History Hans Högman
Copyright © Hans Högman 2021-07-24

Introduction

Before the modern land reforms were implemented in Sweden, the land in the villages was divided into different ownership systems. The common feature of these systems was that the different farms' properties were strongly intermingled with each other. Preparing the land, sowing, harvesting, and putting animals out to pasture after harvest needed to be coordinated. The vast majority of farmers in Sweden lived in villages from the Middle Ages onwards and cultivated strips of tilled land (tegar). The farmers' strips of land were narrow and located next to each other in the fields. The system meant that each farmer had shares of all different types of land in the village. But the “teg” system with strips of tilled land required that the land was cultivated in a coordinated way in the village, or even that sowing and harvesting took place together with the other farmers in the village. It was also at places so far from the village to the outermost strips of land that they were difficult to cultivate. During the 18th century, thoughts and ideas about various land reforms began to spread in Sweden. Inspiration was drawn from England, Germany, and Denmark, where similar reforms had already been implemented with successful results. The basic idea of the land reforms was to make farming more efficient by limiting the number of fields and meadows per farm and instead grouping the individual farm units' properties into larger undivided parcels. The land reforms, mainly the "Enskifte" in Skåne and the "Laga skifte" in the rest of the country, were of great importance for the future development of agriculture and resulted in increased cultivation and grain production.

Land Reform

Land reform is a purposive change in the way in which agricultural land is held or owned, the methods of cultivation that are employed, or the relation of agriculture to the rest of the economy. Land reform may consist of a government-initiated or government- backed land redistribution, generally of agricultural land, or initiated by interested groups. Land reform has become synonymous with agrarian reform or a rapid improvement of the agrarian structure. It also deals with the state of technology. The Swedish land reforms didn’t aim to transfer land ownership away from owners, but merely redistribute the farmers’ various strips of agricultural land in a village into larger undivided parcels per farmer. The Swedish term for land reform is “Skiftesreform”.

Rural Agricultural Villages

Village (Swe: By) may denote a named place consisting of at least two neighbouring farms and possibly several crofts in the countryside, but was also a legal designation for a collection of farms that are or have been a community for the common ownership and use of certain land or forest - so-called commons (farming villages). This latter definition applied before the land reform of the early nineteenth century to Swedish and Finnish land parcels shared by several farms. The term is used primarily for agricultural villages. In a terraced village (Swe: radby), the farms are arranged in a row, usually along the village street. With the land reform of the 19th century, most of the row villages disappeared. The image to the right shows a view from a terraced village (Swe: radby) in Eriksöre, Kalmar County, in 1900. Image: Kalmar Läns Museum. ID: KLMF.A01558. In the agricultural villages, the land was arranged in parcels called "tegskifte". This meant that the different landowners of the village (Swe: byamän) were clearly defined, as well as the share each of them had in the village. Based on this key, the village plot of land (where the farm buildings were located) was divided into legal shares, as were the cultivated fields. The meadow (where the hay was harvested) and the pasture were common (shared between the farmers in the village), but the sharing key defined how much of the hay would go to each person and how much livestock each person could have on the pasture. This is called “tegskifte” in Swedish and the strips of tilled land established by the distribution of farmland are called ”tegar” (plural). People who were not joint owners of the village had to pay to build houses on the village land or use the pasture. In the 1734 law, the first chapter of the “Bygninga Balken” (Village Section) defined "How the plot of land for a village shall be laid out, and farmland distributed". The law stipulated that every part of the village area was to be divided among all the co-owners (Swe: Byamännen). Furthermore, the individual farmsteads’ strips of tilled land (Swe: tegar) were to be laid out in the relation to each other in the same way as the farms were adjacent to each other in the village.

Village Council

It was usually the village council (bystämman) that administered and managed the strips of tilled land. The village council was headed by a village elder (Byålderman) appointed by the “byamännen” (the landed people in the village) to manage the village's farm activities, and the village rules were written down in a Village Ordinance (Byordning). The members of the council are called the “Byalaget (Village Councilors) or “Byarådet”. The members of the village council are those who own land in the village (more than just a plot) and were, therefore the owners of agricultural property. The village council governed the village according to customary law, often codified in a specially written village ordinance (byordning), a statute on common affairs laid down by the district court of law. The village elder is elected by merit or in order according to a rotation system. The most important meeting of the year is usually held around Walpurgis Eve and is called the May Meeting. The image to the right shows village councillors of Kila village, Hycklinge parish, Östergötland County, at a village council meeting. Photo: Sigurd Erixon. Image: Wikipedia. A village ordinance (byordning) mainly contained rules on livestock and fencing (of central importance before the Laga Skifte land reform change in the 19th century). The use of the common property (mills, sandpits, peat quarries, fishing waters) was also regulated in the village ordinances, as were often fire protection, poor relief issues, the relationship between the propertied and non-propertied villagers, and even certain moral issues. The village council could levy fines for breaches of the village ordinance. Sometimes the village dealt with matters that were usually within the jurisdiction of the parish council. The villages were often also inhabited by crofters, tenants, and others who lived on houses that stand on other’s freehold ground. These people were not involved in decisions concerning the mutual affairs of the village and did not have the right to vote at the village council meeting. To achieve greater uniformity in the village councils' ordinances, the government issued an Act called “Mönsterbyordning” (Model Village Ordinance) in 1742. The construction and maintenance of fences (Swe: gärdsgård) was important and carefully prescribed by law. The fences were there to prevent the livestock or wild animals from entering the fields and destroying the crops. All fields were therefore fenced. Each homestead in the village was assigned a section of the fenced farmland for which it was responsible, and the fences were usually inspected twice a year. There were also fences around the pastures to prevent animals from escaping or entering the cultivation fields. Both at the cultivation fields and the pastures there were gates in the fences and everyone who passed a gate needed to close it behind them. It was not uncommon for a public road to run through the pasture and thus wayfarers had to pass many gates to be opened and closed. When it was time to sow or harvest, this had to be done at the same time on all strips of tilled land, as many farmer's strips could not be accessed without first passing through others. This meant that every farm in the village had to have the soil prepared in time for everyone to sow on the day set by the village council. This also applied to harvesting, of course. Similar rules applied to the hay-making of meadows. Furthermore, the hay had to be put in by a certain day, after which the cattle were usually let out to graze on the meadows.

