History Hans Högman
Copyright © Hans Högman 2019-05-21

Three Types of Landownership - Farmers, Sweden

Ownership of land is quite complex and not easy to explain and the meaning of ownership has changed over the centuries. Basically there were three types of lands; 1. Land owned by the nobility (frälsejord - Noble land) 2. Land owned by the Crown (kronojord - Crown land) 3. Land owned by the farmers (skattejord - Taxed land) Before King Gustav Vasa there was also land owned by the Church ("kyrkojord"). In 1527, the Church land were confiscated by the Crown and that land then became Crown land. Farmers on "frälsejord" paid their taxes to the nobility. Farmers on "kronojord" and "skattejord" paid their taxes to the Crown. The farmers on "kronojord" were called "kronobönder" (Crown farmers), farmers on "skattejord" were called "skattebönder" (Taxed freeholders) and farmers on "frälsejord" were called "frälsebönder" (farmers of the nobility). By the Crown we mean the state / the government. Skattebönder were freeholders and paid their tax to the Crown. They owned their own land. The Swedish term skattebönder literally means taxed freeholders. Kronobönder were tenant farmers on land owned by the Crown. Like the skattebönder they paid their tax to the Crown. The kronobönder tenancy were normally for 6 years at a time and the tenants annually paid for the tenancy. In the 1680 the kronobönder got inheritable right of possession to the land they used. This right could be revoked by the Crown though. The inheritable right of possession was strengthen in 1789. This right was called “åborätt” in Swedish. Another term for kronobonde (singular) was landbo/kronolandbo. Frälsebönder were tenant farmers on land owned by the nobility and they paid their tax directly to the noble landowners. The tenancy were most often paid with fixed number of daily labor on the landowners estate/land. The tenancy were normally running for 6 years at a time. The right of possession wasn’t as strong as the right the right the kronobönder had. Another term for frälsebonde (singular) was landbo/frälselandbo.

Skattebönder

The "skattebönder" (taxed freeholders) owned their own land (private land) but they could lose the right to that land if they did not farm it or did not pay the taxes etc. The land then became "kronojord". So the meaning of "own your own land" was different in those days. They could not use tenants to farm their land either. A farmer on "skatteland" could not sell his property to just any one. The offer had to go to a family member first if a farmer was to sell. If there was no one in the family that wanted to buy the property then he could dispose it to someone outside the family. This was a chance for the family to keep the property within the family and was protected by law. This law was abandoned in 1863.

Frälsejord

Only the nobility were able to own land and having someone else (tenants) to farm the land. Common people didn't have that right until the beginning of the 1800's. The farmers on "frälsejord" and "kronojord" owned the right to farm the land they lived on. They also had the right to pass on the land to next generation, in other words the tenancy was inheritable. Farmers or crofters/tenants ("torpare") on "frälsejord" owned the farmhouse but they paid tenancy for the land to the landowner in form of a certain amount of days worked per year. "Days worked" or daily labor meant that the tenant farmer had to do a certain number of a full days' work per year on the landowner's land or estate as a payment for the tenancy. Instead of paying cash for the tenancy they paid with manpower. The farmers on Crown land were also tenants. Later on, the tenants on Crown land were allowed to buy "their" land and then became "skattebönder". See also "Crofters" below. Only the nobility had the right to collect taxes from their land.

The Military Allotment System

Anyhow, all the "kronobönder" and all the "skattebönder" were a part of the Military Allotment System and they were all divided into "rotar". Each "rote" had to provide one soldier to the army . "Frälsebönder" that lived on "frälsejord" was exempted from the Allotment System because the nobility was exempted. So too were all the farmers’, hired hands etc that lived on "frälsejord" was exempted from the Allotment System. Other groups that were exempted was every "rusthållare" that held the horsemen in the cavalry, police officers, inn keepers, the personnel on the officers homesteads, post office employees, priests and their household and clerks that worked for the Crown as well as other Crown specified exemptions. The definition of land ownership has changed over the centuries. But basically it was the people that lived on "kronojord" and "skattejord" that provided the army with soldiers. The farmers owned quite a large part of the land in Sweden.

Torp and Torpare - Crofts and Crofters

In genealogy research of your Swedish roots you will sooner or later come across terms like "torp" (croft) and "torpare" (crofter). I guess most people know that has to do with small-scale farming, but doesn't know what it really means. To make it more difficult the meaning of the croft (torp) has changed through the centuries.

Nomenclature

The term crofter is an British English term for a tenant farmer who paid his tenancy with daily labor on the landowners estate. This British system with crofters existed only in Scotland. Since the Scottish system with crofters was similar to the Swedish system with torpare we generally translate torpare into crofter in English. The homestead of a crofter was called a croft. Torp is translated into croft in English.

