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The rise of the land market in medieval south-west Finland

  • Mika Kallioinen (a1)


This article aims to explain how the market for land functioned in medieval south-west Finland. The data show that in medieval times land was increasingly treated as something to be transferred in return for ready money, albeit within the limits set by the interests of the family. The land market was open to large segments of society, suggesting that barriers to entry were low. It was characterised by strong vertical integration, although asymmetric, as the majority of the transactions took place between participants from different social groups. The article will also consider the high degree of geographical integration in the land market.

Cet article entend expliquer comment le marché de la terre a fonctionné dans le sud-ouest de la Finlande médiévale. La documentation disponible montre qu’à l’époque médiévale la terre était de plus en plus considérée comme un bien à transférer en échange d'argent comptant, à condition toutefois de rester dans les limites fixées par les intérêts de la famille. Le marché foncier était ouvert à de larges secteurs de la société, ce qui suggère que les barrières à franchir pour y entrer étaient minimes. Ce marché était caractérisé par une forte intégration verticale, bien qu'asymétrique, car la plupart des transactions se tenaient entre acteurs appartenant à différents groupes sociaux. Il est tenu compte, dans ce travail, du degré élevé d'intégration géographique sur le marché foncier.

Dieser Beitrag versucht darzulegen, wie der Grundstücksmarkt im südwestlichen Finnland im Mittelalter funktionierte. Die Daten zeigen, dass man Grund und Boden im Mittelalter zunehmend als Gegenstand betrachtete, den man gegen Geld übertragen konnte, wenn auch nur innerhalb der durch die Familieninteressen gesetzten Grenzen. Der Grundstücksmarkt stand großen Teilen der Gesellschaft offen, was darauf schließen lässt, dass die Eintrittsschwellen niedrig waren. Er war durch starke vertikale Integration geprägt, die allerdings asymmetrisch war, da die Transaktionen größtenteils zwischen Marktteilnehmern aus unterschiedlichen sozialen Gruppen stattfanden. Der Beitrag behandelt ferner die hochgradige geographische Integration des Grundstücksmarktes.

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1 As a summary of these restrictions, see van Bavel, B. J. P., ‘The organization and rise of land and lease markets in northwestern Europe and Italy, c. 1000–1800’, Continuity and Change 23, 1 (2008), 1317.

2 Zhang, Taisu, ‘Moral economies in early modern land markets: history and theory’, Yale Law & Economics Research Paper 544 (2016), 14.

3 Greif, Avner, Institutions and the path to the modern economy: lessons from medieval trade (Cambridge, 2006), 25–6, 394–400.

4 Hammel-Kiesow, Rolf, ‘Lübeck and the Baltic trade in bulk goods for the North Sea region, 1150–1400’, in Berggren, Lars, Hybel, Nils and Landen, Annette eds., Cogs, cargoes, and commerce: maritime bulk trade in northern Europe 1150–1400 (Toronto, 2002), 5391.

5 Clark, Gregory, ‘A review of Avner Greif's Institutions and the path to the modern economy: lessons from medieval trade’, Journal of Economic Literature XLV (2007), 731. See also Kallioinen, Mika, The bonds of trade: economic institutions in pre-modern northern Europe (Newcastle upon Tyne, 2012), 169–70; Ogilvie, Sheilagh, Institutions and European trade: merchant guilds, 1000–1800 (Cambridge, 2011), 197–8.

6 van Bavel, Bas, Dijkman, Jessica, Kuijpers, Erika and Zuijderduijn, Jaco, ‘The organisation of markets as a key factor in the rise of Holland from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century: a test case for an institutional approach’, Continuity and Change 27, 3 (2012), 353–4.

7 Naismith, Rory, ‘The land market and Anglo-Saxon society’, Historical Research 89, 243 (2016), 3940.

8 Macfarlane, Alan, The origins of English individualism: the family, property and social transition (Oxford, 1978), 80101.

