History Hans Högman
Copyright © Hans Högman 2021-09-22

The Conception of Socken and Sockenstämma in Sweden

Introduction

Socken” is usually translated into “parish” in English and “sockenstämman” into “parish council”. However, it is more complicated than this since the “socken” had dual purposes; Rural church parish Rural civil local government. The local parliament in a “socken” (parish) was called “sockenstämma” (parish council) and “sockenstämmomöte” then parish council meeting. Sockenman” is an older term for a person who has the right to vote at the “sockenstämma”. The “sockenstuga” (parish hall) was the building where the parish council held its meetings, or for other types of meetings. The sockenstämma (parish council) was the highest decision-making body in each socken (parish) until the 1862 municipal ordinances when the socken was divided into an ecclesiastical (Församling) and a civil municipality (Kommun).

The Establishment and Development of the Socken (Parish)

The ecclesiastical leadership in Sweden became more and more active at the end of the 11th century and during the 12th century, which resulted in the introduction of dioceses. In 1164, Sweden became its own church province with an archbishop in Uppsala, and only then did a real parish formation (socken) take place, largely linked to the building of parish churches with cemeteries common to several villages, and to the introduction of the tithe institution, which by the end of the 13th century was fully regulated in Sweden. The formation of parishes took place in different ways in different provinces. In Sweden, the parish (socken) and its inhabitants were given a kind of autonomy that was unknown in canon law. In the ecclesiastical codes of the provinces, the priest and the parishioners are two parties with reciprocal rights and obligations. In the Middle Ages, the Church Code was the text of the law that contained the law of the church, i.e. the public law regulation of the relationship between the state, provinces, parishes, and individuals on the one hand and the church on the other. The Swedish provincial laws began with a church charter that regulated the parishes' obligation to build and maintain churches, their right to appoint priests, and parish clerks and their obligation to maintain them and pay for their services, which they were obliged to perform. In time, the Uppland province Law's church charter became the most widely used. Some common rules were introduced in the 1571 Church Ordinance, but otherwise, the Uppland Law Church Code applied until the 1686 Church Act. Already in the Middle Ages, the parish (socken) had functions that were not directly related to the church, with the parishioners themselves judging certain cases. This resulted in the development of formal parish assemblies (sockenstämma). The church parish is thus the origin of civil local government in Sweden, which is now exercised within the framework of the municipalities (kommun). Since 1682, all Swedish parishes have in turn been administratively divided into “rotar” (districts). The peasants in a rote were jointly responsible for various tasks, such as military rote (soldatrote, båtsmansrote, or ryttarrote), care of the poor (fattigrote), annual household examinations (husförsrote), and so on. During the 17th century, there was a tendency for the parishioners, indirectly through church councils or directly through parish assemblies, to participate more and more in the governance of the churches. During the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries the parish assemblies (sockenstämma) developed into important local administrative bodies. They decided above all on the church's finances and buildings and the order of the church. Through the exercise of parish authority and discipline and decisions on poor relief and health care, the parish council took on a more comprehensive responsibility for the organization of local society. The parish council consisted of the parish minister and his congregation, with the wealthy peasants as the leading members. This parish council autonomy then formed the basis for the rural municipalities (landskommun) that were established in 1862.

The Socknen

The parish thus had two functions integrated into a single body, as a church parish (rural parish) and as a civil parish (parish municipality), which was the local government. The parish (socken) was an administrative area consisting of several adjacent villages and towns. The “socken” had a parish church, was governed by the parish council, and was a precursor to today's municipalities. The term “socken” has also been used as a unit for land registration (jordeboksocken, later jordregistersocken). The image shows the parish church in Härkeberga, Enköping pastorat, Uppsala diocese. Wikipedia. PDM. The church is a medieval parish church built in grey stone and brick. The nave, chancel, and sacristy were built between 1280 and 1310, while the nave was added in 1475-1480. The organ loft was built in 1773 and the organ itself was added in 1811. The bell tower dates from the second half of the 17th century. In southern and central Sweden, the parish division was introduced early and has not undergone any fundamental changes since the Reformation. In the forest regions, chapels were established in various places, which could eventually be separated into their own parishes and regarded as socken. This happened to a particularly large extent in Norrland, the northern half of Sweden. At most, there have been more than 3.000 parishes in Sweden. From 1682, the parishes (socken) were administratively divided into “rotar” (districts). The parishes were governed by the parish council (sockenstämman), as an administrative unit.

Sockenstämman (Parish Council)

The parish council (sockenstämman) was the highest decision-making body in each parish until the 1862 municipal ordinances when the socken was divided into an ecclesiastical and a civil municipality. A separate church council was already established in 1817, and the municipal reform of 1862 meant in practice only that the parish council (sockenstämma) changed its name to kommunalstämma (municipal assembly). The image shows a municipal meeting (kommunalstämma) in Bodum parish, Ångermanland between 1900 and 1910. Nordic Museum. Wikipedia. PDM. The parish council (sockenstämman) as an institution probably emerged at the same time as the first parishes. The early parish councils took decisions on the maintenance of the church and the management of its assets. As far as is known, the parish council was not involved in the administration of justice during Catholic times or in the decades following the Reformation. At the Uppsala meeting in 1593, demands were made for tighter religious control and moral renewal. This was the starting point for parish law, which was then developed during the 17th century, including the introduction of “sexmän” (sexmen). A parliamentary decree established that the population should be involved in judging sinners. However, the legal basis for the parish councils' activities remained vague for a long time. The 1650 priestly privileges stated that the clergy should bring to justice those who had broken God's commandments in various ways. However, the relationship with the secular justice system was not mentioned. The local police chief (Länsman) and his deputy (Fjärdingsman) became responsible for carrying out the punishments. King Karl XI transferred much of the parish jurisdiction to secular courts. Following a resolution in 1684, cases of guardianship, wills, disputes over pews and burial places, noise, controversies, and fights in the church, and oaths and Sabbath-breaking were placed entirely under secular jurisdiction. The Church Act of 1686 further limited the jurisdiction of the Church. The 1723 priestly privileges stated that a parish meeting (sockenstämma) should be held twice a year, at the call of the parish minister, who also acted as chairman and took the minutes. Two meetings a year was a minimum requirement, more meetings could be held as needed. According to the same privileges, all "parishioners" (sockenmän) had to participate. Sockenman (Sockenmän in plural) - parishioner - is an older term for a person who has the right to vote at the parish meeting. In the old days, it was the wealthy peasants who had the right to vote at the parish meeting, i.e. those who paid the annual tax on their yields. In the 19th century, the rules were changed and the tax paid became the basis for determining who was a full “sockenman”. The concept disappeared with the introduction of the 1862 municipal ordinances. Before 1817, there was no law regulating the activities of the parish council. Earlier constitutional regulation of the work of the parish council was section 23 of the 1723 priestly privileges (1723 års prästprivilegier). It states that the priest shall hold two annual parish meetings and that "all parishioners" are obliged to attend. Nothing more than the fact that the meeting consisted of the chairman (the parish minister) and the parishioners were stipulated, but there were no directions on how the decisions were to be made, enforced, or appealed. Nor does the 1734 law give any indication of this. The 1817 decree regulated this field. This decree concerning parish meetings and church councils in practice only confirmed older practice and did not really change anything. However, one innovation was that a church council was to be elected in each parish; the parish minister and churchwardens were self-appointed to the church council, and in addition, four to eight members were also to be elected. Parish jurisdiction was transferred entirely to the church council. The 1843 ordinances on parish meetings (sockenstämma) and parish committees (sockennämnd), on the other hand, represented a major change. Although there was nothing new about the form of the parish council, a parish committee was introduced, to be elected by the parish council. It was to consist of an elected chairman (not necessarily the parish minister) and a 'suitable' number of members elected for two years. The parish committee was not given many directly defined responsibilities; it was to deal with health care and order and morality, but otherwise to deal with matters transferred to it by the parish council (sockenstämma). This meant that the executive organization of the parish council may now be considered divided; the parish committee for the civil matters and the church council for the ecclesiastical ones.

