Kerstin Sundberg: "They have devastated this small pine woods" Concerning use of Forest Resources in Agrarian Society

Swedish text here

This is a short presentation of one of the participating projects in the nordic project Cultural Processes in Nordic Woodland Communities

This study focuses on the use of woodlands and the need for forest resources by peasants and commoners. The majority of the cases examined come from a special social context: the manorial world of Trolle -Ljungby in Skåne and of Sandemar in Södertörn (a region south of Stockholm). A wide variety of sources, including land registers, court documents, contracts between peasants and landlord, and maps and travel reports were used as the basis for description and analysis.  Ownership of land and legal accessibility to the forest and woodland resources, changed from a medieval feudal system to a private capitalistic mode of ownership during the eighteenth century. This forms the context in which practices and conflicts must be interpreted. Studying the conflicts relating to "common rights" and various types of "enclosures," brings into focus the practice of peasants and commoners.
     During the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century the need for woods and forest increased. At the same time the size of the population multiplied, and in the region of Skåne under investigation the ecological balance between cultivated land, meadows, and woodlands were threatened. The situation reached a crisis point around 1800. Efforts were made to save forests and increase resources. The landlords offered peasants contracts to live in the forest, with the provision that they protect it. By examining the various conflicts that arose during this time, the court documents, and the contract language, one gains a better understanding of cultural patterns and practices regarding forest usage. Ownership and control of woods and forest became very important and this "private" use fed conflicts at a time when the traditional  "common use and rights" were an important part of rural cultural practice. During this time, a new social and cultural order formed, although the expression of differed from region to region.

Kerstin Sundberg
Postaddress: Historiska Institutionen, Box 2074, S-22002 Lund
Telephone: +46 46 222 32 95, at home: +46 46 53466
Post address at home: Trollskogsvägen 14, S-240 12 Torna Haellestad, Sverige

This page was updated on July 11, 2000