The landlord lag – productivity on peasant farms and landlord demesnes during the agricultural revolution in Sweden 1700–1860

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Abstract

In a longstanding debate among economic historians about the role of the peasants and the manors in the agrarian transformation, a variety of qualitative and quantitative indicators have been used, but no one has until now been able to compare the actual production outcomes. In this paper, we investigate the land productivity development for manorial demesnes and peasant farmers, respectively, over the course of the agricultural revolution. The sources used are unique in an international perspective and consists of tithes on individual farm level for 34 parishes in Scania, covering over 2500 peasant farms, which are compared with production data for 20 manorial demesnes.

The study generates vital information on the process of agricultural transformation and its leading actors. We assess the implications of the productivity development for the total production, and the spectacular growth in this under the agricultural revolution, by calculating production and surplus among the different types of cultivators. Our results show that the landlords gained a small advantage in the middle of the 1700s, but in the century to come, they lagged behind in terms of land productivity. A large peasantry cultivating the majority of the land did not constitute an obstacle to growth, but rather the reverse.

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Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Economic History

Keywords

  • Agriculture, Sweden, peasant farmers, landlords, productivity, N53 , N93, O43, Q15
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-71
Number of pages7
JournalScandinavian Economic History Review
Volume64
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes