Copyright © Hans Högman 2020-07-16
Three Types of Landownership -
Ownership of land is quite complex and not easy to
explain and the meaning of ownership has changed
over the centuries.
Basically there were three types of lands;
Land owned by the nobility (frälsejord - Noble
Land owned by the Crown (kronojord - Crown
Land owned by the farmers (skattejord - Taxed
Before King Gustav Vasa there was also land owned
by the Church ("kyrkojord"). In 1527, the Church
land were confiscated by the Crown and that land
then became Crown land.
Farmers on "frälsejord" paid their taxes to the
nobility. Farmers on "kronojord" and "skattejord"
paid their taxes to the Crown.
The farmers on "kronojord" were called
"kronobönder" (Crown farmers), farmers on
"skattejord" were called "skattebönder" (Taxed
freeholders) and farmers on "frälsejord" were called
"frälsebönder" (farmers of the nobility).
By the Crown we mean the state / the government.
Skattebönder were freeholders and paid their
tax to the Crown. They owned their own land.
The Swedish term skattebönder literally means
taxed freeholders. Another term for
skattebonde (singular) was skatteman (pl.
Kronobönder were tenant farmers on land
owned by the Crown. Like the skattebönder
they paid their tax to the Crown. The
kronobönder tenancy were normally for 6
years at a time and the tenants annually paid
for the tenancy. In the 1680 the kronobönder
got inheritable right of possession to the land
they used. This right could be revoked by the
Crown though. The inheritable right of
possession was strengthen in 1789. This right
was called “åborätt” in Swedish. Another term
for kronobonde (singular) was
Frälsebönder were tenant farmers on land
owned by the nobility and they paid their tax
directly to the noble landowners. The tenancy
were most often paid with fixed number of
daily labor on the landowners estate/land. The
tenancy were normally running for 6 years at a
time. The right of possession wasn’t as strong
as the right the right the kronobönder had.
Another term for frälsebonde (singular) was
The "skattebönder" (taxed freeholders) owned
their own land (private land) but they could lose the
right to that land if they did not farm it or did not
pay the taxes etc. The land then became
"kronojord". So the meaning of "own your own land"
was different in those days. They could not use
tenants to farm their land either.
A farmer on "skatteland" could not sell his property
to just any one. The offer had to go to a family
member first if a farmer was to sell. If there was no
one in the family that wanted to buy the property
then he could dispose it to someone outside the
This was a chance for the family to keep the
property within the family and was protected by
law. This law was abandoned in 1863.
Only the nobility were able to own land and having
someone else (tenants) to farm the land. Common
people didn't have that right until the beginning of
The farmers on "frälsejord" and "kronojord" owned
the right to farm the land they lived on. They also
had the right to pass on the land to next
generation, in other words the tenancy was
Farmers or crofters/tenants ("torpare") on
"frälsejord" owned the farmhouse but they paid
tenancy for the land to the landowner in form of a
certain amount of days worked per year. "Days
worked" or daily labor meant that the tenant farmer
had to do a certain number of a full days' work per
year on the landowner's land or estate as a
payment for the tenancy. Instead of paying cash for
the tenancy they paid with manpower.
The farmers on Crown land were also tenants. Later
on, the tenants on Crown land were allowed to buy
"their" land and then became "skattebönder". See
also "Crofters" below.
Only the nobility had the right to collect taxes from
The Military Allotment System
Anyhow, all the "kronobönder" and all the
"skattebönder" were a part of the Military
Allotment System and they were all divided into
"rotar". Each "rote" had to provide one soldier to
the army .
"Frälsebönder" that lived on "frälsejord" was
exempted from the Allotment System because the
nobility was exempted. So too were all the farmers’,
hired hands etc that lived on "frälsejord" was
exempted from the Allotment System.
Other groups that were exempted was every
"rusthållare" that held the horsemen in the cavalry,
police officers, inn keepers, the personnel on the
officers homesteads, post office employees, priests
and their household and clerks that worked for the
Crown as well as other Crown specified exemptions.
The definition of land ownership has changed over
the centuries. But basically it was the people that
lived on "kronojord" and "skattejord" that provided
the army with soldiers.
The farmers owned quite a large part of the land in
Torp and Torpare - Crofts and
In genealogy research of your Swedish roots you
will sooner or later come across terms like "torp"
(croft) and "torpare" (crofter).
I guess most people know that has to do with small-
scale farming, but doesn't know what it really
To make it more difficult the meaning of the croft
(torp) has changed through the centuries.
The term crofter is an British English term for a
tenant farmer who paid his tenancy with daily labor
on the landowners estate. This British system with
crofters existed only in Scotland.
Since the Scottish system with crofters was similar
to the Swedish system with torpare we generally
translate torpare into crofter in English. The
homestead of a crofter was called a croft. Torp is
translated into croft in English.
During the 16th century a croft was a small
farm/cottage built on the village common.
Tax wise a croft was an agricultural unit with a yield
that wasn't large enough which means that they
were exempted from taxation.
During the 17th century and forward a croft was
regarded a small farm exempted from taxation.
Normally they were located on private land and the
right of use and enjoyment of the croft was granted
to another person, i.e. the landowner and the
cultivator (farmer or in this case, the crofter) were
two different persons. In other words, a croft was a
However the crofter didn't pay cash for the tenancy
to the landowner. Instead he made a certain
number of full days work (labor) for the landowner
on his estate/land. A sort of payment in kind but
paid with manpower. This was called "dagsverken"
The system of crofts and crofters became a way for the
larger estates to secure and maintain laborers. The
crofts were built on the land of the estate. From the
landowner's point of view it was a cheap way of
paying the laborer. The crofters were
reinforcements to the ordinary farmhands on the
estates. As mentioned above the crofters were
exempted from paying taxes.
The crofter's special type of tenancy didn't exist in
the USA. However, as mentioned above, in Scotland
they had a similar system.
In British English the term is crofter but this term is
not used in American English. A close term in
American English is renter farmer.
Sometimes people liken the croft system in Sweden
to sharecropping in the United States. It is not
recommended that you not do that for a number of
reasons. For further information see
The crofters' right of use and enjoyment of the croft
and the plot of land belonging to it was inheritable.
That is the children of a crofter had the right to
continue with the tenancy.
The largest amount of croft and crofters in Sweden
was around 1860. At that time there were about
100,000 crofts in Sweden.
At the end of the 19th century many crofts were
replaced with ordinary tenancies, i.e. tenancies paid
with cash instead of payment with manpower.
Larger crofts then became tenant farms (leasehold
The system of crofts (torp) where the tenant paid
his tenancy with manpower was abolished
(actually forbidden) in 1943. So technically there
are no crofts after 1943.
However the term "torp" (croft) still exist today, but
today we mean either a small-scale framer or just a
cottage on the countryside.
So, a crofter was somebody who rented a small
farm with a plot of land and living in a house on it -
a tenant farmer who paid his tenancy with
manpower instead of cash.
The tenancy was inheritable.
Swedish National Encyclopaedia, NE
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Landownership - Farmers