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Agriculture - Scania


In Svanholm estate in Scania reforms in agriculture were begun. They paved the way for the industrialization. However, the peasants opposed them vehemently.

Outdated Agriculture
A village in Scania consisted form ancient times of connected buildings with split up with landed properties. The cultivated area was of very different quality. Justice had been attempted by giving several smaller fields to each farmer. The area was therefore split up into a large number of small fields, and the situation subsequently became confused, because of inheritance divisions.
Around 1750 they realized that a rationalization of the agriculture demanded bigger and more consistent units. The rising prices of agricultural products, which were connected to the increase in population in Europe in the middle of the 18th century, demanded changes. At the same time agriculture in Scania had deteriorated because of erosion, war and neglect. Linné had during his journey in Scania noticed the problems concerning the Scanian agriculture.
“The farmer in Scania sticks just as persistently to the habits of his forefathers as today’s youth is quick to change them.”
Spring Ploughing
Spring Ploughing

Experiment with Reforms and Enclosure
While the farmer guarded his old methods, the authorities and a few landowners showed interest in rationalization. One plan was to carry through a change of ownership, so that each farmer would get fewer, but bigger properties, that is, a development towards larger units. In order to solve the problem with the variable soil quality, different fields were “graded”. Through the rating of the soil good soil was to be traded for poor soil with a larger acreage. The surveying inspector, Jacob Faggott in his book ”The Obstacle and Help of Swedish Agriculture” (1746), put this plan forward. According to the ideas of Faggott, he wanted to keep the cities, but the fields were to be combined to more efficient units. In 1757 an announcement was made of enclosure in Scania.
Many farmers were against this reform. They were afraid of an unjust rating of the fields, disadvantages with fields, which were too far from town, and the problems with a larger area with poorer soil, when there was a lack of cheap labour. The enclosure was therefore not fully completed and the government took back its order in another announcement in 1783, where it was decided that every farmer was allowed to have as much as eight fields.
The enclosure reform was no success. The users´ fields were still divided, however not as much as before.

Maclean - the Modern Man
A more radical improvement of the agriculture perhaps demanded that the farmer´s farm was placed where his fields lay. Rutger MacLean in Svaneholm´s Estate in southern Scania had ideas, which went in that direction. He was probably influenced by the enclosure reforms, which had been carried out in Denmark after the enclosure proclamation in 1781, but similar reforms had been introduced earlier in England, and the experienced traveller MacLean had visited England on several occasions. In the 1780´s he had carried through a radical agriculture reform in his own esate. As a man of the Enlightened Age, he was not afraid of using the methods, which the enlightened despots found necessary.
In Svaneholm´s fields there were at the time several village communities with farms on a lease. The leasing farmers performed villeinage on the estate and paid their lease in kind. MacLean changed the entire system. He united the fields, parcelled out the land in fewer connected plots (usually square), abolished villeinage, introduced money-based lease and built a new farm in the middle of each plot. This was very effective and the productivity of the estate increased considerably.
MacLean was, as a true man of the Enlightened Age, also active in other development projects. He experimented with new methods and wrote textbooks in agriculture. He wanted to improve the education in the schools, built schools and showed an interest in Pestalozzis´s theory of education, which even today is quite modern. (Pestalozzi emphasized the ability to obtain knowledge more than the actual amount of knowledge).
Rutger Maclean
Rutger Maclean
Svaneholm Estate
Svaneholm Estate
Renewal at Svaneholm
Renewal at Svaneholm
Renewals in the 19th Century
Renewals in the 19th Century
Before and After the Renewal
Before and After the Renewal

Other Landowners
Other landowners followed up the successful changes in Svaneholm. In 1802 MacLean met the surveying director, Eric av Wetterström, at a meeting in Helsingborg and convinced him of the advantages of the enclosure, which had been carried out in Svaneholm. The ideas reached the ears of the Swedish king Gustav IV Adolf, and he approved of the plan. In Scania the enclosure was introduced in 1803 and the reform spread the north of the country. However it was in Scania the most radical changes were made and as early as 1825 half of all Scania´s village had been divided.

