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Terra mediaevalis


  • Ericsson, Alf


There were several systems of land assessment in medieval Sweden. The unit used in the oldest system is the attung (pl. attungar). When, where and why it was introduced has been much discussed. In this study an investigation of the documentary evidence treats the question statistically and geographically. The distribution of land assessed in attungar is restricted to the south-eastern part of the kingdom. It probably originated in the fertile plains of Östergötland. An evaluation of some records not previously discussed in this context indicates that the taxation of real estates in attungar dates from the late 11th century. Most probably the original purpose of the taxation was to create an adequate base for the military levy system. Several indications show that the attung originally matched one tenant family's normal holding of land. The usefulness of the attung for other purposes was soon realised. As well as taxes, it also became the basis for tenants' land rents and the subdivision of common fields. At the same time a subdivision of the attung into several fractions facilitated trading in landed property. The multifunctionality of the attung was something that developed gradually. The attung was not extended to the Lake Mälar district, another agricultural core area in Sweden. In this region a new assessment system called the markland was introduced in the middle of the 13th century. This system was a transformation of the attung and multifunctional from the very beginning. The overall purpose of the investigation is to test how the progress of the assessment systems is related to developments in agricultural production, especially estate management. The overall conclusion is that the attung was introduced during a period when production was still dominated by large farms managed by stewards, commanding a subjugated labour force, but extended as a real system during the establishment of the manorial system from ca. 1200 AD, when land was parcelled out to crofters and tenant farmers. It was not until then that the village was constituted, with its historically known forms of co-operation. After the Black Death the manorial system collapsed and the demesnes were split into tenant holdings. The assessment systems facilitated the organization of the villages in a regular fashion based on share-holding on a pro rata basis.

Suggested Citation

  • Ericsson, Alf, 2012. "Terra mediaevalis," Department of Economics publications 9224, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:sua:ekonwp:9224

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