What kind of matters were dealt with at the Parish Council Meetings?

What issues would be the responsibility of the local self-government and how would these issues be dealt with? The 1723 Priestly Privileges set out the responsibilities of the parish council in a very general way as "the affairs of the church" and matters concerning the "requirements and orders of the parish". However, it is specifically mentioned that the council is to examine the church's accounts. In the 1817 Ordinance, paragraph 6 states in general terms that the council shall deal with 'the care of the church and the financial and general affairs of the parish, followed by examples of various matters concerning the church and its personnel, such as the election of trustees and representatives, 'educational institutions', parish finances, care of the poor, parish craftsmen, fire protection, wild game bounties, parish storehouse matters, health care and general supervision of order and morality. The affairs of the church have been at the center of the parish council since the priestly privileges of 1723, especially the management of the church building itself and its furnishings, the parsonage and other parish buildings, as well as the funds and property belonging to the church as a legal entity. The election of the parish minister was carried out at the parish meeting, as was the election of other officials such as the parish clerk and organist (Klockare). The care of the poor has been of great importance to the parish and, from 1842, the school as well. The 1842 Act (Folkskolestadgan) made an elementary school compulsory in every parish and introduced a new body, the school council. The parish minister was the obvious chairman of the school council too. About a third of the meetings of the parish council dealt with questions of repairs or rebuilding of the church and parsonage. Other matters included the election of parish scribes, sexmen, churchwardens, vergers, parish clerks (klockare), organists, and parish tailors. Questions concerning the parish administration were also common. Other issues dealt with were matters concerning the parish's finances and questions concerning the poor, the parish storehouse, education, and the like. The parish council as an institution changed during the 18th century and matters concerning the parish storehouse, fire protection and the poor became more common, while the parish administration of justice decreased in importance. This development continued in the 19th century when the care of the poor and other social issues became an increasingly important part of the parish council's activities. As mentioned above, public education became a parish matter in 1842. The parish council thus often had to deal with matters involving the election of persons to various positions of trust in the parish, such as sexmen, committee members, possible monitors, and the like. Becoming a sexman was not always popular with its duties such as collecting parish funds, supervising the poor, reporting morality issues, etc. There are many examples of the election of trustees where people did not want to take them on and wanted to get rid of them as quickly as possible. There were also elections that the parish council was required by law to conduct. These included the election of lay assessors (nämndemän) to the district court (Häradsrätten), members of the property court (ägodelningsrätten), etc. From 1830, the meeting also had to appoint a parish deputy police constable (fjärdingsman), who was not really a trustee but an official at the parish level. Road maintenance within the hundred (härad - county district), bridge maintenance, and stage service were other typical issues. These matters also required negotiations between the Crown Bailiff and parish representatives from a larger area. The meeting also appointed the officers in charge of the parish fire pump, known as "Officianterne vid Socknens Brandredskap". Fire protection was becoming increasingly important for the parish. The meeting dealt with issues of fire protection in the parish, such as the acquisition of fire pumps and other equipment, both for the church and for common use, and appointed fire brigade chief (brandrotemästare). The meeting also elected members of local and regional fire brigade societies.

Sockenstugan - The Parish Hall

The parish hall (sockenstugan) was the building where the parish council held its meetings, or for other types of meetings, such as the church council. Parish halls were built in Sweden from the 17th century onwards, but even at the end of the 19th century, many parishes lacked their own parish hall. The residents of the parish, except for the clergy, had an obligation to contribute to the costs of maintaining the parish hall. The parish hall was usually located next to the church. The image shows the parish hall in Ulrika parish, Linköping municipality, Östergötland. Wikipedia. PDM.

Voting at the Parish Meetings

Usually, the parish council took decisions by consensus and any votes were taken by the set mantal (taxation unit of land). A farm unit of a greater mantal produced a greater yield than a farm with a smaller mantal. In the "parish meeting ideology", the ideal was that the wise and impartial administrators of the parish, i.e. pastor, churchwardens, parish council, etc., put forward proposals, which were then discussed to arrive at the "right" final solution. Everyone then unanimously agreed to the solution discussed. The strong consensus ideal meant that disagreements were usually resolved by compromise, but if the unanimity was broken by some parishioner maintaining a dissenting opinion, things became more difficult. In such cases, the 1817 ordinance provided for voting by mantal with majority decision as a way out of the disagreement. Majority voting had also been used earlier for the election of elected officials and trustees. But then there was no problem of a financial burden being placed on the dissenters against their will. The financial burden of maintaining the parish clerk (klockaren), for example, was already there, it was only the incumbent who had to be appointed. In other matters too, binding majority decisions became increasingly common during the 19th century; at different rates in different parishes.

How often were Parish Meetings Held?

