The material is published in a book series, hundred by hundred and parish by parish. Two source materials are of primary importance. The crown’s rent rolls (‘landskapshandlingar’ or ‘King Gustav Vasas Cadasters’) register all farms in all provinces from the 1530s and onwards. They include the tenants of the nobility, of churches and monasteries and of the Crown, and the very numerous group of freeholders (Sw. ‘skattebönder’). The rent rolls are preserved in the National Archives. The other important source group, the medieval charters, usually concern land transactions. The charters are far less comprehensive than the rent rolls, but they stretch back into the 12th century. Most of them are today kept in the National Archives.

Also other sources are used, for instance 16th century land registers of the nobility, and the aim is to present all sources concerning land ownership and land organisation. The project includes also presentations of the towns of the hundreds in question, and here the source material is very uneven. A Cathedral city like Uppsala has an abundance of relevant sources, whereas a small township like Vimmerby (in Småland) is mentioned only in a dozen charters.

Each book treats one or several hundreds and normally contains 250−350 pages. Each parish is presented with a map showing the settlements in the 1540s and what land-owner category they belonged to. The map below shows the small parish Dillnäs situated in the central province Södermanland and treated in volume 2:4. Arable land is shown in white, forest land in grey. Some Swedish terms: ‘Skattejord’: farms held by freeholders;  ‘kyrkojord’ and ‘frälsejord’: tenants’ farms owned by the parish church or by the nobility;  ‘kvarn’: water mill.


To a continental or British reader, the small size of the hamlets may be surprising. Sweden had few proper villages, i. e. villages with more than a dozen or so farms. The mixture of owner categories is another common Swedish trait. The dominance of forest land is typical outside the rich farming districts; these forests were used for grazing. An example DMS presentation of the hamlet Ella is presented below. 


An example DMS presentation of the hamlet Ella


The name is written ”in Eldo” in 1362, “in Eeldo” in 1366 etc. The first two sources have been published in Diplomatarium Suecanum (=DS) as no. 6691 and no. 7346. “10 h, 1 g” refers to the sheet of the Ekonomiska kartan 1:10 000 which shows the position of Ella.

Abbreviations and explanations:

  • SöH: Södermanlands handlingar, the rent rolls for the province Södermanland
  • 1 sk: a free holding farm
  • 1:2:2: the rent evaluation – 1 mark, 2 öre and 2 örtugar, of the farm. From 1551, this evaluation has decreased somewhat, and a piece of uninhabited land in Heby has been added to the farm.
  • 1 kruj: one piece of uninhabited land owned by the Crown. It is rent evaluated (probably meaning that it was used by one of the farmers in the hamlet). Uninhabited lands are not shown in the parish maps.
  • 1 ky: From 1542 a church tenant (“1 ky”) is included in the rent rolls, and from 1549 another and also some uninhabited land owned by the church.
  • The entries beginning in 1362 gives detailed information (found in medieval charters) on land transactions, rents and farmers in Ella.

Finally, it should be noted that many farms or hamlets are never mentioned in medieval sources, which means that the texts are much shorter than that on Ella and only consist of their entries in the rent rolls.

Organisation and history of the project

The project was planned already in the 1940s but formally started in 1960. Since 2012, the project is a part of the National Archives and is being financed jointly by The Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities (Kungl. Vitterhetsakademien) and Riksbankens Jubileumsfond.

The first volume was printed in 1972, and so far (2019) twenty-four volumes have been published. The DMS work is carried out by a separate research group within the unit Svenskt Diplomatarium, at present consisting of Annika Björklund, Hanna Källström, Kaj Janzon and Christian Lovén. Claes Gejrot leads the project. An advisory board and a scholarly reference group are connected to the project.

Editorial staff Medieval Sweden

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Sara Risberg