The Production Is Increased and the Statar System is Introduced
New and better knowledge in agriculture and the enclosure resulted in higher productivity. The old rotation of crops with corn growing exclusively varied with fallowing was changed with multiannual cultivation patterns with corn- as well as fodder production and with only a small part of the land fallowed.
At the same time interest grew for the use of new machines and tools. The villeinage was abolished and instead a proletariat of farm workers appeared, when the special Swedish “statar system” was introduced. The system meant that the landowner got permanent, full-time farm workers at a low cost. The pay was mostly made up of “stat”, that is, provisions.

The Capitalizing of Agriculture
The agricultural revolution involved a capitalization of agriculture and the last remnants of the feudal system disappeared. Landowners and authorities prompted the revolution, while common farmers did not want the change. It was not a revolution, which was led by the lower classes.
Many farmers felt that they paid a heavy price. The old, safe village community disappeared and farms were demolished. A whole new life style was introduced, which was marked by competition and individualism. Private interests became more important than the community. The landscape also became dull, when the old village street disappeared and the neighbour lived several kilometres away. It is easily understood that the new pietistic piety could grow in these surroundings, and that it was able to almost outdo the old collective religiosity. Many farmers were struck hard by the changes, which they found was compulsory and unwanted,

Peasant Rebellion
In the country strong contrasts between the social classes arose. In the not yet changed villages they united in order to avoid the new ideas. At a peasants´ rebellion (The Bread Rebellion) in Malmo in 1799 hundreds of peasants demonstrated their dissatisfaction with the class differences. Poor peasants attacked the established society and threatened it. The old village community evidently posed a danger to the authorities.
During the Napoleonic Wars the peasants´ solidarity was strengthened against power and authority. Denmark and Sweden were on opposite sides in the war between France and Great Britain. Sweden was threatened by war from France through its ally, Denmark. In 1808 troops were ordered. In Scania it was six peasant battalions with soldiers living in terrible conditions without proper equipment. That same year war broke out between Sweden and Finland. It was hard times and many died form hunger and diseases.
Esaias Tegnér celebrated these peasant soldiers:
”Hør den krigeriske røst! Den kommer fra øst,
den drøner som stormen ved fædrenes strand;
den kommer fra vest, den ubudne gæst.
Til strid, til strid for fædreland!”
In 1811 the army was to be strengthened again because of an aggravated foreign-policy situation. The large estates were instructed to supply extra soldiers, but the vast majority of the new soldiers had to be farmers. 15.000 peasants and farm workers had to strengthen the army.

The Farmers Attack 1811
But now the Scanian peasants lost their patience. The enclosure had forced them out of safety; they were forced into a miserable peasants´ army, and now they were forced to go to war. A wave of protests arose and a resistance movement was formed. In the Kulla area the commitment was strong and in the beginning of the summer 1811 800 peasants and farm workers gathered at Ringstorp in Helsingborg to protest and there were disturbances. The battlefield was the same as a hundred years earlier was the scene for the Battle of Helsingborg. There were disturbances all over Scania and especially in Klågerup and Torup in Malmo the peasants´ riots were very difficult for the authorities to handle.
Even Rutger MacLean, the reformist landowner was attacked by conscription refusing peasants and farm workers. When he one summer evening came home to Svaneholm, the estate was full of people. He was taken to his room and forced to sing a statement that he himself was to provide soldiers for the army.

Tough Punishments
The authorities came down hard on the rebellion and tough punishments were advised. A curious punishment was introduced: Drawing lots. If the convicted drew a winning lot, he was given the meted out punishment, but if he drew a blank the punishment was decapitation. Petitions for mercy were sent to the king and when the final verdicts fell on January 4th, 1812 King Karl XIII had annulled the drawing of lots and changed most of the death sentences. However, many of the rebels were sentenced to flogging or/and loss of the hand and prison.
The peasants´ rebellion in Scania in the summer of 1811 was violent and perhaps a contributing factor to the fact that the enclosure of the villages had to be carried through in a fast and brutal manner. Perhaps it was not only the effectiveness of agriculture they had in mind, when they so quickly blew up the village communities. Perhaps they also had the old Roman rule: “Divide and conquer” in mind!

©  Øresundstid 2009