The two parish meetings per year prescribed in the 1723 priestly privileges were almost always too few (as were the three statutory municipal meetings after 1862). There were many other statutory reasons for calling a meeting. The number of meetings per year increased during the first decades of the 19th century when the existing legislation placed more and more tasks on the parish council. The number of issues per meeting was usually quite small according to the minutes. Matters were dealt with at the pace required rather than piling up in anticipation of a larger meeting. Two compulsory parish meetings per year, in fall and spring, were provided for in the 1723 priestly privileges and legislated in 1817 and 1843. After 1862, three meetings were compulsory. The parish minister had to call a meeting 8 - 14 days in advance from the church pulpit. If necessary, the meeting could be held more often than the two obligatory ones and it could also be held at the request of the congregation. The parish minister kept the minutes of the meeting, but they had to be corrected and read out in the church.

The Conception of Socken, Sweden

Who had the right to attend and vote at the meeting?

The members of the parish council were the parish minister and the parishioners (sockenmän), and the minister was the obvious chairman of the parish council. In the 1723 priestly privileges, it is stated that "all parishioners" must participate in the meeting. However, it is not clear from this ordinance whether "parishioners" means all male persons in the parish or all homestead owners/farmers. This is only specified in the 1817 ordinance as owners of properties set in mantal, i.e. homestead owners (hemmansägare). Attendance at the meeting was rarely recorded in the minutes, and the minutes only exceptionally record who participated in the discussions. When attendance was recorded, it was usually overall. Only those who were considered "important" in the parish were recorded as present. In the minutes of a parish meeting held in Turinge parish in May 1816, attendance was recorded as being attended by Messrs Elgenstierna, Iggberg, and Besk and "a large group of the parish's peasants". The speeches of the members of rank have been referred to in detail, sometimes with the requirement that their speeches be included verbatim in the minutes. Those who normally attended the parish meetings were usually representatives of the parish landed estates (the owners or their trustees), the "better farmers" of the parish, often with titles such as churchwarden, lay assessor or circuit judge, and a group of other farmers, mainly freehold farmers. Crofters (a type of tenant farmer) could be required to contribute to various works and expenses without having any influence on the decisions. Participation in the meeting by non-landowning groups such as crofters, farmhands, and laborers was limited; even if they were able to attend the assembly, they had no means of taking action. In 1815, the law did not yet regulate who could participate in the meeting, how the meeting should make decisions, or to what extent these decisions were binding. However, various provisions required that a majority decision could be taken. The decree of 1817 formalized the previously scattered rules on voting rights at the parish meeting. According to the decree, persons in the parish who were owners of properties in set mantal, i.e. homestead owners, had the right to vote at the meeting. However, rural residents (tenant farmers) could vote if the landowner had given them the right to do so in writing. It was also stipulated that it was forbidden for others to "intrude" on the meeting, i.e. the meetings had to be closed. It is now clearly stated that decisions that are taken at the meeting also apply to those not present. From now, there were clear rules on this. Already in 1824, an important change came. In matters that did not concern dues to the parish, but "what for order and morality ... should be observed", the right to vote was also extended to persons who cultivated other people's land, without the need for a special power of attorney. In other words, it was now possible to vote according to principles other than the mantal in matters that did not concern municipal levies. The participants in the parish council were no longer such a clearly defined group. According to the 1817 decree, the meeting could make binding decisions even for those who were not present. The Ordinance contains a paragraph stating that "the absence of a member shall not hinder the progress of the meeting". A weakness of the 1817 Ordinance was that it did not contain a limit on the number of participants with voting rights required for decisions to be taken. To make matters worse, a single person entitled to vote could control and vote at the meeting if no other person entitled to vote was present. There was also no provision for this in the 1843 and 1862 legislation. Therefore, one sometimes finds meetings where the meeting postponed decisions due to poor attendance. The 1843 decree introduced new regulations concerning the right to vote and the counting of votes. As before, the right to vote extended to landowners or tenants who had received the owner's power of attorney. Those who did not own land but paid a certain minimum amount of state tax on their income and wealth were now also entitled to vote. Voting rights were calculated in such a way that 2 riksdaler 24 skilling in appropriation was equal to the possession of 1/16 mantal. As before, it was stipulated that the chairman of the meeting could expel non-voting members from the meeting if they behaved 'improperly'. In other words, non-landowners were given greater influence from 1843. The 1862 municipal ordinances introduced the so-called quadrangle. Still, ownership of land set in mantal was compared to an appropriation for income or wealth. What was new, however, was the introduction of a new counting unit for votes, the "fyrk". Furthermore, cultivating other people's land was now equated with landowners. However, the land as a basis for voting was abolished in 1863 when the counting of the mantal was abolished and only the appropriation was used; however, the appropriation for agricultural properties was to be counted twice, so the old proportion was retained. As regards participation in the meeting, the 19th century saw a change that broadened participation. From exclusive landowners in 1817 to also other taxpayers in 1843 and from 1862 also the rural inhabitants, who at that time were now called tenant farmers (arrendatorer). The parish council was thus the meeting place of the homestead owners and the landed gentry, not of the crofters, the farmhands, or the workers.

Where was the Power in the Parish Council?

With the parish ordinance of 1817, the power to vote was formally given to the owners of land in mantal. The grading of the parishioners' votes was in proportion to the mantal of the respective parishioner's homestead (based on the yield - larger yield, larger mantal). In May 1819, the parish of Spånga dealt with a matter concerning whether to rebuild the church tower or to build a separate bell tower. At the meeting, the mantal of the six homestead owners present was counted and it was decided that the church tower should be repaired. Five freeholders have voted with fractions of a mantal, but the sixth participant, a master gardener Lagerbom with power of attorney from Count Trolle Bonde at Hässelby Manor, decided the question with his 15 ½ mantal. The total mantal of the smaller farms was far away from Count Trolle's 15 ½ mantal. Large landowners thus had many votes, while small farms did not even get a full vote. Generally speaking, the landed gentry had a stronger position at the meeting than the freehold farmers, and the freehold farmers in turn had a stronger position than the tenant farmers, while the crofters had little to say about. The 1817 decree on voting by mantal should not be seen as a new invention. The 1817 regulation simply set down the previous practice.