History of Agriculture

Agriculture originated 12,000 years ago in several independent locations. Different crops were exploited in each location, which meant that the trade networks that later emerged could spread developed crops to new markets. In the Middle East and Europe, wheat became the most important crop, in Asia rice and millet were grown, and in America maize, cassava, beans, and potatoes. Agriculture produced a surplus that both increased the population and gave rise to the first city-states. Around 10,000 years BC, people lived as hunters and gatherers. The transformation of people's lives brought about by agriculture had revolutionary consequences and is often referred to as the Neolithic Revolution. Agriculture meant an increased availability of food, which in turn meant rapid population growth and larger permanent settlements. These settlements developed into the first city-states. Because agriculture produced a surplus, this surplus could be exchanged for other goods. Surplus and trade meant that some groups of people could earn a living in ways other than farming, such as crafts. Surpluses were also used to pay for common goods: defenses, churches, irrigation. While this led to increased specialization, it also led to increased stratification. Agriculture came to Sweden from the continent around 4,000 years BC. It seems to have been a rapid process (not measurable with the 14C method). It seems that indigenous Mesolithic groups take up the so-called funnel beam culture. This was the first farming culture in the Nordic countries. During the European Middle Ages, there were many advances in agriculture. In the 700s, the introduction of the bow wood from Asia made it possible to use horses to pull heavy loads. The horses could be used to plow the land; previously oxen had been used for this as the horses were strangled by the harness. The wheeled plow was an even more important invention, especially in heavy soil. The image to the right shows a farmer with a wheeled plow. Image: Wikipedia. In much of Europe, the three-year rotation (three-field system) was introduced, which meant that each field was cultivated one year with spring grain (such as oats), one year with winter grain, and left fallow only every third year. During the fallow period, the land was fertilized by livestock. This increased production and since there were two harvests, there was less risk of crop failure. Up until the 1300s, the grain rate (the ratio of the harvest to seed) rose sharply. The next major increase would not occur until the 18th century, because in the early modern period there were no major changes in agriculture except for the growth of farming units and a more market-oriented approach to production.

The Agrarian Revolution

The Agrarian Revolution is an agricultural revolution that is said to have taken place in the late 18th century in Western Europe, particularly in England and France. It later spread to other countries. In Sweden, it corresponded to several successive land reforms in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Agrarian comes from the Latin word for the field, ager. Towards the end of the 18th century, major changes took place in agriculture. For a long time, farmers had been cultivating several but small tilled strips of land. These small strips were now merged into larger fields. This made it easier for farmers to plow large fields at once. Harrows and seed drills made the heavy farming work easier, leading to more rational work. This meant that fewer people had to work in the fields. Crop rotation (Swe: växelbruk) was also introduced in agriculture. Previously, a third of the land had been left fallow to avoid depletion. But with crop rotation, barley and wheat were grown every other year and forage, such as clover and peas, every other year. The forage supplied the fields with nitrogen from the air. The forage gave the animals better feed and allowed them to produce more food. The agrarian revolution led to a significant increase in food production and required less labor than before. Similarly, in Sweden, the so-called "Storskiftet" (The Great Land Reform) was carried out just before the turn of the century 1800, as well as the "Laga Skiftet" in the middle of the 19th century. This led, among other things, to the disappearance of many of the old terraced farming villages (radbyar), in favor of individually situated farms with contiguous landholdings.

Older Agricultural Land Reforms

Hammarskifte

Hammarskifte is the oldest known form of property settlement in the Swedish farming villages before the Solskiftet (see below). Despite many studies, it is not known what the Hammarskifte actually meant. The name comes from the Uppland Law of 1296, which stipulates that all land must be laid in Solskifte and not in “hambri” and in “forni skipt”, which led to the assumption that the Hammarskifte is the same as “fornt skifte”, the land tenure system that applied before the introduction of Solskifte. Parallels have also been drawn between the Hammarskifte and Bolskifte in Skåne (South Sweden), but in the South Swedish provinces’ village organization has much older traditions than in Svealand (Central Sweden) and it is doubtful whether these concepts were synonyms. Based on preserved structures, agriculture in the Iron Age, to the extent that villages existed, does not seem to have had strips of tilled land in the true sense, but only a form of organization. Grazing was common to the farms in the village, while the farms' arable fields were separated from each other. Hammarskifte, is a term that appears in some of the medieval provincial building laws (Uppland Law, Västman Law, and Södermanland Law).

Tegskifte

The Tegskifte was first called hammarskifte or bolskifte (in Skåne), and later also solskifte. The village land was divided so that the co- owners, each in proportion to their share, received an equal amount of land in all the scattered, often disparate, property parcels. This was done without any so-called grading (grading refers to the valuation of land according to its yield potential. The land was given a certain grade so that a larger area of poorer quality land was given in exchange for a certain area of better quality.) Tegskifte was the form of land tenure previously used in large parts of Europe and in Sweden (in Sweden until the Storskifte land reform in 1749 and 1757). Tegskifte meant that each farm in a village was allocated its share of the village farmland. A farm's share in the village could be different from others. This meant that the farms received as much of the village land as their share entitled them to. The basic principle of the tegskifte was that no farm would benefit more than others, but it is a common misconception that this would mean total fairness between a village's farms. The system worked relatively well in the early days, but as the population grew and farms were split over and over due to inheritance divisions, often over many generations, the Tegskifte system became very impractical over time. Another problem was that a large amount of work was required to move oneself and one's tools between each strip of acres. Over time, the tegskifte became so inefficient that the government was forced to implement major land reforms in the 18th and early 19th centuries. However, no compulsory national land reform was ever carried out. Both the storskifte and the laga skifte were based on a land reform notification from at least one of the village's farmers. If a farmer had made such a notification, the rest of the village's farmers had to participate in the land reform, which often contributed to discord between villagers. This meant that many farmers felt disadvantaged compared to the tegskifte system, as some could be allocated fields with good soil quality and fertility while others could be allocated poorer soil. It also led to the fragmentation of many villages in the great plains as farmers were forced to move their dwellings, out of the village, to their new more contiguous estates. The image is an aerial view of the village of Gillberga with all the strips of acres and meadows around the village. Image: Kalmar Läns Museum. ID: KLMF.D00054. Tegskifte is a generic term for the various ancient forms of division - usually in narrow strips, so-called tegar - of fields and meadows between the various farms within the common boundaries of the villages. The strips of tilled land were mixed, i.e. they were more or less systematically mixed and cultivated individually by their owners in an annual rhythm common to the village community. The solskifte (sun system) was a systematic form of the tegskifte. The tegskifte system, which was common before the reforms of the 18th and 19th centuries, gave the farms a share in all the different types of land and soil in the village. It was not until the enskifte (single parcel system) and the laga skifte that the fertility of the soil was weighed against the size of the surface of the parcels when implementing the land reforms.

