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Farmland Boundary Revisions

E. Norman Westerberg

During the period 1300-1500, the arable land of the villages especially in south-western Finland was rearranged based on a Swedish model, called Tegskiftet (Strip Revision). The fields were scattered around the village and it was felt that some were more productive than others. To simplify taxation, all fields were divided into narrow strips, and each farmer in the village received strips in all the fields, the total strips in proportion to the amount of taxes paid. It took a lot of cooperation between the villagers to coordinate crop choice and see to it that crops were rotated, alternating years. Forests remained common land. Many farmers resisted new ideas, and improvements were slow.

The next major revision, Storskiftet (Great Revision), started in southern Ostrobothnia immediately when it became law in Sweden in 1757. The basic idea was that each farmer would have all his fields connected. This way a farmer would be less dependent on his neighbors and could use his own ingenuity to improve productivity. The forest areas were also divided between the farmers. The size of the area given each farmer also depended on the evaluated fertility of the land. In 1775, King Gustav III speeded up the Great Revision, at the same time limiting the size of the allotted forest area. Thus, large forests were turned over to the state.

In 1848, it became necessary to again change the borders between villagers to get bigger and more efficient connected farmlands. This was called Nyskiftet (New Revision). Often this broke up the old villages, since farmers who were assigned arable land in the outskirts soon moved their buildings there, too. It also led to an increasing number of non-land owners (torpare). They were allowed to build a small cottage (torp) and tend their own small garden in exchange for working for the landowner. Later the state allowed the sale of some of its forest lands for new farms. Boundary revision were also applied to fishing waters to provide equitable opportunities for fishing.

Source: von Koskull & Nyberg, Finlands historia för gymnasiet, 1977.

Published by SFHS Newsletter 1994 Vol. 3 No. 1

© E. Norman Westerberg

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