Sockenman

Sockenman was the name of a person who had the right to vote at the parish meeting. In earlier times, it was not clearly expressed in law who was meant by sockenman, but of course, there was a practice even if it was not written down in law. It is likely that even before 1817, it was wealthy homesteaders - i.e. those who paid the annual tax- who had the right to vote at the parish council. In 1817, the regulations were changed and the mantal tax paid became the basis for determining who was a full sockenman (parishioner). The concept of sockenman disappeared with the introduction of the 1862 municipal ordinances.

Control of Migration to the Parish

The parish would also control migration to the parish. In order to protect the parish from having to provide for poor non- parishioners, it was decided in 1788 that no old or less able-bodied servants could be admitted to the parish without the approval of the parishioners at a parish meeting. The control of the population register was of great interest to the parishioners. This right to inspect and reject potential entrants ended with the 1847 Poor-Law Relief.

The 1842 Elementary School Charter (1842-års folkskolestadga)

According to the 1842 Elementary Schools Charter (Folkskolestadgan), there should be at least one school in each parish and town. This school was to be permanent and have a qualified teacher. The requirements were thus one school per parish and one teacher per school. There was no class division, but all age groups had to attend the same class. The school was to be run locally, i.e. by the parish. So in 1842, the education of the children became a parish matter. Until then, the parish council had made the care of the poor its most important task. The elementary school was received with moderate interest. The peasantry, for whom the school was primarily intended, was not convinced that it was needed. In wealthy homes and homesteads, homeschooling continued as before. When the public elementary school was established in 1842, there was no compulsory schooling for the children, but the elementary school merely imposed a duty on the parish to establish a school. Compulsory schooling for children was first introduced with the 1882 Folk School Act. When the socken was split into a civil municipality and a church parish in 1862, the school went with the church.

Municipal Reform of 1862 (Kommunreformen)

The structure of the parish council, laid down in the 1817 and 1843 ordinances, was largely retained during the Great Municipal Reform of 1862 (Kommunreformen): the parish council and the parish committee were renamed the municipal council (kommunalstämma ) and the municipal committe (kommunalnämnd). The number of elected trustees increases: both the council and the committee would now have elected chairmen and vice-chairmen. The committee became a more purely executive body; it would execute everything decided by the municipality (Kommun) as well as supervise the execution handled by others. The committee was given more tasks concerning the municipality's finances. The parish minister was no longer the mandatory chairman of the council. However, he was given his own municipal responsibility, the purely ecclesiastical parish (church parish - “kyrkoförsamling”). In other words, all ecclesiastical affairs were now separated from the civil municipality. In the ecclesiastical parish there would be a church council and a church committee with tasks similar to those of the civil municipal bodies. The municipal reform (kommunreformen) stated that the municipal executive board (kommunstyrelsen) would deal with "common order and economy affairs". The 1862 municipal reform came into force on 1 January 1863. Both the church parish and the civil parish - The Socken - were thus abolished as administrative units in the municipal reform of 1862, but the land register parish continued to be used. After the abolishment of the old double purposed socken in 1862, the church socken is now called “Församling” in Swedish and the civil socken “Kommun”. In other words, the socken were replaced in 1862 by two newly created administrative bodies for the same geographical unit: the civic rural municipality (Landskommun) and the ecclesiastical parish (församling). Their highest decision-making body was still the council, i.e. the municipal council (kommunalstämman) and the church council (kyrkostämman) respectively. However, since these municipalities usually covered the same territorial area as the old socken, the identity of the territories continued to exist. Thus, there were now three types of civil municipalities: cities, boroughs (Köpingar) and rural municipalities (Landskommuner), as well as an ecclesiastical one: the parishes (Församlingar). Furthermore, in 1862 a new form of regional municipality was created, the Landsting (The County Council). When the socken was split into a civil municipality and a church parish in 1862, the school went with the church. For a long time to come, the municipality (kommun) had no involvement in school matters. Subsequently, the division of municipalities has changed through extensive mergers in 1952 and 1971. In 1952, large municipalities (Storkommuner) were created by merging rural municipalities, and in many cases the link between the old socken and civil municipality (Kommun) was broken. At that time, the 2281 mainly socken-based rural municipalities disappeared as municipal units and were replaced by 816 "large municipalities" (storkommuner). On 1 January 1971, a uniform type of municipality was introduced, when all former rural municipalities (Landskommuner), towns/cities and boroughs were transformed into municipalities only (Kommuner). Since most municipalities included both rural and urban areas and all had the same legal status, there was no need to retain different names, they were all called “Kommun”.

Comparison to the USA

The municipalities in Sweden cover the entire territory of the nation. Unlike the USA or Canada, there are no unincorporated areas. In 1971 the formal differences between city and rural areas were removed and all municipalities are from then a uniform type with no local statutes or privileges of any kind. The U.S. term consolidated city-county probably best describes the Swedish Kommun as of 1971. In United States local government, a consolidated city-county is a city and county that have been merged into one unified jurisdiction. As such it is simultaneously a city, which is a municipal corporation, and a county, which is an administrative division of a state. It has the powers and responsibilities of both types of entities. However, the consolidated city-county doesn’t exist in all of the US states.

Related Links

Socken - Terminology Poor Relief in the past History of the Swedish School System Apprentices, Journeymen, Master Craftsmen - Swedish Craft Guilds History of the Swedish Police The History and Organization of Church of Sweden Landownership - Farmers & Crofters The Old Agricultural Society and its People The subdivisions of Sweden into Lands, Provinces and Counties The History of the Swedish Riksdag Swedish Land Reforms

Source References

Sockenstugans politiska kultur. Lokal självstyrelse på 1800-talets landsbygd. Harald Gustafsson, Stadshistoriska Institutet, Studier i stads- och kommunalhistoria 6, 1989 Herraväldet i helgedomen: Uppsala domkyrkas förvaltning cirka 1530–1860, Upplandsmuseets skriftserie Nr 5, Örjan Simonson/Upplandsmuseet, 2008 Kommunernas historia (sockenstämman) Nordisk familjebok / 1800-talsutgåvan. 8. Kaffrer - Kristdala / 1115-1118 Kommunernas historia (sid 672-676) i Nordisk familjebok (andra upplagan, 1911) Sockenkyrkorna - Kulturarv och bebyggelsehistoria, Markus Dahlberg & Kristina Franzén, Riksantikvarieämbetet 2008 Sockenbildningen i Sverige, doktorsavhandling, Stefan Brink 1990 Wikipedia Top of Page
xxxxx Swegen xxxxxxxxxxx

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
History Hans Högman
Copyright © Hans Högman 2021-09-22

The Conception of Socken and

Sockenstämma in Sweden

Introduction

Socken” is usually translated into “parish” in English and “sockenstämman” into “parish council”. However, it is more complicated than this since the “socken” had dual purposes; Rural church parish Rural civil local government. The local parliament in a “socken” (parish) was called sockenstämma” (parish council) and sockenstämmomöte” then parish council meeting. Sockenman” is an older term for a person who has the right to vote at the “sockenstämma”. The sockenstuga” (parish hall) was the building where the parish council held its meetings, or for other types of meetings. The sockenstämma (parish council) was the highest decision-making body in each socken (parish) until the 1862 municipal ordinances when the socken was divided into an ecclesiastical (Församling) and a civil municipality (Kommun).