Sweden

During the 16th century a croft was a small farm/cottage built on the village common. Tax wise a croft was an agricultural unit with a yield that wasn't large enough which means that they were exempted from taxation. During the 17th century and forward a croft was regarded a small farm exempted from taxation. Normally they were located on private land and the right of use and enjoyment of the croft was granted to another person, i.e. the landowner and the cultivator (farmer or in this case, the crofter) were two different persons. In other words, a croft was a tenancy. However the crofter didn't pay cash for the tenancy to the landowner. Instead he made a certain number of full days work (labor) for the landowner on his estate/land. A sort of payment in kind but paid with manpower. This was called "dagsverken" in Swedish. The system of crofts and crofters became a way for the larger estates to secure and maintain laborers. The crofts were built on the land of the estate. From the landowner's point of view it was a cheap way of paying the laborer. The crofters were reinforcements to the ordinary farmhands on the estates. As mentioned above the crofters were exempted from paying taxes. The crofter's special type of tenancy didn't exist in the USA. However, as mentioned above, in Scotland they had a similar system. In British English the term is crofter but this term is not used in American English. A close term in American English is renter farmer. Sometimes people liken the croft system in Sweden to sharecropping in the United States. It is not recommended that you not do that for a number of reasons. For further information see Sharecropping. The crofters' right of use and enjoyment of the croft and the plot of land belonging to it was inheritable. That is the children of a crofter had the right to continue with the tenancy. The largest amount of croft and crofters in Sweden was around 1860. At that time there were about 100,000 crofts in Sweden. At the end of the 19th century many crofts were replaced with ordinary tenancies, i.e. tenancies paid with cash instead of payment with manpower. Larger crofts then became tenant farms (leasehold properties). The system of crofts (torp) where the tenant paid his tenancy with manpower was abolished (actually forbidden) in 1943. So technically there are no crofts after 1943. However the term "torp" (croft) still exist today, but today we mean either a small-scale framer or just a cottage on the countryside. So, a crofter was somebody who rented a small farm with a plot of land and living in a house on it - a tenant farmer who paid his tenancy with manpower instead of cash. The tenancy was inheritable.

Source Reference

1. Swedish National Encyclopaedia, NE 2. Wikipedia Top of page

Landownership - Farmers & Crofters

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History Hans Högman
Copyright © Hans Högman 2019-05-21

Three Types of Landownership -

Farmers, Sweden

Ownership of land is quite complex and not easy to explain and the meaning of ownership has changed over the centuries. Basically there were three types of lands; 1. Land owned by the nobility (frälsejord - Noble land) 2. Land owned by the Crown (kronojord - Crown land) 3. Land owned by the farmers (skattejord - Taxed land) Before King Gustav Vasa there was also land owned by the Church ("kyrkojord"). In 1527, the Church land were confiscated by the Crown and that land then became Crown land. Farmers on "frälsejord" paid their taxes to the nobility. Farmers on "kronojord" and "skattejord" paid their taxes to the Crown. The farmers on "kronojord" were called "kronobönder" (Crown farmers), farmers on "skattejord" were called "skattebönder" (Taxed freeholders) and farmers on "frälsejord" were called "frälsebönder" (farmers of the nobility). By the Crown we mean the state / the government. Skattebönder were freeholders and paid their tax to the Crown. They owned their own land. The Swedish term skattebönder literally means taxed freeholders. Kronobönder were tenant farmers on land owned by the Crown. Like the skattebönder they paid their tax to the Crown. The kronobönder tenancy were normally for 6 years at a time and the tenants annually paid for the tenancy. In the 1680 the kronobönder got inheritable right of possession to the land they used. This right could be revoked by the Crown though. The inheritable right of possession was strengthen in 1789. This right was called “åborätt” in Swedish. Another term for kronobonde (singular) was landbo/kronolandbo. Frälsebönder were tenant farmers on land owned by the nobility and they paid their tax directly to the noble landowners. The tenancy were most often paid with fixed number of daily labor on the landowners estate/land. The tenancy were normally running for 6 years at a time. The right of possession wasn’t as strong as the right the right the kronobönder had. Another term for frälsebonde (singular) was landbo/frälselandbo.

Skattebönder

The "skattebönder" (taxed freeholders) owned their own land (private land) but they could lose the right to that land if they did not farm it or did not pay the taxes etc. The land then became "kronojord". So the meaning of "own your own land" was different in those days. They could not use tenants to farm their land either. A farmer on "skatteland" could not sell his property to just any one. The offer had to go to a family member first if a farmer was to sell. If there was no one in the family that wanted to buy the property then he could dispose it to someone outside the family. This was a chance for the family to keep the property within the family and was protected by law. This law was abandoned in 1863.

