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The wealth of the Swedish peasant farmer class 1750–1900: Composition and distribution

Author

Listed:
  • Bengtsson, Erik

    () (Economic History Unit, Gothenburg University)

  • Svensson, Patrick

    () (Department of Urban and Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences)

Abstract

Using about 1,730 probate inventories, this paper studies the wealth of peasant farmers in Sweden for the years 1750, 1800, 1850 and 1900. The Gini coefficient for the farmers’ wealth grew from 0.46 in 1750 to 0.73 in 1900. Average wealth grew rapidly, tripling over the nineteenth century. Looking in greater depth at four local areas (Kullings, Sjuhundra, Lagunda, and Bara hundreds), we show that over the period the diversity of farmers’ wealth grew, as did their financial sophistication; borrowing and lending patterns became more complex and the use of banks and other institutions grew while personal financial transactions became rarer. Farmers who lived close to the major grain markets in Stockholm and the mining district Bergslagen were wealthier than others, as were farmers on fertile plains and, in 1900, those living in coastal areas. Increased market access by 1900 – in terms of cities and foreign demand – meant that farmers well-placed in terms of geography and infrastructure benefited much more than farmers on what became the periphery, as regional inequality within the farmer class increased. Over the nineteenth century land prices increased much more in some areas than in others, but in the country as a whole they rose steeply.

Suggested Citation

  • Bengtsson, Erik & Svensson, Patrick, 2018. "The wealth of the Swedish peasant farmer class 1750–1900: Composition and distribution," Lund Papers in Economic History 177, Lund University, Department of Economic History.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:luekhi:0177
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. J. V. Beckett, 1984. "The Pattern of Landownership in England and Wales, 1660-1880," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 37(1), pages 1-22, February.
    2. Olsson, Mats & Svensson, Patrick, 2010. "Agricultural growth and institutions: Sweden, 1700–1860," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 14(02), pages 275-304, August.
    3. Atack, Jeremy & Bateman, Fred, 1981. "Egalitarianism, Inequality, and Age: The Rural North in 1860," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 41(01), pages 85-93, March.
    4. J. L. Van Zanden, 1995. "Tracing the beginning of the Kuznets curve: western Europe during the early modern period," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 48(4), pages 643-664, November.
    5. Lindgren, H kan, 2002. "The Modernization Of Swedish Credit Markets, 1840 1905: Evidence From Probate Records," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 62(03), pages 810-832, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bengtsson, Erik & Olsson, Mats, 2018. "Peasant Aristocrats? Wealth and Social Status of Swedish Farmer Parliamentarians 1769–1895," Lund Papers in Economic History 175, Lund University, Department of Economic History.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    inequality; wealth; Sweden; peasant farmers; rural society; living standards; probate inventories;

    JEL classification:

    • N00 - Economic History - - General - - - General
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N53 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • Q10 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - General

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