9 Yates, Margaret, ‘The market in freehold land, 1300–1509: the evidence of feet of fines’, Economic History Review 66, 2 (2013), 580, 597. See also Campbell, Bruce M. S., ‘Population pressure, inheritance and the land market in a fourteenth-century peasant community’, in Smith, Richard M. ed., Land, kinship and life-cycle (Cambridge, 1984), 87134; Dyer, Christopher, ‘The peasant landmarket in medieval England’, in Feller, Laurent and Wickham, Chris eds., Le marché de la terre au Moyen Âge (Rome, 2005), 6576; Schofield, Phillipp R., ‘Extranei and the market for customary land on a Westminster Abbey Manor in the fifteenth century’, Agricultural History Review 49, 1 (2001), 37.

10 French, H. R. and Hoyle, R. W., ‘The land market of a Pennine manor: Slaidburn, 1650–1780’, Continuity and Change 14, 3 (1999), 355, 359, 380; French, H. R. and Hoyle, R. W., ‘English individualism refuted – and reasserted: the land market of Earls Colne (Essex), 1550–1750’, Economic History Review 56, 4 (2003), 598, 618, 621.

11 Stamm, Volker, ‘Kauf und Verkauf von Land und Grundrenten im hohen und späten Mittelalter: Eine Untersuchung zur historischen Wirtschaftsanthropologie’, Vierteljahrschrift für Sozial – und Wirtschaftsgeschichte 96 (2009), 34–5.

12 Cerman, Markus, ‘Social structure and land markets in late medieval central and east-central Europe’, Continuity and Change 23, 1 (2008), 5861.

13 For the purpose of this study, I simply define an institution as a social mechanism that coordinates the actions of participants in the land market, resulting in the regularity of behaviour.

14 van Bavel, ‘Organization and rise of land and lease markets’, 45.

15 In Finland and Sweden, the term ‘peasant’ (bonde) is a good term for the period from the Middle Ages until the seventeenth century, as the farmers formed part of a complex society, by far the biggest social group that paid taxes to the crown and the church. Myrdal, Janken, ‘Farming and feudalism 1000–1700’, in Myrdal, Janken and Morell, Mats eds., Agrarian history of Sweden: from 4000 BC to AD 2000 (Lund, 2011), 75. See also French and Hoyle, ‘Land market’, 350–1. With respect to Sweden proper, Myrdal (‘Farming and feudalism’, 90) questions the view that serfdom, which bound peasants to the land for life, was never introduced in Sweden. According to Myrdal, in thirteenth-century regional laws, peasants were referred to in eastern Sweden as fostre (from the same root as the English ‘foster’, as in foster child) and frälsgiven (lit. redeemed) in western Sweden, both certainly being tied to the land. In the high Middle Ages, something very like serfdom was customary for those who were freedmen, or rather ‘half-free’. They were still ‘owned’ in some respects by their landlord.

16 Moring, Beatrice, ‘Land inheritance and the Finnish stem family’, in Fauve-Chamoux, Antoinette and Ochiai, Emiko eds., The stem family in Eurasian perspective: revisiting house societies, 17th–20th centuries (Bern, 2009), 175; Myrdal, ‘Farming and feudalism’, 80, 97; Orrman, Eljas, ‘Talonpoikainen maatalousyhteiskunta’, in Rasila, Viljo, Jutikkala, Eino, and Mäkelä-Alitalo, Anneli eds., Suomen maatalouden historia 1: Perinteisen maatalouden aika esihistoriasta 1870-luvulle (Helsinki, 2003), 119, 127, 129.

