Enclosures and Population in Uppsala County 1760-1900

Gustafscenen Session 1: Labour, living standards and inequality organized by Erik Bengtsson, Kathryn Gary, Tobias Karlsson, Malin Nilsson and Jakob Molinder


Maja Lundqvist


There has been a long-lasting debate on the effect of enclosures on the agricultural development and output. It has been argued that enclosure facilitated land clearance and spurred the individual farmer to implement rational farming techniques, which consequently increased productivity. Whether this development increased the demand for labour in agricultural production or the opposite – made parts of the agricultural labour force redundant – has been at the heart of the international debate. In an agricultural society the balance between land (production) and population is very sensitive. The access to land is fundamental for how large the population can grow and be sustained within a given area; there has to be resources such as land and/or labour opportunities available or else population growth will be impossible. Ultimately, the question boils down to whether or not enclosure meant an increased opportunity for the population in the countryside to provide a source of income. If it freed enough resources for agriculture to expand and for more people to make a living for themselves. It has been argued that population pressure would lead to an increased demand on land, which in return would stimulate land clearance and land parcelling. Consequently, this would increase the demand for enclosures and the rationalisation of the scattered land strips. Enclosures in return would further stimulate land clearance and land parcelling, increasing the agricultural output further. This paper aims at studying whether this course of development is true for Uppsala County during the period of the three enclosure reforms (storskifte, enskifte and laga skifte) 1760-1900. By studying population growth and land parcelling in enclosed and unenclosed villages I hope to be able to answer whether enclosure actually led to an agricultural expansion in the region.


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