Solskiftet

The Solskifte System was a land tenure system that developed in the early middle ages but was formalized in Swedish law around 1350. Solskifte means Solar distribution of farmland and is a way of allocating land within the community, such that each farmer gets equal access to the sun through the year. The Solskifte meant the laying out of rectangular farming village plots as single or double terraced villages. The width of the farm plot was determined by the size of the farm or its share in the village. The farm that was located first in the village always had the first strip of tilled land in the acres in the same relative position as the farm plot in the village, hence the name 'solskifte'. The farm whose plot was furthest to the south thus also had its strips to the south in each strip of the tilled land. Solskiftet referred to both cultivated land and the redistribution of the previously common land of fields and meadows. These strips of tilled land were common in eastern Central Sweden, where the width and order of the rows followed an agreed pattern. The Uppland Law stipulates Solskifte and in Magnus Eriksson's National Law Code of 1350, it is laid down for the whole of Sweden, although in practice it never spread outside Central Sweden. Solskifte got its name from the principle of order that applied when the strips of tilled land were laid out: each farm got its strip in the same relative position as the farm plot in the village so that the farm whose plot was furthest south or east on the village plot also got its strips in the south and east in each set of strips. In this method of tenure, a community was composed of a village and the surrounding lands.

Agricultural Land Reforms in Sweden (1)

Storskifte Land Reform in 1749 and 1757

The first modern land reform in Sweden was the "storskifte" (The Great Land Reform or The Great Partition / The Great Land Redistribution). Storskifte was a land reform supported by the government enabling the division of the farmland of the village communities, from the former Solskifte system to a new system, where every farmer in the village was to own connected pieces of farmland instead of several scattered strips of land. Under the law of 1734, a new division or redistribution of the farmland could not take place unless all the landowners in the village agreed to it. The land reform was initiated by the Riksdag (Parliament) with the 1749 Land Survey Act, and later in 1757 with a decree called the "Storskifte", which introduced the "land reform warrant" (i.e. the land reform was to be executed if one landowner in the village requested it). This made it possible for a co-owner of the village farmland to request redistribution of land (skifte), which then also included the other landowners' shares of the farmland, i.e. an attempt to gather the farmers' several strips of land into larger coherent parcels. Storskifte was carried out in large parts of the country between 1758 and 1827. The land reform had two main objectives: 1. To consolidate the fields and meadows into fewer units. 2. To divide the jointly owned land between the farmers to improve its use. In other words, the reform involved the redistribution of land ownership in rural villages. The target set in 1762 was a maximum of four pieces of arable land and an equal number of meadows per farm, but this target was not always met, not even in later lands reforms. From 1783, individual farms could request complete separation and relocation from the village, a precursor to the 1803 Enskifte land reform. Such relocation of farmhouses (onto each farmer’s allocated land) was preceded by a property valuation and land grading, with the size of land weighed against the quality of the land. The Storskifte land reform was inspired by similar land reform in England involving land redistribution.

Enskifte Land Reform

As can be seen from the Storskifte section above, the goal of fewer and larger parcels was not always achieved. King Gustav IV Adolf, therefore, issued the Ordinance on Enskifte, which meant that each farmer's land should be combined into one single piece of farmland if possible. The enskifte began to be implemented in Sweden in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Enskifte was the second modern land reform and was initiated by Rutger Macklean at the Svaneholm estate in Skåne. Inspired by the land reforms carried out in England and Denmark, Macklean already implemented a major land redistribution on his Svaneholm estate in the late 18th century, despite strong opposition from the peasants. In several of villages under the estate, a very strict redistribution of land was then implemented, which meant that the scattered land of the farming units had to be brought together in one larger parcel, enskifte, which meant that the old villages were split up. In many cases, the farmers had to move their farmhouses or build new ones within the boundaries of the new coherent parcels. The image shows Svaneholms estate in Skurup, Skåne, in 2008. Image: Wikipedia. As the reform showed that both productivity and profitability increased, a decree was issued in 1803 by the government on the implementation of the enskifte in the whole of Skåne, in the county of Skaraborg in 1804 and the whole kingdom in 1807, except for the counties of Kopparberg, Gävleborg, Västernorrland and Västerbotten, and Finland. In principle, the northern parts of the country were excluded. Some farmers had to leave their village plot to build a new farmhouse on the allocated land, others had the opportunity to stay. The enskifte redistribution of farmland was not only initiated by owners of landed estates but was also carried out in villages with freehold farmers. A prerequisite for the success of enskifte was that the land was equal and fertile and that almost all the land could be cultivated. This meant that the enskifte system was most widespread in the plains of Skåne and Västergötland and on Öland. The enskifte followed the great land reform, Storskifte, but was much more radical. It was in turn followed by the Laga skifte reform of 1827 since the expected results were not achieved. As the Storskifte and the Enskifte were practiced in parallel in the country, difficulties arose in consistently implementing the reform of the Enskifte. Enskifte literally means “one parcel”.