The Establishment and Development of the

Socken (Parish)

The ecclesiastical leadership in Sweden became more and more active at the end of the 11th century and during the 12th century, which resulted in the introduction of dioceses. In 1164, Sweden became its own church province with an archbishop in Uppsala, and only then did a real parish formation (socken) take place, largely linked to the building of parish churches with cemeteries common to several villages, and to the introduction of the tithe institution, which by the end of the 13th century was fully regulated in Sweden. The formation of parishes took place in different ways in different provinces. In Sweden, the parish (socken) and its inhabitants were given a kind of autonomy that was unknown in canon law. In the ecclesiastical codes of the provinces, the priest and the parishioners are two parties with reciprocal rights and obligations. In the Middle Ages, the Church Code was the text of the law that contained the law of the church, i.e. the public law regulation of the relationship between the state, provinces, parishes, and individuals on the one hand and the church on the other. The Swedish provincial laws began with a church charter that regulated the parishes' obligation to build and maintain churches, their right to appoint priests, and parish clerks and their obligation to maintain them and pay for their services, which they were obliged to perform. In time, the Uppland province Law's church charter became the most widely used. Some common rules were introduced in the 1571 Church Ordinance, but otherwise, the Uppland Law Church Code applied until the 1686 Church Act. Already in the Middle Ages, the parish (socken) had functions that were not directly related to the church, with the parishioners themselves judging certain cases. This resulted in the development of formal parish assemblies (sockenstämma). The church parish is thus the origin of civil local government in Sweden, which is now exercised within the framework of the municipalities (kommun). Since 1682, all Swedish parishes have in turn been administratively divided into “rotar” (districts). The peasants in a rote were jointly responsible for various tasks, such as military rote (soldatrote, båtsmansrote, or ryttarrote), care of the poor (fattigrote), annual household examinations (husförsrote), and so on. During the 17th century, there was a tendency for the parishioners, indirectly through church councils or directly through parish assemblies, to participate more and more in the governance of the churches. During the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries the parish assemblies (sockenstämma) developed into important local administrative bodies. They decided above all on the church's finances and buildings and the order of the church. Through the exercise of parish authority and discipline and decisions on poor relief and health care, the parish council took on a more comprehensive responsibility for the organization of local society. The parish council consisted of the parish minister and his congregation, with the wealthy peasants as the leading members. This parish council autonomy then formed the basis for the rural municipalities (landskommun) that were established in 1862.

The Socknen

The parish thus had two functions integrated into a single body, as a church parish (rural parish) and as a civil parish (parish municipality), which was the local government. The parish (socken) was an administrative area consisting of several adjacent villages and towns. The “socken” had a parish church, was governed by the parish council, and was a precursor to today's municipalities. The term “socken” has also been used as a unit for land registration (jordeboksocken, later jordregistersocken). The image shows the parish church in Härkeberga, Enköping pastorat, Uppsala diocese. Wikipedia. PDM. The church is a medieval parish church built in grey stone and brick. The nave, chancel, and sacristy were built between 1280 and 1310, while the nave was added in 1475-1480. The organ loft was built in 1773 and the organ itself was added in 1811. The bell tower dates from the second half of the 17th century. In southern and central Sweden, the parish division was introduced early and has not undergone any fundamental changes since the Reformation. In the forest regions, chapels were established in various places, which could eventually be separated into their own parishes and regarded as socken. This happened to a particularly large extent in Norrland, the northern half of Sweden. At most, there have been more than 3.000 parishes in Sweden. From 1682, the parishes (socken) were administratively divided into “rotar” (districts). The parishes were governed by the parish council (sockenstämman), as an administrative unit.

Sockenstämman (Parish Council)

The parish council (sockenstämman) was the highest decision-making body in each parish until the 1862 municipal ordinances when the socken was divided into an ecclesiastical and a civil municipality. A separate church council was already established in 1817, and the municipal reform of 1862 meant in practice only that the parish council (sockenstämma) changed its name to kommunalstämma (municipal assembly). The image shows a municipal meeting (kommunalstämma) in Bodum parish, Ångermanland between 1900 and 1910. Nordic Museum. Wikipedia. PDM. The parish council (sockenstämman) as an institution probably emerged at the same time as the first parishes. The early parish councils took decisions on the maintenance of the church and the management of its assets. As far as is known, the parish council was not involved in the administration of justice during Catholic times or in the decades following the Reformation. At the Uppsala meeting in 1593, demands were made for tighter religious control and moral renewal. This was the starting point for parish law, which was then developed during the 17th century, including the introduction of “sexmän” (sexmen). A parliamentary decree established that the population should be involved in judging sinners. However, the legal basis for the parish councils' activities remained vague for a long time. The 1650 priestly privileges stated that the clergy should bring to justice those who had broken God's commandments in various ways. However, the relationship with the secular justice system was not mentioned. The local police chief (Länsman) and his deputy (Fjärdingsman) became responsible for carrying out the punishments. King Karl XI transferred much of the parish jurisdiction to secular courts. Following a resolution in 1684, cases of guardianship, wills, disputes over pews and burial places, noise, controversies, and fights in the church, and oaths and Sabbath- breaking were placed entirely under secular jurisdiction. The Church Act of 1686 further limited the jurisdiction of the Church. The 1723 priestly privileges stated that a parish meeting (sockenstämma) should be held twice a year, at the call of the parish minister, who also acted as chairman and took the minutes. Two meetings a year was a minimum requirement, more meetings could be held as needed. According to the same privileges, all "parishioners" (sockenmän) had to participate. Sockenman (Sockenmän in plural) - parishioner - is an older term for a person who has the right to vote at the parish meeting. In the old days, it was the wealthy peasants who had the right to vote at the parish meeting, i.e. those who paid the annual tax on their yields. In the 19th century, the rules were changed and the tax paid became the basis for determining who was a full “sockenman”. The concept disappeared with the introduction of the 1862 municipal ordinances. Before 1817, there was no law regulating the activities of the parish council. Earlier constitutional regulation of the work of the parish council was section 23 of the 1723 priestly privileges (1723 års prästprivilegier). It states that the priest shall hold two annual parish meetings and that "all parishioners" are obliged to attend. Nothing more than the fact that the meeting consisted of the chairman (the parish minister) and the parishioners were stipulated, but there were no directions on how the decisions were to be made, enforced, or appealed. Nor does the 1734 law give any indication of this. The 1817 decree regulated this field. This decree concerning parish meetings and church councils in practice only confirmed older practice and did not really change anything. However, one innovation was that a church council was to be elected in each parish; the parish minister and churchwardens were self-appointed to the church council, and in addition, four to eight members were also to be elected. Parish jurisdiction was transferred entirely to the church council. The 1843 ordinances on parish meetings (sockenstämma) and parish committees (sockennämnd), on the other hand, represented a major change. Although there was nothing new about the form of the parish council, a parish committee was introduced, to be elected by the parish council. It was to consist of an elected chairman (not necessarily the parish minister) and a 'suitable' number of members elected for two years. The parish committee was not given many directly defined responsibilities; it was to deal with health care and order and morality, but otherwise to deal with matters transferred to it by the parish council (sockenstämma). This meant that the executive organization of the parish council may now be considered divided; the parish committee for the civil matters and the church council for the ecclesiastical ones.

