The overall purpose of DMS is to make the medieval sources available and account for the settlement and ownership structures. Freeholders did not exist in all parts of Sweden. A substantial share of medieval farms was cultivated by tenants and the land was owned by the nobility, the Crown, or church institutions. The monasteries were great land owners, sometimes owning all farms in their home parish. Medieval charters show how ownership of farms changed and often the records reveal the revenue from each farm to the landowner. The sources about medieval towns and cities show correspondingly the owners of urban plots and houses.
An article (in Swedish) about the history and present working of DMS was published in 2019 by Christian Lovén: "Referensverket Det medeltida Sverige − en lägesrapport" in
Bebyggelsehistorisk Tidskrift, 77/2019, p. 85−95.
crown’s rent rolls
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 numerous group of freeholders (Sw. ‘skattebönder’). The rent rolls are preserved in the National Archives. Internationally, they are a unique source and, as such, they give an exceptional overview of our settlements. The other important source group,
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. In addition, other sources are included, such as cadastral records of the nobility from the 16th century; and the ambition is to publish all written sources concerning land ownership, settlement organisation and land use.
The structure of the volumes
Each volume treats one or several hundreds and normally contains 250−350 pages. Each parish is presented with a map showing the settlements in the middle of the 16th century and what land-owner category they belonged to. The map below shows the small parish Dillnäs situated in the central province Södermanland as 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, that is 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: the DMS presentation of the hamlet Ella in the northern part of the parish, is presented below.
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 of these and also some uninhabited land owned by the church.
- The entries beginning in 1362 give 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.