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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2016

Conflict-resolution mechanisms maintaining an agricultural system. Early modern local courts as an arena for solving collective-action problems within Scandinavian Civil Law

Larsson, Jesper

Abstract

Rapid access to low-cost local arenas to resolve conflicts among appropriators is one of the principles that characterise robust common-pool resource (CPR) institutions. In spite of this insight, we have little knowledge about how such institutions solved collective-action problems in early modern Scandinavia, when CPRs were an important part of production. Arenas to resolve conflicts among appropriators range from informal meetings among users to formal court cases. This paper focuses on local courts, rather than laws and by-laws, within the Scandinavian legal origin and how these courts developed as arenas for CPR conflict resolution. Court rulings from Leksand Parish in central Sweden were the backbone for this study. The results indicate that access to a low-cost arena was more important to the peasants than rapid access to the courts. Successful conflict resolution could take years to accomplish and it was more important for the court to embed their decisions in people's minds than to come to a quick resolution. Further, I demonstrate that the court laid the foundation for disputing parties to solve conflicts among themselves. Lay judges - peasants from the region - came to play an important role in conflict resolution. Thus, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the court played a central role in maintaining agricultural CPRs.

Keywords

Agricultural systems; commons; conflict resolution; design principles; early modern Sweden

Published in

International Journal of the Commons
2016, Volume: 10, number: 2, pages: 1100-1118
Publisher: IGITUR, UTRECHT PUBLISHING & ARCHIVING SERVICES