Frälsejord

Only the nobility were able to own land and having someone else (tenants) to farm the land. Common people didn't have that right until the beginning of the 1800's. The farmers on "frälsejord" and "kronojord" owned the right to farm the land they lived on. They also had the right to pass on the land to next generation, in other words the tenancy was inheritable. Farmers or crofters/tenants ("torpare") on "frälsejord" owned the farmhouse but they paid tenancy for the land to the landowner in form of a certain amount of days worked per year. "Days worked" or daily labor meant that the tenant farmer had to do a certain number of a full days' work per year on the landowner's land or estate as a payment for the tenancy. Instead of paying cash for the tenancy they paid with manpower. The farmers on Crown land were also tenants. Later on, the tenants on Crown land were allowed to buy "their" land and then became "skattebönder". See also "Crofters" below. Only the nobility had the right to collect taxes from their land.

The Military Allotment System

Anyhow, all the "kronobönder" and all the "skattebönder" were a part of the Military Allotment System and they were all divided into "rotar". Each "rote" had to provide one soldier to the army . "Frälsebönder" that lived on "frälsejord" was exempted from the Allotment System because the nobility was exempted. So too were all the farmers’, hired hands etc that lived on "frälsejord" was exempted from the Allotment System. Other groups that were exempted was every "rusthållare" that held the horsemen in the cavalry, police officers, inn keepers, the personnel on the officers homesteads, post office employees, priests and their household and clerks that worked for the Crown as well as other Crown specified exemptions. The definition of land ownership has changed over the centuries. But basically it was the people that lived on "kronojord" and "skattejord" that provided the army with soldiers. The farmers owned quite a large part of the land in Sweden.

Torp and Torpare - Crofts and

Crofters

In genealogy research of your Swedish roots you will sooner or later come across terms like "torp" (croft) and "torpare" (crofter). I guess most people know that has to do with small- scale farming, but doesn't know what it really means. To make it more difficult the meaning of the croft (torp) has changed through the centuries.

Nomenclature

The term crofter is an British English term for a tenant farmer who paid his tenancy with daily labor on the landowners estate. This British system with crofters existed only in Scotland. Since the Scottish system with crofters was similar to the Swedish system with torpare we generally translate torpare into crofter in English. The homestead of a crofter was called a croft. Torp is translated into croft in English.

Sweden

During the 16th century a croft was a small farm/cottage built on the village common. Tax wise a croft was an agricultural unit with a yield that wasn't large enough which means that they were exempted from taxation. During the 17th century and forward a croft was regarded a small farm exempted from taxation. Normally they were located on private land and the right of use and enjoyment of the croft was granted to another person, i.e. the landowner and the cultivator (farmer or in this case, the crofter) were two different persons. In other words, a croft was a tenancy. However the crofter didn't pay cash for the tenancy to the landowner. Instead he made a certain number of full days work (labor) for the landowner on his estate/land. A sort of payment in kind but paid with manpower. This was called "dagsverken" in Swedish. The system of crofts and crofters became a way for the larger estates to secure and maintain laborers. The crofts were built on the land of the estate. From the landowner's point of view it was a cheap way of paying the laborer. The crofters were reinforcements to the ordinary farmhands on the estates. As mentioned above the crofters were exempted from paying taxes. The crofter's special type of tenancy didn't exist in the USA. However, as mentioned above, in Scotland they had a similar system. In British English the term is crofter but this term is not used in American English. A close term in American English is renter farmer. Sometimes people liken the croft system in Sweden to sharecropping in the United States. It is not recommended that you not do that for a number of reasons. For further information see Sharecropping. The crofters' right of use and enjoyment of the croft and the plot of land belonging to it was inheritable. That is the children of a crofter had the right to continue with the tenancy. The largest amount of croft and crofters in Sweden was around 1860. At that time there were about 100,000 crofts in Sweden. At the end of the 19th century many crofts were replaced with ordinary tenancies, i.e. tenancies paid with cash instead of payment with manpower. Larger crofts then became tenant farms (leasehold properties). The system of crofts (torp) where the tenant paid his tenancy with manpower was abolished (actually forbidden) in 1943. So technically there are no crofts after 1943. However the term "torp" (croft) still exist today, but today we mean either a small-scale framer or just a cottage on the countryside. So, a crofter was somebody who rented a small farm with a plot of land and living in a house on it - a tenant farmer who paid his tenancy with manpower instead of cash. The tenancy was inheritable.

Source Reference

1. Swedish National Encyclopaedia, NE 2. Wikipedia Top of page

Landownership - Farmers

& Crofters