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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

The function of open-field farming – managing time, work and space

Jupiter, Kristofer


Open fields were a dominant agricultural feature in Central, Western and Northern Europe for nearly a millennium. The spatial organisation of villages and the degree of communal management of common resources varied, but the basic characteristics and common features of the open-field system were that individual holdings were fragmented into several small unfenced plots and intermingled in one or more fields. Research on the subject is extensive, and several explanations for its cause(s) have been presented; however, the answer regarding the question of its rationale and persistence over time is still up for debate.

The overarching aim of this article is to present new findings concerning open-field farming from a functional and practical perspective. What were the farming practices and how was the spatial organisation in open fields integrated in those practices? This article shows that the common practice in Skaraborg County, Sweden, was diversification by using different crops. In the village of Kleva, the preparation of plots and the planting of different crops was carried out in a sequence. Sources indicate that the scattered plots in open fields were integrated into that sequence and that certain plots were designated for certain crops to be sown at a certain moment in time. In the village of Kleva, open fields were used to cater to precision farming as a way to manage time, work and space.


open field; historical geography; agrarian history; farming practice; time geography

Published in

Landscape History
2020, Volume: 41, number: 1, pages: 69-98

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Human Geography

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