Laga skifte Land Reform in 1827

During the reign of King Karl XIV Johan, the land reform could be carried out more systematically. In 1827, the law on the Laga skifte (Skiftesstadgan) was passed, but it was carried out at different times around the country. The principles of this statute remained in force until 1928. It was partially revised in 1866 and replaced by the 1926 Act on the division of land, which came into force on 1 January 1928. The name of the Act, Laga Skifte, implies that the land reform was legally supported. The objective of the Laga skifte was to some extent the same as that of the reform of the Enskifte; the aim was to combine the landowners' farmland into as few parcels as possible. The Laga skifte determined that a farming unit could comprise a maximum of three parcels of land. Every co-owner of a village could, according to the 1827 Laga skifte Act (land reform Act), request redistribution of the parcels of land, and redistribution could be carried out of land belonging to a village or homestead in which two or more people had a share. In principle, the redistribution would cover all types of land. At the time of the redistribution settlement, a property valuation would be made to obtain a fair distribution of the land. The landowner who was allocated land of poorer quality at the time of the land redistribution could be compensated by receiving a larger area. The total value of the homestead before and after the division would be equal. The image shows the village of Väsby in Östergötland in 1898. The strips of tilled land in this village have not been redistributed in the land reforms as can been seen in the photo. Image: Wikipedia. For all farmers to receive their rightful share of the land, previously uncultivated land also had to be distributed among the farmers, which for many meant labor-intensive new cultivations. To cultivate the new land, some farmers were required to move out (utflyttningsskyldighet), which meant moving the farm (farmhouse, outbuildings, etc.) from the village plot. Many of the village farmhouses, X-joint loghouses, were therefore dismantled and rebuilt on the location of the respective farmer’s newly allocated land. As farms were relocated, the village centers were broken up, i.e. split. However, some farms remained in their original location. The land redistribution including the relocation of farms meant that farmers no longer were dependent on each other in the same way as they previously been in the villages, and they no longer had to cross someone else's field to get to their own. In parts of Sweden, the land reform was never carried out, especially not in Dalarna. When land redistribution was to be carried out in a village, a land surveyor was sent to measure the farmers' land, distribute it, and draw up land redistribution maps (skifteskartor). However, many farmers did not want to know about any redistribution of the parcels. It is said that in some cases the peasants were so angry with the surveyors that they had to carry a gun to protect themselves. Disputes concerning the distribution of parcels were to be dealt with in the first instance by a newly created court, the Property- Dividing Court (Ägodelningsrätten). In 1970, the 1926 Land Division Act was replaced by the Land Consolidation Act, which entered into force on 1 January 1972. This abolished the concept of "Laga skifte" in Swedish property law.

Summary

The Storskifte land reform brought about a redistribution of farmland and meadows to fewer, larger coherent acres. The Enskifte land reform means that an attempt was made to combine the landholdings of each farm into a single unit, a single parcel of land. The Laga skifte meant combining the landowners' farmland into as few parcels of land as possible. The Storskifte covered only the village's infields (inägomark), i.e. the fields and meadows closest to the village. The outlying fields (Utmarken), often in the form of a wooded pasture, were to be retained as jointly owned land. Usually, it is the boundaries from the Laga skifte that we can see around today’s countryside.

Land Redistribution Maps

Land redistribution maps (land surveying maps) were drawn up in connection with the land distribution of farmland in each village. The oldest hand-drawn maps were produced in only one copy each. The National Land Survey of Sweden (Lantmäteriet) later established regional offices and then the instruction was changed, so that the surveyor, from the basic or concept map he had drawn up, was obliged to make a fair copy - a so-called renovation. The fair copy of the drawing was to be delivered to the central office in Stockholm for review. Most survey files/maps were produced in triplicate. The first copy was kept at the regional agency under the term “concept”. The second copy remained with the owner/village council (Byalaget) and the third copy - the renovation - was sent to the central agency in Stockholm for review. The village depended on receiving the redistribution maps and documents. Each shareholder in the village also received extracts of the map and partition description relating to his lot. There are many documents left in village council coffers, farm archives, and old chiffoniers! Map scales were usually 1:4 000 (100 m, in reality, corresponds to 25 mm on the map) for the infield areas (arable and meadow land) and 1:8 000 for the outlying areas (forest land). The land redistribution maps may look different, as no fixed templates were used until after 1850. The land maps are based on the village as the principle of division. The map is accompanied by a description explaining the numbers and lettering on it. Lower-case letters are used to mark the old farm fields, capital letters for the new ones. The boundaries are drawn in black and red. Note that the maps provide both a snapshot and an indication of a desired future state. Red lines usually indicate the boundaries that the redistribution is intended to establish. Also, some roads and common areas are intended to be constructed after the redistribution of the land is completed. Please note that changes due to appeals may occur! The land redistribution documents contain minutes, listing the names and residences of those present, and annexes, including appeals, and a description of the redistribution. It shows how the land was distributed before the division, the grading of the farmland, and the description of the division of the various letters (capital letters) of the new parcels. The various colors on the maps represent different types of land (soil). Fields tend to be yellow, pastures light green, meadows dark green and, water blue. There are some variations on this and therefore you should check with what the description says. There you can make sure which colors represent which types of land. The numbers on the map: the farmlands on the map are subdivided into smaller parts depending, among other things, on soil conditions such as moisture, fertility, etc. Each such area has a number and that number refers to the charts that appear in the description of the map. The Land Survey Agency (Lantmäteriet) has an extensive archive of maps drawn up during the various land reforms carried out in Sweden from the mid-18th century to the early 20th century. The maps and their accompanying texts are decision-making documents that are still partly relevant today.
Exemples of land redistribution maps. images: Lantmäteriet. See also Land redistribution map from 1833 for the Laga skifte in Kumla village, Toresund parish (D)

Related Links

Terminology - Land reforms Land Redistribution Maps, Laga Skifte, Kumla village, 1833, Toresund Parish Agricultural Yields and Years of Famine The Old Agricultural Society and its People Landownership - Farmers & Crofters Crofts and Crofters Summer Pasture The "Statar" system (keeping farm laborers receiving allowance in kind) The Conception of the Socknen (parish)

Source References

Skiftesreformer i Sverige; Stor-, en- och laga skifte, Örjan Jonsson JK92/96. De stora förändringarna, 23 Enskiftet och laga skiftet. Skiftenas skede, laga skiftets handlingar som källmaterial för byggnadshistoriska studier med exempel från Småland 1828–1927. Ander Franzén, 2008. Tegskiftet s. 112-114 i Gadd, Carl-Johan (2000). Det svenska jordbrukets historia. Kapitel 8, Band 3, Den agrara revolutionen : 1700-1870. Stockholm: Natur och kultur/LT i samarbete med Nordiska museet och Stift. Stiftelsen Lagersberg. Bilden av skiftet måste nyanseras, artikel i tidningen Populär Historia i september 2003 av Fredrik Bergman, Larserik Tobiasson. Skiftena förändrade Sverige, artikel i tidningen Släkthistoria i mars 2017 av Therese Safstrom. Lantmäteriet (The National Land Survey of Sweden) Wikipedia Nationalencyklopedin (Swedish National Encyclopedia) SAOB (Svenska Akademins Ordbok - The Swedish Academy Dictionary) Top of Page
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Terminolgy

For better understanding of this page about the Swedish land reforms, see also Terminology - Land reforms
History Hans Högman
Copyright © Hans Högman 2021-07-24

