Continuity and Change

Retirement as a strategy for land transmission: a micro-study of pre-industrial rural Sweden

a1 Both of the Department of Economic History, Lund University.

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lundh c   [Google Scholar] 


In pre-industrial Sweden (and other parts of northwestern Europe) retirement arrangements were used by peasants to keep their property intact and to transfer it to one of the children while the other children were compensated with, for example, movable property or plots of land. In this article we study the frequency and form of this strategy in pre-industrial rural Sweden. While the literature on retirement arrangements mainly concentrates on the functionality of this system, the focus of this study is on what happened to the institution of peasant retirement in the nineteenth century when an active land market developed and the relative price of land rose. In this study, we use two different sources of land transmission: poll-tax registers, indicating the management of farms, and records of land certificates, showing changes in ownership. The results clearly show that peasant retirement remained an important strategy of intergenerational land transmission at least until the mid-nineteenth century, but the way it was carried out changed profoundly from being mainly an intra-family affair to being channelled through the market.