What kind of matters were dealt with at the

Parish Council Meetings?

What issues would be the responsibility of the local self-government and how would these issues be dealt with? The 1723 Priestly Privileges set out the responsibilities of the parish council in a very general way as "the affairs of the church" and matters concerning the "requirements and orders of the parish". However, it is specifically mentioned that the council is to examine the church's accounts. In the 1817 Ordinance, paragraph 6 states in general terms that the council shall deal with 'the care of the church and the financial and general affairs of the parish, followed by examples of various matters concerning the church and its personnel, such as the election of trustees and representatives, 'educational institutions', parish finances, care of the poor, parish craftsmen, fire protection, wild game bounties, parish storehouse matters, health care and general supervision of order and morality. The affairs of the church have been at the center of the parish council since the priestly privileges of 1723, especially the management of the church building itself and its furnishings, the parsonage and other parish buildings, as well as the funds and property belonging to the church as a legal entity. The election of the parish minister was carried out at the parish meeting, as was the election of other officials such as the parish clerk and organist (Klockare). The care of the poor has been of great importance to the parish and, from 1842, the school as well. The 1842 Act (Folkskolestadgan) made an elementary school compulsory in every parish and introduced a new body, the school council. The parish minister was the obvious chairman of the school council too. About a third of the meetings of the parish council dealt with questions of repairs or rebuilding of the church and parsonage. Other matters included the election of parish scribes, sexmen, churchwardens, vergers, parish clerks (klockare), organists, and parish tailors. Questions concerning the parish administration were also common. Other issues dealt with were matters concerning the parish's finances and questions concerning the poor, the parish storehouse, education, and the like. The parish council as an institution changed during the 18th century and matters concerning the parish storehouse, fire protection and the poor became more common, while the parish administration of justice decreased in importance. This development continued in the 19th century when the care of the poor and other social issues became an increasingly important part of the parish council's activities. As mentioned above, public education became a parish matter in 1842. The parish council thus often had to deal with matters involving the election of persons to various positions of trust in the parish, such as sexmen, committee members, possible monitors, and the like. Becoming a sexman was not always popular with its duties such as collecting parish funds, supervising the poor, reporting morality issues, etc. There are many examples of the election of trustees where people did not want to take them on and wanted to get rid of them as quickly as possible. There were also elections that the parish council was required by law to conduct. These included the election of lay assessors (nämndemän) to the district court (Häradsrätten), members of the property court (ägodelningsrätten), etc. From 1830, the meeting also had to appoint a parish deputy police constable (fjärdingsman), who was not really a trustee but an official at the parish level. Road maintenance within the hundred (härad - county district), bridge maintenance, and stage service were other typical issues. These matters also required negotiations between the Crown Bailiff and parish representatives from a larger area. The meeting also appointed the officers in charge of the parish fire pump, known as "Officianterne vid Socknens Brandredskap". Fire protection was becoming increasingly important for the parish. The meeting dealt with issues of fire protection in the parish, such as the acquisition of fire pumps and other equipment, both for the church and for common use, and appointed fire brigade chief (brandrotemästare). The meeting also elected members of local and regional fire brigade societies.

Sockenstugan - The Parish Hall

The parish hall (sockenstugan) was the building where the parish council held its meetings, or for other types of meetings, such as the church council. Parish halls were built in Sweden from the 17th century onwards, but even at the end of the 19th century, many parishes lacked their own parish hall. The residents of the parish, except for the clergy, had an obligation to contribute to the costs of maintaining the parish hall. The parish hall was usually located next to the church. The image shows the parish hall in Ulrika parish, Linköping municipality, Östergötland. Wikipedia. PDM.

Voting at the Parish Meetings

Usually, the parish council took decisions by consensus and any votes were taken by the set mantal (taxation unit of land). A farm unit of a greater mantal produced a greater yield than a farm with a smaller mantal. In the "parish meeting ideology", the ideal was that the wise and impartial administrators of the parish, i.e. pastor, churchwardens, parish council, etc., put forward proposals, which were then discussed to arrive at the "right" final solution. Everyone then unanimously agreed to the solution discussed. The strong consensus ideal meant that disagreements were usually resolved by compromise, but if the unanimity was broken by some parishioner maintaining a dissenting opinion, things became more difficult. In such cases, the 1817 ordinance provided for voting by mantal with majority decision as a way out of the disagreement. Majority voting had also been used earlier for the election of elected officials and trustees. But then there was no problem of a financial burden being placed on the dissenters against their will. The financial burden of maintaining the parish clerk (klockaren), for example, was already there, it was only the incumbent who had to be appointed. In other matters too, binding majority decisions became increasingly common during the 19th century; at different rates in different parishes.

How often were Parish Meetings Held?

The two parish meetings per year prescribed in the 1723 priestly privileges were almost always too few (as were the three statutory municipal meetings after 1862). There were many other statutory reasons for calling a meeting. The number of meetings per year increased during the first decades of the 19th century when the existing legislation placed more and more tasks on the parish council. The number of issues per meeting was usually quite small according to the minutes. Matters were dealt with at the pace required rather than piling up in anticipation of a larger meeting. Two compulsory parish meetings per year, in fall and spring, were provided for in the 1723 priestly privileges and legislated in 1817 and 1843. After 1862, three meetings were compulsory. The parish minister had to call a meeting 8 - 14 days in advance from the church pulpit. If necessary, the meeting could be held more often than the two obligatory ones and it could also be held at the request of the congregation. The parish minister kept the minutes of the meeting, but they had to be corrected and read out in the church.

The Conception of Socknen,

Sweden

Who had the right to attend and vote at the

meeting?

The members of the parish council were the parish minister and the parishioners (sockenmän), and the minister was the obvious chairman of the parish council. In the 1723 priestly privileges, it is stated that "all parishioners" must participate in the meeting. However, it is not clear from this ordinance whether "parishioners" means all male persons in the parish or all homestead owners/farmers. This is only specified in the 1817 ordinance as owners of properties set in mantal, i.e. homestead owners (hemmansägare). Attendance at the meeting was rarely recorded in the minutes, and the minutes only exceptionally record who participated in the discussions. When attendance was recorded, it was usually overall. Only those who were considered "important" in the parish were recorded as present. In the minutes of a parish meeting held in Turinge parish in May 1816, attendance was recorded as being attended by Messrs Elgenstierna, Iggberg, and Besk and "a large group of the parish's peasants". The speeches of the members of rank have been referred to in detail, sometimes with the requirement that their speeches be included verbatim in the minutes. Those who normally attended the parish meetings were usually representatives of the parish landed estates (the owners or their trustees), the "better farmers" of the parish, often with titles such as churchwarden, lay assessor or circuit judge, and a group of other farmers, mainly freehold farmers. Crofters (a type of tenant farmer) could be required to contribute to various works and expenses without having any influence on the decisions. Participation in the meeting by non-landowning groups such as crofters, farmhands, and laborers was limited; even if they were able to attend the assembly, they had no means of taking action. In 1815, the law did not yet regulate who could participate in the meeting, how the meeting should make decisions, or to what extent these decisions were binding. However, various provisions required that a majority decision could be taken. The decree of 1817 formalized the previously scattered rules on voting rights at the parish meeting. According to the decree, persons in the parish who were owners of properties in set mantal, i.e. homestead owners, had the right to vote at the meeting. However, rural residents (tenant farmers) could vote if the landowner had given them the right to do so in writing. It was also stipulated that it was forbidden for others to "intrude" on the meeting, i.e. the meetings had to be closed. It is now clearly stated that decisions that are taken at the meeting also apply to those not present. From now, there were clear rules on this. Already in 1824, an important change came. In matters that did not concern dues to the parish, but "what for order and morality ... should be observed", the right to vote was also extended to persons who cultivated other people's land, without the need for a special power of attorney. In other words, it was now possible to vote according to principles other than the mantal in matters that did not concern municipal levies. The participants in the parish council were no longer such a clearly defined group. According to the 1817 decree, the meeting could make binding decisions even for those who were not present. The Ordinance contains a paragraph stating that "the absence of a member shall not hinder the progress of the meeting". A weakness of the 1817 Ordinance was that it did not contain a limit on the number of participants with voting rights required for decisions to be taken. To make matters worse, a single person entitled to vote could control and vote at the meeting if no other person entitled to vote was present. There was also no provision for this in the 1843 and 1862 legislation. Therefore, one sometimes finds meetings where the meeting postponed decisions due to poor attendance. The 1843 decree introduced new regulations concerning the right to vote and the counting of votes. As before, the right to vote extended to landowners or tenants who had received the owner's power of attorney. Those who did not own land but paid a certain minimum amount of state tax on their income and wealth were now also entitled to vote. Voting rights were calculated in such a way that 2 riksdaler 24 skilling in appropriation was equal to the possession of 1/16 mantal. As before, it was stipulated that the chairman of the meeting could expel non-voting members from the meeting if they behaved 'improperly'. In other words, non-landowners were given greater influence from 1843. The 1862 municipal ordinances introduced the so- called quadrangle. Still, ownership of land set in mantal was compared to an appropriation for income or wealth. What was new, however, was the introduction of a new counting unit for votes, the "fyrk". Furthermore, cultivating other people's land was now equated with landowners. However, the land as a basis for voting was abolished in 1863 when the counting of the mantal was abolished and only the appropriation was used; however, the appropriation for agricultural properties was to be counted twice, so the old proportion was retained. As regards participation in the meeting, the 19th century saw a change that broadened participation. From exclusive landowners in 1817 to also other taxpayers in 1843 and from 1862 also the rural inhabitants, who at that time were now called tenant farmers (arrendatorer). The parish council was thus the meeting place of the homestead owners and the landed gentry, not of the crofters, the farmhands, or the workers.

Where was the Power in the Parish Council?

With the parish ordinance of 1817, the power to vote was formally given to the owners of land in mantal. The grading of the parishioners' votes was in proportion to the mantal of the respective parishioner's homestead (based on the yield - larger yield, larger mantal). In May 1819, the parish of Spånga dealt with a matter concerning whether to rebuild the church tower or to build a separate bell tower. At the meeting, the mantal of the six homestead owners present was counted and it was decided that the church tower should be repaired. Five freeholders have voted with fractions of a mantal, but the sixth participant, a master gardener Lagerbom with power of attorney from Count Trolle Bonde at Hässelby Manor, decided the question with his 15 ½ mantal. The total mantal of the smaller farms was far away from Count Trolle's 15 ½ mantal. Large landowners thus had many votes, while small farms did not even get a full vote. Generally speaking, the landed gentry had a stronger position at the meeting than the freehold farmers, and the freehold farmers in turn had a stronger position than the tenant farmers, while the crofters had little to say about. The 1817 decree on voting by mantal should not be seen as a new invention. The 1817 regulation simply set down the previous practice.