Introduction

Before the modern land reforms were implemented in Sweden, the land in the villages was divided into different ownership systems. The common feature of these systems was that the different farms' properties were strongly intermingled with each other. Preparing the land, sowing, harvesting, and putting animals out to pasture after harvest needed to be coordinated. The vast majority of farmers in Sweden lived in villages from the Middle Ages onwards and cultivated strips of tilled land (tegar). The farmers' strips of land were narrow and located next to each other in the fields. The system meant that each farmer had shares of all different types of land in the village. But the “teg” system with strips of tilled land required that the land was cultivated in a coordinated way in the village, or even that sowing and harvesting took place together with the other farmers in the village. It was also at places so far from the village to the outermost strips of land that they were difficult to cultivate. During the 18th century, thoughts and ideas about various land reforms began to spread in Sweden. Inspiration was drawn from England, Germany, and Denmark, where similar reforms had already been implemented with successful results. The basic idea of the land reforms was to make farming more efficient by limiting the number of fields and meadows per farm and instead grouping the individual farm units' properties into larger undivided parcels. The land reforms, mainly the "Enskifte" in Skåne and the "Laga skifte" in the rest of the country, were of great importance for the future development of agriculture and resulted in increased cultivation and grain production.

Land Reform

Land reform is a purposive change in the way in which agricultural land is held or owned, the methods of cultivation that are employed, or the relation of agriculture to the rest of the economy. Land reform may consist of a government-initiated or government-backed land redistribution, generally of agricultural land, or initiated by interested groups. Land reform has become synonymous with agrarian reform or a rapid improvement of the agrarian structure. It also deals with the state of technology. The Swedish land reforms didn’t aim to transfer land ownership away from owners, but merely redistribute the farmers’ various strips of agricultural land in a village into larger undivided parcels per farmer. The Swedish term for land reform is Skiftesreform”.

Rural Agricultural Villages

Village (Swe: By) may denote a named place consisting of at least two neighbouring farms and possibly several crofts in the countryside, but was also a legal designation for a collection of farms that are or have been a community for the common ownership and use of certain land or forest - so-called commons (farming villages). This latter definition applied before the land reform of the early nineteenth century to Swedish and Finnish land parcels shared by several farms. The term is used primarily for agricultural villages. In a terraced village (Swe: radby), the farms are arranged in a row, usually along the village street. With the land reform of the 19th century, most of the row villages disappeared. The image to the right shows a view from a terraced village (Swe: radby) in Eriksöre, Kalmar County, in 1900. Image: Kalmar Läns Museum. ID: KLMF.A01558. In the agricultural villages, the land was arranged in parcels called "tegskifte". This meant that the different landowners of the village (Swe: byamän) were clearly defined, as well as the share each of them had in the village. Based on this key, the village plot of land (where the farm buildings were located) was divided into legal shares, as were the cultivated fields. The meadow (where the hay was harvested) and the pasture were common (shared between the farmers in the village), but the sharing key defined how much of the hay would go to each person and how much livestock each person could have on the pasture. This is called “tegskifte” in Swedish and the strips of tilled land established by the distribution of farmland are called ”tegar” (plural). People who were not joint owners of the village had to pay to build houses on the village land or use the pasture. In the 1734 law, the first chapter of the “Bygninga Balken” (Village Section) defined "How the plot of land for a village shall be laid out, and farmland distributed". The law stipulated that every part of the village area was to be divided among all the co- owners (Swe: Byamännen). Furthermore, the individual farmsteads’ strips of tilled land (Swe: tegar) were to be laid out in the relation to each other in the same way as the farms were adjacent to each other in the village.

Village Council

It was usually the village council (bystämman) that administered and managed the strips of tilled land. The village council was headed by a village elder (Byålderman) appointed by the “byamännen” (the landed people in the village) to manage the village's farm activities, and the village rules were written down in a Village Ordinance (Byordning). The members of the council are called the “Byalaget (Village Councilors) or “Byarådet”. The members of the village council are those who own land in the village (more than just a plot) and were, therefore the owners of agricultural property. The village council governed the village according to customary law, often codified in a specially written village ordinance (byordning), a statute on common affairs laid down by the district court of law. The village elder is elected by merit or in order according to a rotation system. The most important meeting of the year is usually held around Walpurgis Eve and is called the May Meeting. The image to the right shows village councillors of Kila village, Hycklinge parish, Östergötland County, at a village council meeting. Photo: Sigurd Erixon. Image: Wikipedia. A village ordinance (byordning) mainly contained rules on livestock and fencing (of central importance before the Laga Skifte land reform change in the 19th century). The use of the common property (mills, sandpits, peat quarries, fishing waters) was also regulated in the village ordinances, as were often fire protection, poor relief issues, the relationship between the propertied and non-propertied villagers, and even certain moral issues. The village council could levy fines for breaches of the village ordinance. Sometimes the village dealt with matters that were usually within the jurisdiction of the parish council. The villages were often also inhabited by crofters, tenants, and others who lived on houses that stand on other’s freehold ground. These people were not involved in decisions concerning the mutual affairs of the village and did not have the right to vote at the village council meeting. To achieve greater uniformity in the village councils' ordinances, the government issued an Act called Mönsterbyordning” (Model Village Ordinance) in 1742. The construction and maintenance of fences (Swe: gärdsgård) was important and carefully prescribed by law. The fences were there to prevent the livestock or wild animals from entering the fields and destroying the crops. All fields were therefore fenced. Each homestead in the village was assigned a section of the fenced farmland for which it was responsible, and the fences were usually inspected twice a year. There were also fences around the pastures to prevent animals from escaping or entering the cultivation fields. Both at the cultivation fields and the pastures there were gates in the fences and everyone who passed a gate needed to close it behind them. It was not uncommon for a public road to run through the pasture and thus wayfarers had to pass many gates to be opened and closed. When it was time to sow or harvest, this had to be done at the same time on all strips of tilled land, as many farmer's strips could not be accessed without first passing through others. This meant that every farm in the village had to have the soil prepared in time for everyone to sow on the day set by the village council. This also applied to harvesting, of course. Similar rules applied to the hay-making of meadows. Furthermore, the hay had to be put in by a certain day, after which the cattle were usually let out to graze on the meadows.

