FARAVID 35/2011


Matti Mäntylä, The viability of new farms in the late 18th century in the chapelry of Haapajärvi, Pyhäjoki parish

The late 18th century was an era of powerful economic growth in Finland. The economy was developed, the population grew substantially and the position of yeomen improved. The state authorities endeavoured to better the quality of life of the peasantry. At the same time, they hoped that an upswing in the economy would enhance the prosperity of the kingdom of Sweden, and especially the tax revenue of the crown. Population growth was considered the key to economic expansion and, at the same time, the solution to the kingdom´s problems.

The settlement of wilderness areas was one of the most important phenomena in Finland in the late 18th century. The crown´s active resettlement policy had a huge effect on expanding settlement. Resettlement also played a significant role in the crown´s economic policy. By increasing the number of farms in the realm, the authorities estimated that the population would increase in the future. Founding new farms and crofts was allowed in Sweden in the middle of 18th century, as was the division of old farms. These statutes were the most important reforms for increasing the number of farms. Over 7000 new farms were founded in Finland between 1740 and 1810.

In the chapelry of Haapajärvi (Pyhäjoki parish, northern Ostrobothnia) the results of the crown´s resettlement policy were quite variable. Some of the new farms were soon abandoned or incapable of paying taxes. On the other hand, some new farms were able to support several yeomen and their families. Some new farms even seem to have become as wealthy as the old farms by the beginning of the 19th century. However, every fifth new farm became desolate or was corporated into an old farm. The nonviability of the new farms was a consequence of heavy taxes or small size of the farm. In addition, agricultural conditions in the chapelry were not necessarily very satisfactory. Added to this, the settlers might be lacking in both the skills to or will power demanded for founding a new farm. Usually the farms of medium size had the best possibilities to flourish.

The great period of resettlement in the late 18th century had a significant effect on the development of settlement in the chapelry of Haapajärvi. Several new farms essentially strengthened the old settlement originating from the 16th and 17th centuries. Even more far-reaching was the fact that the settlement spread to regions which had not been previously inhabited. Such new farms, which were established in wilderness, triggered the foundation of many later villages.  

Faravid 35/2011