As late as the 18th century, virtually all land beyond the city walls of Prague was open countryside dotted here and there with farms. Frequent was the elevation of vines, which were planted on all south-facing slopes by order of Charles IV (14th c.). In 1849, the outlying properties beyond the city walls to the east of Prague were unified, creating a new independent municipality called Vinohrady (literally, “The Vineyards”). The name was later changed to Královská Vinohradská obec (Royal Vineyard Town). An important figure in initial construction was the builder Karel Hartig, author of the original development plan and later the first mayor of the new polity.
The area developed very quickly, aided by the near-limitless work opportunities in the fast-growing industries of nearby Karlín. Due to rapid growth, the municipality was later divided in two, called simply Vinohrady I and II. Vinohrady I, the more heavily urbanized area closer to Karlín, was elevated to city status and renamed Žižkov. The 1843 census records the area as having 83 permanent residents, while in 1890 there were some 42,000 inhabitants in 750 houses.
 The name is a reference to Jan Žižka, the most famous general of the Hussites, the early-15th-century religious civil war turned peasant rebellion. While Žižka was from southern Bohemia, he fought one of his major battles on the hill where Žižkov now stands. Originally called Vítkov (Battle of Vítkov Hill, 1420), the hill is now also usually called Žižkov. Žižka’s rebels routed a numerically superior force of Imperial knights, mainly through use of the advantages of height and fortification. Also, the battle marks one of the earliest uses of gunpowder weapons in European history; their armament of guns (then called píšťala, “flute”, for the whistling sound of its projectiles, which is the origin of the word “pistol”) helped the Hussite peasant militias defeat the heavily-armored knights.
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