History of Agriculture

Agriculture originated 12,000 years ago in several independent locations. Different crops were exploited in each location, which meant that the trade networks that later emerged could spread developed crops to new markets. In the Middle East and Europe, wheat became the most important crop, in Asia rice and millet were grown, and in America maize, cassava, beans, and potatoes. Agriculture produced a surplus that both increased the population and gave rise to the first city-states. Around 10,000 years BC, people lived as hunters and gatherers. The transformation of people's lives brought about by agriculture had revolutionary consequences and is often referred to as the Neolithic Revolution. Agriculture meant an increased availability of food, which in turn meant rapid population growth and larger permanent settlements. These settlements developed into the first city-states. Because agriculture produced a surplus, this surplus could be exchanged for other goods. Surplus and trade meant that some groups of people could earn a living in ways other than farming, such as crafts. Surpluses were also used to pay for common goods: defenses, churches, irrigation. While this led to increased specialization, it also led to increased stratification. Agriculture came to Sweden from the continent around 4,000 years BC. It seems to have been a rapid process (not measurable with the 14C method). It seems that indigenous Mesolithic groups take up the so-called funnel beam culture. This was the first farming culture in the Nordic countries. During the European Middle Ages, there were many advances in agriculture. In the 700s, the introduction of the bow wood from Asia made it possible to use horses to pull heavy loads. The horses could be used to plow the land; previously oxen had been used for this as the horses were strangled by the harness. The wheeled plow was an even more important invention, especially in heavy soil. The image to the right shows a farmer with a wheeled plow. Image: Wikipedia. In much of Europe, the three-year rotation (three- field system) was introduced, which meant that each field was cultivated one year with spring grain (such as oats), one year with winter grain, and left fallow only every third year. During the fallow period, the land was fertilized by livestock. This increased production and since there were two harvests, there was less risk of crop failure. Up until the 1300s, the grain rate (the ratio of the harvest to seed) rose sharply. The next major increase would not occur until the 18th century, because in the early modern period there were no major changes in agriculture except for the growth of farming units and a more market-oriented approach to production.

The Agrarian Revolution

The Agrarian Revolution is an agricultural revolution that is said to have taken place in the late 18th century in Western Europe, particularly in England and France. It later spread to other countries. In Sweden, it corresponded to several successive land reforms in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Agrarian comes from the Latin word for the field, ager. Towards the end of the 18th century, major changes took place in agriculture. For a long time, farmers had been cultivating several but small tilled strips of land. These small strips were now merged into larger fields. This made it easier for farmers to plow large fields at once. Harrows and seed drills made the heavy farming work easier, leading to more rational work. This meant that fewer people had to work in the fields. Crop rotation (Swe: växelbruk) was also introduced in agriculture. Previously, a third of the land had been left fallow to avoid depletion. But with crop rotation, barley and wheat were grown every other year and forage, such as clover and peas, every other year. The forage supplied the fields with nitrogen from the air. The forage gave the animals better feed and allowed them to produce more food. The agrarian revolution led to a significant increase in food production and required less labor than before. Similarly, in Sweden, the so-called "Storskiftet" (The Great Land Reform) was carried out just before the turn of the century 1800, as well as the "Laga Skiftet" in the middle of the 19th century. This led, among other things, to the disappearance of many of the old terraced farming villages (radbyar), in favor of individually situated farms with contiguous landholdings.

Older Agricultural Land Reforms

Hammarskifte

Hammarskifte is the oldest known form of property settlement in the Swedish farming villages before the Solskiftet (see below). Despite many studies, it is not known what the Hammarskifte actually meant. The name comes from the Uppland Law of 1296, which stipulates that all land must be laid in Solskifte and not in “hambri” and in “forni skipt”, which led to the assumption that the Hammarskifte is the same as “fornt skifte”, the land tenure system that applied before the introduction of Solskifte. Parallels have also been drawn between the Hammarskifte and Bolskifte in Skåne (South Sweden), but in the South Swedish provinces’ village organization has much older traditions than in Svealand (Central Sweden) and it is doubtful whether these concepts were synonyms. Based on preserved structures, agriculture in the Iron Age, to the extent that villages existed, does not seem to have had strips of tilled land in the true sense, but only a form of organization. Grazing was common to the farms in the village, while the farms' arable fields were separated from each other. Hammarskifte, is a term that appears in some of the medieval provincial building laws (Uppland Law, Västman Law, and Södermanland Law).

Tegskifte

The Tegskifte was first called hammarskifte or bolskifte (in Skåne), and later also solskifte. The village land was divided so that the co-owners, each in proportion to their share, received an equal amount of land in all the scattered, often disparate, property parcels. This was done without any so-called grading (grading refers to the valuation of land according to its yield potential. The land was given a certain grade so that a larger area of poorer quality land was given in exchange for a certain area of better quality.) Tegskifte was the form of land tenure previously used in large parts of Europe and in Sweden (in Sweden until the Storskifte land reform in 1749 and 1757). Tegskifte meant that each farm in a village was allocated its share of the village farmland. A farm's share in the village could be different from others. This meant that the farms received as much of the village land as their share entitled them to. The basic principle of the tegskifte was that no farm would benefit more than others, but it is a common misconception that this would mean total fairness between a village's farms. The system worked relatively well in the early days, but as the population grew and farms were split over and over due to inheritance divisions, often over many generations, the Tegskifte system became very impractical over time. Another problem was that a large amount of work was required to move oneself and one's tools between each strip of acres. Over time, the tegskifte became so inefficient that the government was forced to implement major land reforms in the 18th and early 19th centuries. However, no compulsory national land reform was ever carried out. Both the storskifte and the laga skifte were based on a land reform notification from at least one of the village's farmers. If a farmer had made such a notification, the rest of the village's farmers had to participate in the land reform, which often contributed to discord between villagers. This meant that many farmers felt disadvantaged compared to the tegskifte system, as some could be allocated fields with good soil quality and fertility while others could be allocated poorer soil. It also led to the fragmentation of many villages in the great plains as farmers were forced to move their dwellings, out of the village, to their new more contiguous estates. The image is an aerial view of the village of Gillberga with all the strips of acres and meadows around the village. Image: Kalmar Läns Museum. ID: KLMF.D00054. Tegskifte is a generic term for the various ancient forms of division - usually in narrow strips, so-called tegar - of fields and meadows between the various farms within the common boundaries of the villages. The strips of tilled land were mixed, i.e. they were more or less systematically mixed and cultivated individually by their owners in an annual rhythm common to the village community. The solskifte (sun system) was a systematic form of the tegskifte. The tegskifte system, which was common before the reforms of the 18th and 19th centuries, gave the farms a share in all the different types of land and soil in the village. It was not until the enskifte (single parcel system) and the laga skifte that the fertility of the soil was weighed against the size of the surface of the parcels when implementing the land reforms.

