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The Expansion and Decline of a Transhumance System in Sweden, 1550-1920


  • Jesper Larsson

    (Indiana University)


The paper analyses a Swedish transhumance system organised around summer farms (fäbodar), in the context of the agrarian economy in northern Sweden between the sixteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. The aim is to understand the impact of this alpine transhumance system in the agricultural economy and its role in the development of agriculture. The paper deals with economic aspects of summer farms, with the emphasis on production and organisation. To understand this specific agricultural system, theories about agricultural systems, the organisation of human collaboration, material culture and division of labour are used. Theories about the management of common-pool resources (CPR’s) are central to the analysis. The establishment of summer pastures enabled the expansion of stockbreeding and was connected to secondary occupations, and was, therefore, a prerequisite for the division of property among household members. The leap in agricultural development in Northern Sweden would not have been possible without the female workforce on the summer pastureland. The advantage of the agricultural system in the north of Sweden was lost when livestock grazing and fodder collection moved to the fields during the second half of the twentieth century.

Suggested Citation

  • Jesper Larsson, 2012. "The Expansion and Decline of a Transhumance System in Sweden, 1550-1920," Historia Agraria. Revista de Agricultura e Historia Rural, Sociedad Española de Historia Agraria, issue 56, pages 11-39, april.
  • Handle: RePEc:seh:journl:y:2012:i:56:m:april:p:11-39

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. de Vries, Jan, 1994. "The Industrial Revolution and the Industrious Revolution," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 54(02), pages 249-270, June.
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    More about this item


    Transhumance; Animal Husbandry; Commons; Sweden; Agricultural System;

    JEL classification:

    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N23 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N43 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N53 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - Europe: Pre-1913


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