17 A pledge refers to a bailment that conveys possessory title to land owned by a debtor to a creditor to secure repayment of a debt, thus counting as a transfer of land. According to the Swedish Law of the Land, besides sale, purchase, swap, and pledge, inheritance and gift were considered to be legal ways to transfer land. Åke Holmbäck and Elias Wessén eds., Magnus Erikssons Landslag: i nusvensk tolkning (Skrifter utgivna av Institutet för rättshistorisk forskning grundat av Gustav och Carin Olin, Serien I, Rättshistoriskt bibliotek. VI, Lund, 1962) [hereafter MEL], Code of Land, ch. 1.

18 The documents were published in a printed collection of Finnish medieval documents; see Hausen, R. ed., Finlands medeltidsurkunder I–VIII (Helsingfors, 1910–1935). A revised version of this collection is available online, Diplomatarium Fennicum, [accessed 14 November 2016, hereafter DF].

19 In two cases both the letter of confirmation and the deed were preserved: DF 4058 and 4059, 5447 and 5489. For the difference between a letter of confirmation and a deed, see p. 14.

20 In the sixteenth century too, registrations of inheritances appear only sporadically in the sources. Maarbjerg, John P., ‘The peasant, his land and money: land transactions in late sixteenth-century East Bothnia’, Scandinavian Journal of History 26, 1 (2001), 66.

21 In one case, a sister and her brother swapped two pieces of land, and in another a peasant sold land to his nephew. DF 2121, 5444.

22 Maarbjerg, ‘Peasant, his land and money’, 54–6; Eljas Orrman, ‘Suomen keskiajan asutus’, in Rasila, Jutikkala, and Mäkelä-Alitalo eds., Suomen maatalouden historia 1, 84.

23 Myrdal, ‘Farming and feudalism’, 91.

24 van Bavel, ‘Organization and rise of land and lease markets’, 39–42. See also French and Hoyle, ‘English individualism refuted’, 617–20.

25 Kallioinen, Mika, Kauppias, kaupunki, kruunu: Turun porvariyhteisö ja talouden organisaatio varhaiskeskiajalta 1570-luvulle (Helsinki, 2000), 225–30; Kerkkonen, Gunvor, Borgare och bondeseglare: Handelssjöfart på Reval genom och i SV-Finlands skärgård under tidigt 1500-tal (Helsinki, 1977), 17, 144–5; Maarbjerg, ‘Peasant, his land and money’, 67.

26 DF 4118.

27 DF 2565, 2591.

28 DF 5140.

29 DF 2889.

30 DF 886, 1073, 1372, 2451, 2663, 2946, 3688, 4106, 4118, 4122, 4266, 4746.

31 Of course, trade did not always involve cash. It was to a great extent based on barter and credit, as goods were often paid for with other goods, and accounts were rendered only occasionally. Dollinger, Philippe, The German Hansa (London and Basingstoke, 1970), 166.

32 Anthoni, Eric, Finlands medeltida frälse och 1500-talsadel (Helsingfors, 1970), 134, 143, 158–9, 174; Maarbjerg, ‘Peasant, his land and money’, 61–2; Pirinen, Kauko, Turun tuomiokapituli keskiajan lopulla (Helsinki, 1956), 445–56.

33 Kallioinen, Bonds of Trade, 6–7, 14–15.

34 Moring, ‘Land inheritance and the Finnish stem family’, 176, 180.

35 MEL, Code of Land, chs. 2 and 3; Ulf Jensen, ‘Fastighetsköp och fastighets pant under äldre tid’, [accessed 4 December 2016]; Jensen, ‘Fastighetsköp’, 2–3.

36 DF 496, 823, 1429, 2121, 2901, 2948, 3378, 3465, 3476, 3500, 4058–9, 4303, 4303, 4365, 4582, 4590, 4908, 5590, 5796.

37 Larsson, Gabriela Bjarne, ‘Wives or widows and their representatives’, Scandinavian Journal of History 37, 1 (2012), 51–2, 57.

