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Doktorsavhandling2016Öppen tillgång

Utjordar och ödegårdar : en studie i retrogressiv metod

Karsvall, Olof


The crisis of the Late Middle Ages is still an ongoing discussion. Desertion of small isolated settlements in woodlands is a well known fact. In villages and hamlets, however, desertion is hidden because holdings were merged (partial desertion). This problem has been discussed extensively, but the extent and character of desertion especially on the plains, remains uncertain. This thesis focuses on ”uninhabited cadastral units” (literally utjordar) in Sweden. A large amount of plots, both arable and meadow land, were registered as utjordar in the Swedish Crown’s cadastres in the mid-1500s. They also appear on the large-scale maps from the 1600s. At that time many had become divided into smaller parts, but a comparison of the two sources shows that the same plots of land persisted for over a century. The evidence suggests that they originated from farms that were abandoned during the Late Middle Ages, more precisely vacant and divided holdings. In this thesis about 1 500 of these units are identified and spatially examined, using a retrogressive method, focusing on the origin of such plots or units. The objects of study are plains and hamlets in east central Sweden. Here, the arable land was divided and strictly regulated by common law (known as solskifte), which had been carried out before the Late Middle Ages. The basic pattern of this medieval field pattern remained in many areas between the 1500s and the 1700s. This explains why late medieval abandoned holdings appear as separated units in later periods. In other parts of Sweden, there are few data on desertion in hamlets, due to less regulation and less control of the land. In conclusion, the abandonment of farms in Sweden during the Late Middle Ages affected the central plains significantly and more widely than previously known. The retrogressive approach, the inclusion of traces found in later sources, provides a more complete understanding of the changes during the late medieval period.


The Crisis of the Late Middle Ages; Utjordar; Deserted farms; Geometrical maps; Cadastres; Retrogressive method

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Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2016, nummer: 2016:92ISBN: 978-91-576-8686-2, eISBN: 978-91-576-8687-9Utgivare: Section of Agrarian History, Department of Urban and Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

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