Distribution and Differences Stratification and the System of Reproduction in a Swedish Peasant Community 1620-1820

University dissertation from Uppsala : Universitetsbiblioteket

Abstract: This dissertation examines the character, conditions and change of peasant stratification in early modern Sweden. Wherever and whenever one looks, one finds that resources were unevenly spread among peasant households. In the literature, there are different, and conflicting, views compatible with this finding. In order to explain its character, this study places peasant stratification into a broader system of resource reproduction. Resource holding, families, and individuals are studied over time.The study is based on an extended family reconstitution comprising the landholding peasants in the Mid-Swedish parish of Björskog between 1620 and 1820. Data has been compiled from cadastres, poll tax registers, parish registers, court records, and maps, and has then been related to the information on resource holding as given by tax lists and probate inventories.Six elements and three general principles are identified as fundamental to systems of resource reproduction among peasants. Starting from these, the book argues that the resource holding of a Swedish peasant household was relatively independent of family demography; that wealthy peasants were able to retain large surpluses even during the period of high rent pressure in the seventeenth century; that the reproduction of poorer peasant households was imperfect whereas the reproduction of wealthier households was extended; that wealthy peasants dominated the local community; that economic inequalities within the class of landed peasants did not increase during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; that land accumulation and cyclical mobility became important features of peasant society, but not until the decades around 1800: and that the peasant community was characterized by a large degree of geographical and downward social mobility.