Den rotfaste bonden - myt eller verklighet? Brukaransvar i Ramkvilla socken 1620-1820
Sammanfattning: For how many years was a farmer responsible for running a farm in Sweden’s old peasant society’? This is the question that underpins my research into life in Ramkvilla parish in the province of Småland for two hundred years (1623–1819). By conducting a detailed study of farm practice at the individual level, I have been able to analyse a complex theme that touches upon the issues of responsibility for work and taxes, relationships between the generations and sexes, and the crises of agrarian society. A peasant farmer in Ramkvilla was responsible for a farm for an average of twelve to thirteen years in both the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and on into the early nineteenth. This mean value is the first indication that the traditional idea that a peasant community consisted of farmers firmly established on their holdings has to be seriously questioned. Instead, we see a much more dynamic society, with such a rapid rotation in farm occupancy that many farmers were on a given farm for only five years or less, although, at the same time, there was also a relatively large group who were more established. It was a society where farms could be put together and broken up within a matter of a few years, but could also continue for several centuries. It is probable, however, that the farmers of a particular farm were related; all the farm transfers occurred in a society where most farms were transmitted through families. The reasons for the only brief periods of responsibility many experienced varied throughout the period studied. The endless wars, extreme levels of taxation, and Ramkvilla’s limited economic possibilities emerge as key factors in the explanation of both the numerous, short periods of farm responsibility, and the low overall average, during Sweden’s Age of Greatness. The increase in population is one important explanation - if not the most important - of why the average period of farm responsibility was so low in Ramkvilla during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and why many periods were so very short. At the same time, there were many farmers who spent more than twenty years on the same holding, even though this was actually less common during the eighteenth century than it had been during the seventeenth. The parish officials still made up the group of farmers firmly established on their farms. The best chances of finding a steady situation were enjoyed by those married farmers, who, together with their wives, ran medium or large farms during the more peaceful 1680s and 1690s. The significant factors for a farmer hoping for some sort of stability can be discerned more clearly for the eighteenth century: they were to own one’s own farm or to be crown tenant, and to be the sole heir to the parental farm. Married farmers still had the best chances of farming the same land for a longer period, although many of the farm transfers were between married farmers. Generally, the results of my research point to the fact that not even married farmers can be seen as a group with firm ties to one farm in particular.
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