Sockenman

Sockenman was the name of a person who had the right to vote at the parish meeting. In earlier times, it was not clearly expressed in law who was meant by sockenman, but of course, there was a practice even if it was not written down in law. It is likely that even before 1817, it was wealthy homesteaders - i.e. those who paid the annual tax- who had the right to vote at the parish council. In 1817, the regulations were changed and the mantal tax paid became the basis for determining who was a full sockenman (parishioner). The concept of sockenman disappeared with the introduction of the 1862 municipal ordinances.

Control of Migration to the Parish

The parish would also control migration to the parish. In order to protect the parish from having to provide for poor non-parishioners, it was decided in 1788 that no old or less able-bodied servants could be admitted to the parish without the approval of the parishioners at a parish meeting. The control of the population register was of great interest to the parishioners. This right to inspect and reject potential entrants ended with the 1847 Poor-Law Relief.

The 1842 Elementary School

Charter (1842-års folkskolestadga)

According to the 1842 Elementary Schools Charter (Folkskolestadgan), there should be at least one school in each parish and town. This school was to be permanent and have a qualified teacher. The requirements were thus one school per parish and one teacher per school. There was no class division, but all age groups had to attend the same class. The school was to be run locally, i.e. by the parish. So in 1842, the education of the children became a parish matter. Until then, the parish council had made the care of the poor its most important task. The elementary school was received with moderate interest. The peasantry, for whom the school was primarily intended, was not convinced that it was needed. In wealthy homes and homesteads, homeschooling continued as before. When the public elementary school was established in 1842, there was no compulsory schooling for the children, but the elementary school merely imposed a duty on the parish to establish a school. Compulsory schooling for children was first introduced with the 1882 Folk School Act. When the socken was split into a civil municipality and a church parish in 1862, the school went with the church.

Municipal Reform of 1862

(Kommunreformen)

The structure of the parish council, laid down in the 1817 and 1843 ordinances, was largely retained during the Great Municipal Reform of 1862 (Kommunreformen): the parish council and the parish committee were renamed the municipal council (kommunalstämma ) and the municipal committe (kommunalnämnd). The number of elected trustees increases: both the council and the committee would now have elected chairmen and vice-chairmen. The committee became a more purely executive body; it would execute everything decided by the municipality (Kommun) as well as supervise the execution handled by others. The committee was given more tasks concerning the municipality's finances. The parish minister was no longer the mandatory chairman of the council. However, he was given his own municipal responsibility, the purely ecclesiastical parish (church parish - kyrkoförsamling”). In other words, all ecclesiastical affairs were now separated from the civil municipality. In the ecclesiastical parish there would be a church council and a church committee with tasks similar to those of the civil municipal bodies. The municipal reform (kommunreformen) stated that the municipal executive board (kommunstyrelsen) would deal with "common order and economy affairs". The 1862 municipal reform came into force on 1 January 1863. Both the church parish and the civil parish - The Socken - were thus abolished as administrative units in the municipal reform of 1862, but the land register parish continued to be used. After the abolishment of the old double purposed socken in 1862, the church socken is now called Församling” in Swedish and the civil socken Kommun”. In other words, the socken were replaced in 1862 by two newly created administrative bodies for the same geographical unit: the civic rural municipality (Landskommun) and the ecclesiastical parish (församling). Their highest decision-making body was still the council, i.e. the municipal council (kommunalstämman) and the church council (kyrkostämman) respectively. However, since these municipalities usually covered the same territorial area as the old socken, the identity of the territories continued to exist. Thus, there were now three types of civil municipalities: cities, boroughs (Köpingar) and rural municipalities (Landskommuner), as well as an ecclesiastical one: the parishes (Församlingar). Furthermore, in 1862 a new form of regional municipality was created, the Landsting (The County Council). When the socken was split into a civil municipality and a church parish in 1862, the school went with the church. For a long time to come, the municipality (kommun) had no involvement in school matters. Subsequently, the division of municipalities has changed through extensive mergers in 1952 and 1971. In 1952, large municipalities (Storkommuner) were created by merging rural municipalities, and in many cases the link between the old socken and civil municipality (Kommun) was broken. At that time, the 2281 mainly socken-based rural municipalities disappeared as municipal units and were replaced by 816 "large municipalities" (storkommuner). On 1 January 1971, a uniform type of municipality was introduced, when all former rural municipalities (Landskommuner), towns/cities and boroughs were transformed into municipalities only (Kommuner). Since most municipalities included both rural and urban areas and all had the same legal status, there was no need to retain different names, they were all called “Kommun”.

Comparison to the USA

The municipalities in Sweden cover the entire territory of the nation. Unlike the USA or Canada, there are no unincorporated areas. In 1971 the formal differences between city and rural areas were removed and all municipalities are from then a uniform type with no local statutes or privileges of any kind. The U.S. term consolidated city-county probably best describes the Swedish Kommun as of 1971. In United States local government, a consolidated city-county is a city and county that have been merged into one unified jurisdiction. As such it is simultaneously a city, which is a municipal corporation, and a county, which is an administrative division of a state. It has the powers and responsibilities of both types of entities. However, the consolidated city-county doesn’t exist in all of the US states.

Related Links

Socken - Terminology Poor Relief in the past History of the Swedish School System Apprentices, Journeymen, Master Craftsmen - Swedish Craft Guilds History of the Swedish Police The History and Organization of Church of Sweden Landownership - Farmers & Crofters The Old Agricultural Society and its People The subdivisions of Sweden into Lands, Provinces and Counties The History of the Swedish Riksdag Swedish Land Reforms

Source References

Sockenstugans politiska kultur. Lokal självstyrelse på 1800-talets landsbygd. Harald Gustafsson, Stadshistoriska Institutet, Studier i stads- och kommunalhistoria 6, 1989 Herraväldet i helgedomen: Uppsala domkyrkas förvaltning cirka 1530–1860, Upplandsmuseets skriftserie Nr 5, Örjan Simonson/Upplandsmuseet, 2008 Kommunernas historia (sockenstämman) Nordisk familjebok / 1800-talsutgåvan. 8. Kaffrer - Kristdala / 1115-1118 Kommunernas historia (sid 672-676) i Nordisk familjebok (andra upplagan, 1911) Sockenkyrkorna - Kulturarv och bebyggelsehistoria, Markus Dahlberg & Kristina Franzén, Riksantikvarieämbetet 2008 Sockenbildningen i Sverige, doktorsavhandling, Stefan Brink 1990 Wikipedia Top of Page