_Robot and de.wikipedia.org/wiki/…, of course deriving from Slavic roots as you note. Apr 22 at 15:31

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