Solskiftet

The Solskifte System was a land tenure system that developed in the early middle ages but was formalized in Swedish law around 1350. Solskifte means Solar distribution of farmland and is a way of allocating land within the community, such that each farmer gets equal access to the sun through the year. The Solskifte meant the laying out of rectangular farming village plots as single or double terraced villages. The width of the farm plot was determined by the size of the farm or its share in the village. The farm that was located first in the village always had the first strip of tilled land in the acres in the same relative position as the farm plot in the village, hence the name 'solskifte'. The farm whose plot was furthest to the south thus also had its strips to the south in each strip of the tilled land. Solskiftet referred to both cultivated land and the redistribution of the previously common land of fields and meadows. These strips of tilled land were common in eastern Central Sweden, where the width and order of the rows followed an agreed pattern. The Uppland Law stipulates Solskifte and in Magnus Eriksson's National Law Code of 1350, it is laid down for the whole of Sweden, although in practice it never spread outside Central Sweden. Solskifte got its name from the principle of order that applied when the strips of tilled land were laid out: each farm got its strip in the same relative position as the farm plot in the village so that the farm whose plot was furthest south or east on the village plot also got its strips in the south and east in each set of strips. In this method of tenure, a community was composed of a village and the surrounding lands.

Agricultural Land Reforms,

Sweden (1)

Storskifte Land Reform in 1749

and 1757

The first modern land reform in Sweden was the "storskifte" (The Great Land Reform or The Great Partition / The Great Land Redistribution). Storskifte was a land reform supported by the government enabling the division of the farmland of the village communities, from the former Solskifte system to a new system, where every farmer in the village was to own connected pieces of farmland instead of several scattered strips of land. Under the law of 1734, a new division or redistribution of the farmland could not take place unless all the landowners in the village agreed to it. The land reform was initiated by the Riksdag (Parliament) with the 1749 Land Survey Act, and later in 1757 with a decree called the "Storskifte", which introduced the "land reform warrant" (i.e. the land reform was to be executed if one landowner in the village requested it). This made it possible for a co- owner of the village farmland to request redistribution of land (skifte), which then also included the other landowners' shares of the farmland, i.e. an attempt to gather the farmers' several strips of land into larger coherent parcels. Storskifte was carried out in large parts of the country between 1758 and 1827. The land reform had two main objectives: 1. To consolidate the fields and meadows into fewer units. 2. To divide the jointly owned land between the farmers to improve its use. In other words, the reform involved the redistribution of land ownership in rural villages. The target set in 1762 was a maximum of four pieces of arable land and an equal number of meadows per farm, but this target was not always met, not even in later lands reforms. From 1783, individual farms could request complete separation and relocation from the village, a precursor to the 1803 Enskifte land reform. Such relocation of farmhouses (onto each farmer’s allocated land) was preceded by a property valuation and land grading, with the size of land weighed against the quality of the land. The Storskifte land reform was inspired by similar land reform in England involving land redistribution.

Enskifte Land Reform

As can be seen from the Storskifte section above, the goal of fewer and larger parcels was not always achieved. King Gustav IV Adolf, therefore, issued the Ordinance on Enskifte, which meant that each farmer's land should be combined into one single piece of farmland if possible. The enskifte began to be implemented in Sweden in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Enskifte was the second modern land reform and was initiated by Rutger Macklean at the Svaneholm estate in Skåne. Inspired by the land reforms carried out in England and Denmark, Macklean already implemented a major land redistribution on his Svaneholm estate in the late 18th century, despite strong opposition from the peasants. In several of villages under the estate, a very strict redistribution of land was then implemented, which meant that the scattered land of the farming units had to be brought together in one larger parcel, enskifte, which meant that the old villages were split up. In many cases, the farmers had to move their farmhouses or build new ones within the boundaries of the new coherent parcels. The image shows Svaneholms estate in Skurup, Skåne, in 2008. Image: Wikipedia. As the reform showed that both productivity and profitability increased, a decree was issued in 1803 by the government on the implementation of the enskifte in the whole of Skåne, in the county of Skaraborg in 1804 and the whole kingdom in 1807, except for the counties of Kopparberg, Gävleborg, Västernorrland and Västerbotten, and Finland. In principle, the northern parts of the country were excluded. Some farmers had to leave their village plot to build a new farmhouse on the allocated land, others had the opportunity to stay. The enskifte redistribution of farmland was not only initiated by owners of landed estates but was also carried out in villages with freehold farmers. A prerequisite for the success of enskifte was that the land was equal and fertile and that almost all the land could be cultivated. This meant that the enskifte system was most widespread in the plains of Skåne and Västergötland and on Öland. The enskifte followed the great land reform, Storskifte, but was much more radical. It was in turn followed by the Laga skifte reform of 1827 since the expected results were not achieved. As the Storskifte and the Enskifte were practiced in parallel in the country, difficulties arose in consistently implementing the reform of the Enskifte. Enskifte literally means “one parcel”.

