SweGGate Theme Geography: Land types and sizes

Land, Land ownership and taxation

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Part 1 (2)

Jordnatur = type of land The term Frälse

The great land reshuffles

Farm types Farm people Farm sizes Terms

Jordnatur = type of land (tax classification)

From old times land has been classified according to what type of tax (if any) is due for the ownership. This land tax was called grundskatt. This classification is termed jordnatur (from jord = land, earth and natur =nature, type of). There were three basic types:

Jordnatur Definition Comments
Kronojord Land owned by the state.
Abbr: Kr.
In 1560 abt 30% of all land. Farmed by kronobönder (sing: kronobonde). They paid a tax called avrad to the state.
Skattejord Privately owned land, subject to taxation.
Abbr: Sk.
In 1560 abt 50% of all land. Owner is called a skattebonde (plur: skattebönder). He pays a tax, called ränta, to the state.
Same as Skattejord.
Abbr: Kr. Sk.
older term referring to the notion of the king / government as the "superior" owner of all land and also to the fact that all "skattejord" was once "kronojord"
Frälsejord Privately owned land, exempt from taxation.  Abbr: Fr In 1560 abt 20% of all land, in 1654 abt 72%. Farmed by frälsebönder (sing: frälsebonde). Definitions see below
Distribution 1560: Skatte: 50%, Krono: 30%, Frälse: 20%

Special status
Skattefrälse Kronojord from which the ränta (rent) was collected by other than the owner (the state). This tax collections right was often given to the nobility as a reward for special services rendered to the state or the king as an alternative to giving the ownership of the land. The rent paid in these cases was named skattefrälseränta.
It also occurred when the owner of frälsejord sold land not including the tax collection rights. The rent paid in these cases was named frälseskatteränta. All these taxation rights have been successively abolished by government actions in the beginning of the 20th century (Law 1903).

This classification was effectively abandoned by the 1903 tax reform when, among other reforms, the grundskatt was replaced by another system

The term Frälse
The word itself means freedom (from) but often used specifically referring to freedom (exempt) from taxation of land ownership and certain other duties to the state.

Type Definition
Världsligt frälse (= worldly F). In effect 13th century to 1809..
Known since the early middle ages. Documented in the proceedings - Alsnö stadga - of a meeting - Alsnö möte - in 1279 on Alsnö (an island in lake Mälaren, today named Adelsö). This is considered the document defining the Swedish adel = nobility and gentry.
Frälse is defined as exemption from state tax in return for military service in the cavalry. This service was called rusttjänst (from rusta = prepare for (here in the narrow meaning for war), tjänst = service). In the beginning this frälse privilege could be acquired by anyone who could afford the cost of horse, armour, weaponry etc. Since the obligations (rusttjänst) often was taken over by sons of the families the noble status soon became inherited (by law 1569). Besides the exemption from basic state tax (grundskatt) the privileges also often included hunting rights on own and state land and reduced rates (often half) for extra taxations. The latter were at times very heavy, often to pay for war efforts.
This early form of världsligt frälse was discontinued by king Erik XIV (late 1500, finally confirmed in a law (riddarhusordningen) of 1626) and new frälse privileges could be acquired only as part of a noble status awarded by the king. In the 16th and especially in the 17th century the land area awarded to the nobility (with frälse privileges) increased enormously and by 1654 (Queen Kristina's abdication) 72% of Swedish land was owned by the nobility. This drastically reduced the state's revenues and through another reduction in 1655 and in the 1680's most of the land given to the nobility was taken or bought back by the state, leaving only the inherited estate with the nobility. A law 1809 stated everyone's right to acquire frälsejord and reducing the frälse privileges the system was in effect abolished.
The frälse privileges were enjoyed by the land owner and all the farmers on his lands. Those farmers were named frälsebönder. To varying degrees the land owner demanded compensation from the farmers on his land, ränta (rent), usually paid in kind or as dagsverke (mandatory work for the land owner other than farming the allotted land)
Andligt frälse (= "spiritual" F). Applied only to church estate, in effect 12th century to 1527. 
Known since the 12th century but more generally employed in the latter middle ages. According to Royal gift letters in 1200 and 1277 (amended 1281 and 1305) all land owned by the church became exempt from state land tax and its priests could not be brought to a state court. In the late middle ages the church land ownership expanded very much through donations etc. After the liberation war under king Gustav Vasa the state was in need of more tax revenue and in 1527 the parliament held in Västerås decided that all church owned land not needed for direct support of the church and all monastery owned land should be state owned land (the action was named reduktionen (the reduction)). Some donated land was handed back to previous owners or their heirs. The claimed land area was 13% of all farm land. This decision effectively ends the privilege of andligt frälse.
Bergsfrälse (= rock F). Applied only to the mining industry in effect 14th century to 1901. 
Known since the 14th century. Included an exemption from estate tax and certain obligations to the state in exchange for devoting themselves to the mining industry. Successively reduced in the 19th century and finally abolished in 1901.

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