38 DF 434–5, 1149, 1180, 1769, 2458, 2513, 2592, 2654, 2757, 2795, 2842, 2938–9, 3466, 3783, 4266.

39 Macfarlane, Origins of English individualism. For information about the debate, see French and Hoyle, ‘English individualism refuted’, 595–6; Whittle, Jane, ‘Individualism and the family-land bond: a reassessment of land transfer patterns among the English peasantry c. 1270–1580’, Past & Present 160 (1998), 26; Zhang, ‘Moral economies’, 13. In the early modern period, as French and Hoyle have demonstrated, family land was not often sold. French and Hoyle, ‘English individualism refuted’, 621. See also van Bavel, ‘Organization and rise of land and lease markets’, 16–17.

40 van Bavel, ‘Organization and rise of land and lease markets’, 16.

41 Jensen, ‘Fastighetsköp’, 2.

42 van Bavel, ‘Organization and rise of land and lease markets’, 17, 20; Jensen, ‘Fastighetsköp’, 3.

43 However, we do not have information about cases in which the family actually used its right of first refusal.

44 Greif, Institutions and the path to the modern economy, 4, 134; Kallioinen, Bonds of trade, 6.

45 Hafström, Gerhard, ‘Fastar’, Kulturhistoriskt lexikon för nordisk medeltid IV (Helsinki, 1959), 191–4; Jensen, ‘Fastighetsköp’, 3–4; Liedgren, Jan, ‘Fastebrev’, Kulturhistoriskt lexikon för nordisk medeltid IV (Helsinki, 1959), 194–6.

46 van Bavel, ‘Organization and rise of land and lease markets’, 22–5; van Bavel, Bas J. P., ‘Markets for land, labor, and capital in northern Italy and the Low Countries, twelfth to seventeenth centuries’, Journal of Interdisciplinary History XLI, 4 (2011), 507–10.

47 Yates, ‘Market in freehold land’, 580–1.

48 Cerman, ‘Social structure’, 61; Guzowski, Piotr, ‘Village court records and peasant credit in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Poland’, Continuity and Change 29, 1 (2014), 117.

49 DF 367, 368, 396, 434–5.

50 Ekbäck, Peter, ‘Private, common, and open access property rights in land – an investigation of economic principles and legislation’, Nordic Journal of Surveying and Real Estate Research 6, 2 (2009), 64; Jensen, ‘Fastighetsköp’, 4; Pirinen, Kauko, ‘Dombok’, Kulturhistoriskt lexikon för nordisk medeltid III (Helsinki, 1958), 157–9. For discussion on the role of local groups in legal transactions, see Görecki, Piotr, ‘Communities of legal memory in medieval Poland, c. 1200–1240’, Journal of Medieval History 24, 2 (1998), 127–54.

51 One of the few exceptions is Naismith's study of the land market in Anglo-Saxon England. Naismith, ‘Land market and Anglo-Saxon society’. See also Stamm, ‘Kauf und Verkauf’, 34–5, 42.

52 Hiekkanen, Markus, Suomen keskiajan kivikirkot (Helsinki, 2007), 108; Läntinen, Aarre, Turun keskiaikainen piispanpöytä (Jyväskylä, 1978), 174, 194204.

53 van Bavel, ‘Markets for land’, 512–14; Cerman, ‘Social structure’, 67–8.

54 Kallioinen, Kauppias, kaupunki, kruunu, 150–1.

55 In 61 cases out of 216 transactions.

56 In East Bothnia in the sixteenth century there was no concentration of land and the buyers do not appear to have belonged to an elite; for example, of wealthy peasants. Maarbjerg, ‘Peasant, his land and money’, 63.

57 DF 1084, 1516, 5940.

58 DF 2452–4, 2465, 2590–2, 2594, 2810, 3014, 3393.

59 French and Hoyle, ‘English individualism refuted’, 597.

60 DF 2654, 3068, 3069, 4118.

61 Volckart, Oliver, ‘Central Europe's way to a market economy, 1000–1800’, European Review of Economic History 6, 3 (2002), 319–20, 325.

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