Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)
Doctoral thesis, 2020

The function of open fields : agriculture in early modern Sweden

Jupiter, Kristofer


This thesis examines the spatial arrangement of holdings and villages in early modern open fields, the dominating system in large parts of Europe for nearly a millennium. Open fields is characterised by the spatial division of holdings, scattered and intermingled in one or more fields. The thesis examines the practical aspects of open field farming and the function of scattered holdings, and the aim is to study how scattered holdings were integrated into farming practice and the larger institutional and communal arrangement of open fields the mixed farming system. Open fields in southwest Sweden are analysed empirically on farm, village and inter-village level using historical maps. Methodologically, maps are combined with written sources for spatial and temporal analysis and estimates of time consumption in cultivation and transportation. Furthermore, it analyses the distribution of plots in two different field systems and discusses the efficiency of small-scale production and area-productivity in open fields, and cooperation between villages and reconstructions and analysis of fence-organisations.

This thesis shows that scattered and intermingled holdings facilitated an efficient management of time, work and space. The open fields allowed for spatial and temporal sequence of work and diversification crops. What ultimately defines an open field is both the openness of a physical landscape, fence or unfenced and, more so, the requirement of the cooperation between its participants and synchronisation of key activities of farming. 


Open field; Historical geography; Time-geography; Agriculture; Spatial analysis; GIS; Agrarian history

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2020, number: 2020:45
ISBN: 978-91-7760-608-6, eISBN: 978-91-7760-609-3
Publisher: Department of Urban and Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences