The aim of this paper is to discuss the role of the entailed manors in Sweden in a long-term perspective. The position of the landed elite has varied between states, but in general they had a strong political and economic position until the early 20th century, based on the ownership ... (Show more)
The aim of this paper is to discuss the role of the entailed manors in Sweden in a long-term perspective. The position of the landed elite has varied between states, but in general they had a strong political and economic position until the early 20th century, based on the ownership of land. Strengthened by the commercialization of agriculture and even industrialization in the 18th and 19th centuries, they were forced to gradually share political power with others. The late 19th century became a turning point with the agricultural crises together with the democratization process which brought increased taxes and land reforms, as well as a dissolution of noble privileges such as entailment.
In Sweden entailment of property was made possible by the law of 1686, which can be seen as a compromise to compensate for the loss of land many noble families made when the Crown withdraw land, previously given to them before 1680.
Entailed manors were uncommon until the mid1700s, probably because most aristocratic families still possessed huge estates and had rather few surviving children as well as many childless siblings and cousins, which enabled them to keep the manors in the family. Until 1789 and 1810 the noble families also had the exclusive right to one third of the land, land which was comparatively cheap when sold on the market, since there were few competitors.
In 1789 the noble families` exclusive right to noble land ceased and in 1810 the right to establish new entailments was prohibited, as a result of the actions of the king as well as non-noble merchants, burghers and freehold farmers.
Between c1750 and 1810, nearly 300 entailments were established, an overwhelming part of them in aristocratic families (counts and barons), consisting of around 450 manors and town real estate. In this way nearly 15 per cent of all manors and probably around 20 to 25 per cent of all noble land, were locked-in within the families for generations. It took until 1964 before the government decided to dissolve the entailments, but with the intent to do it gradually. Today seven entailed manors still remain.
Until now the number of entailed manors, their owners and their size have been rather unclear.
In the three year project Entailed Manors in Sweden, data has been collected from all entailments, many of them rather small and unknown until now, and then compared to a wider set of data on all manors in Sweden as well as the changes in the general ownership of land in the country. Preliminary results show on one hand that the role of the entailments shouldn´t be underestimated, as they were the primal reason why the aristocracy could prevail as land owners and keep their position. In areas with no or few entailed manors, noble families owned almost nothing in the early 20th century, while they in entailed-dominated areas could possess half of the land or more. The reason for this was that owners of entailed manors benefited hugely from the fact that they were the sole heirs to the land, and using the surplus to expand the property by buying neighboring manors. On the other hand, many of the smaller entailments, owned by noble or non-noble families, were dissolved already in the 19th century. In times of decline, with low prices on grain or iron, the entailment became a burden. Some of them were divided among the heirs, others moved the entailment to a town real estate. (Show less)