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I industrisamhällets utkant: småbrukets omvandling i Lappmarken 1870-1970
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Economic History.
1988 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
On the outskirts of the industrial society : the transformation of small-scale farming in Lapland during the period 1870-1970 (English)
Abstract [en]

This investigation deals with the function and transformation of small-scale farming during the period when the industrial society emerged. The development in Northern Lapland during the period 1870-1970 has been studied and compared with the development in other parts of Sweden.

Although the economic result of farming was unusually bad farming continued to expand longer in Lapland than in any other part of the country. What made it possible for small farmers to achieve an acceptable material standard was that food production for the members of the households was eked out with incomes from other kinds of work.

In the thesis the concept "multi-active farming" is used to denote this type of small-scale farming. It may be interpreted as an initiated, but uncompleted, specialization away from farming in the direction of non-agrarian activities.

The supplementary incomes, chiefly from forestry, were consequently one of the prerequisites for the development of small-scale farming in Lapland. Another was that peasants transformed agriculture and made it more efficient, so that productivity increased. In the first half of the 20th Century productivity on these small farms of less than five hectares of land increased almost as rapidly as on the large farms in the plains of southern and central Sweden. In this way multi-active peasants managed to keep up production at the same time as they were able to transfer labour from their low-productive farms to more high-productive work outside their farms.

A third, very important prerequisite for the expansion of small-scale farming was the shortage of full-time jobs outside the multi-active farms. These offered a degree of safety when the supply of other work was scarce and unemployment high. The shortage of alternative full-time jobs explains why the number of small farms continued to increase in Lapland although small peasants did not have higher incomes there than in other parts of Sweden.

In the period after the Second World War the third prerequisite did not apply any longer. Employment in the non-agrarian sector increased rapidly. The small farms lost their old function and many of them were closed down soon after 1945. This process precipitated mechanization and a transition to full-time work in forestry. With time it became more difficult for small peasants to get supplementary incomes. In this way still another of the prerequisites for the existence of small-scale farming disappeared, and the process of closing down small farms was cumulative at the end of the 1960s.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 1988. , 291 p.
Umeå studies in economic history, ISSN 0347-254X ; 8Kungl. Skytteanska samfundets handlingar: Acta Regiae Societatis Skytteanae, ISSN 0560-2416 ; 34
Keyword [en]
agriculture, small farms, farming during industrialization, farming as insurance, supplementary incomes, productivity, closing down
National Category
Economic History
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-66610ISBN: 91-86438-05-0OAI: diva2:608880
Public defence
1988-04-15, Humanisthuset, hörsal F, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:15
Available from: 2013-03-01 Created: 2013-02-26 Last updated: 2013-03-01Bibliographically approved

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