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Under the influence of the Enlightenment, civil legislation was transformed throughout Western Europe in the first half of the 19th century. As part of this, property rights changed, and a more individualized ownership emerged. Since property rights in Sweden and Norway had been characterized by a strong bond between land and family, the legal changes were subject of much political debate in both countries. Debate focused on two legal devices, bördsrätt (in Sweden) and odelsrett (in Norway). Both these emphasized families’ rights to ancestral land holdings. However, the outcomes of the debates differed greatly. Bördsrätt was abolished in Sweden but odelsrett was retained in Norway. This article seeks to explain this divergence by exploring the debates and the differing opinions voiced from 1810 to 1860. The article argues that the divergence should be seen as the result of different peasant strategies. When the preservation of the traditional peasant was in focus in Norway, the Swedish peasantry stood out as more commercialized and, in a sense, more modern.
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