Laga skifte Land Reform in 1827

During the reign of King Karl XIV Johan, the land reform could be carried out more systematically. In 1827, the law on the Laga skifte (Skiftesstadgan) was passed, but it was carried out at different times around the country. The principles of this statute remained in force until 1928. It was partially revised in 1866 and replaced by the 1926 Act on the division of land, which came into force on 1 January 1928. The name of the Act, Laga Skifte, implies that the land reform was legally supported. The objective of the Laga skifte was to some extent the same as that of the reform of the Enskifte; the aim was to combine the landowners' farmland into as few parcels as possible. The Laga skifte determined that a farming unit could comprise a maximum of three parcels of land. Every co-owner of a village could, according to the 1827 Laga skifte Act (land reform Act), request redistribution of the parcels of land, and redistribution could be carried out of land belonging to a village or homestead in which two or more people had a share. In principle, the redistribution would cover all types of land. At the time of the redistribution settlement, a property valuation would be made to obtain a fair distribution of the land. The landowner who was allocated land of poorer quality at the time of the land redistribution could be compensated by receiving a larger area. The total value of the homestead before and after the division would be equal. The image shows the village of Väsby in Östergötland in 1898. The strips of tilled land in this village have not been redistributed in the land reforms as can been seen in the photo. Image: Wikipedia. For all farmers to receive their rightful share of the land, previously uncultivated land also had to be distributed among the farmers, which for many meant labor-intensive new cultivations. To cultivate the new land, some farmers were required to move out (utflyttningsskyldighet), which meant moving the farm (farmhouse, outbuildings, etc.) from the village plot. Many of the village farmhouses, X-joint loghouses, were therefore dismantled and rebuilt on the location of the respective farmer’s newly allocated land. As farms were relocated, the village centers were broken up, i.e. split. However, some farms remained in their original location. The land redistribution including the relocation of farms meant that farmers no longer were dependent on each other in the same way as they previously been in the villages, and they no longer had to cross someone else's field to get to their own. In parts of Sweden, the land reform was never carried out, especially not in Dalarna. When land redistribution was to be carried out in a village, a land surveyor was sent to measure the farmers' land, distribute it, and draw up land redistribution maps (skifteskartor). However, many farmers did not want to know about any redistribution of the parcels. It is said that in some cases the peasants were so angry with the surveyors that they had to carry a gun to protect themselves. Disputes concerning the distribution of parcels were to be dealt with in the first instance by a newly created court, the Property-Dividing Court (Ägodelningsrätten). In 1970, the 1926 Land Division Act was replaced by the Land Consolidation Act, which entered into force on 1 January 1972. This abolished the concept of "Laga skifte" in Swedish property law.

Summary

The Storskifte land reform brought about a redistribution of farmland and meadows to fewer, larger coherent acres. The Enskifte land reform means that an attempt was made to combine the landholdings of each farm into a single unit, a single parcel of land. The Laga skifte meant combining the landowners' farmland into as few parcels of land as possible. The Storskifte covered only the village's infields (inägomark), i.e. the fields and meadows closest to the village. The outlying fields (Utmarken), often in the form of a wooded pasture, were to be retained as jointly owned land. Usually, it is the boundaries from the Laga skifte that we can see around today’s countryside.

Land Redistribution Maps

Land redistribution maps (land surveying maps) were drawn up in connection with the land distribution of farmland in each village. The oldest hand-drawn maps were produced in only one copy each. The National Land Survey of Sweden (Lantmäteriet) later established regional offices and then the instruction was changed, so that the surveyor, from the basic or concept map he had drawn up, was obliged to make a fair copy - a so-called renovation. The fair copy of the drawing was to be delivered to the central office in Stockholm for review. Most survey files/maps were produced in triplicate. The first copy was kept at the regional agency under the term “concept”. The second copy remained with the owner/village council (Byalaget) and the third copy - the renovation - was sent to the central agency in Stockholm for review. The village depended on receiving the redistribution maps and documents. Each shareholder in the village also received extracts of the map and partition description relating to his lot. There are many documents left in village council coffers, farm archives, and old chiffoniers! Map scales were usually 1:4 000 (100 m, in reality, corresponds to 25 mm on the map) for the infield areas (arable and meadow land) and 1:8 000 for the outlying areas (forest land). The land redistribution maps may look different, as no fixed templates were used until after 1850. The land maps are based on the village as the principle of division. The map is accompanied by a description explaining the numbers and lettering on it. Lower-case letters are used to mark the old farm fields, capital letters for the new ones. The boundaries are drawn in black and red. Note that the maps provide both a snapshot and an indication of a desired future state. Red lines usually indicate the boundaries that the redistribution is intended to establish. Also, some roads and common areas are intended to be constructed after the redistribution of the land is completed. Please note that changes due to appeals may occur! The land redistribution documents contain minutes, listing the names and residences of those present, and annexes, including appeals, and a description of the redistribution. It shows how the land was distributed before the division, the grading of the farmland, and the description of the division of the various letters (capital letters) of the new parcels. The various colors on the maps represent different types of land (soil). Fields tend to be yellow, pastures light green, meadows dark green and, water blue. There are some variations on this and therefore you should check with what the description says. There you can make sure which colors represent which types of land. The numbers on the map: the farmlands on the map are subdivided into smaller parts depending, among other things, on soil conditions such as moisture, fertility, etc. Each such area has a number and that number refers to the charts that appear in the description of the map. The Land Survey Agency (Lantmäteriet) has an extensive archive of maps drawn up during the various land reforms carried out in Sweden from the mid-18th century to the early 20th century. The maps and their accompanying texts are decision-making documents that are still partly relevant today.
Exemples of land redistribution maps. images: Lantmäteriet. See also Land redistribution map from 1833 for the Laga skifte in Kumla village, Toresund parish (D)

Related Links

Terminology - Land reforms Land Redistribution Maps, Laga Skifte, Kumla village, 1833, Toresund Parish Agricultural Yields and Years of Famine The Old Agricultural Society and its People Landownership - Farmers & Crofters Crofts and Crofters Summer Pasture The "Statar" system (keeping farm laborers receiving allowance in kind) The Conception of the Socknen (parish)

Source References

Skiftesreformer i Sverige; Stor-, en- och laga skifte, Örjan Jonsson JK92/96. De stora förändringarna, 23 Enskiftet och laga skiftet. Skiftenas skede, laga skiftets handlingar som källmaterial för byggnadshistoriska studier med exempel från Småland 1828–1927. Ander Franzén, 2008. Tegskiftet s. 112-114 i Gadd, Carl-Johan (2000). Det svenska jordbrukets historia. Kapitel 8, Band 3, Den agrara revolutionen : 1700-1870. Stockholm: Natur och kultur/LT i samarbete med Nordiska museet och Stift. Stiftelsen Lagersberg. Bilden av skiftet måste nyanseras, artikel i tidningen Populär Historia i september 2003 av Fredrik Bergman, Larserik Tobiasson. Skiftena förändrade Sverige, artikel i tidningen Släkthistoria i mars 2017 av Therese Safstrom. Lantmäteriet (The National Land Survey of Sweden) Wikipedia Nationalencyklopedin (Swedish National Encyclopedia) SAOB (Svenska Akademins Ordbok - The Swedish Academy Dictionary) Top of Page

Terminolgy

For better understanding of this page about the Swedish land reforms, see also Terminology - Land reforms