Maarevisjonid Eesti- ja Liivimaal Rootsi võimuperioodi alguses

Ülle Tarkiainen


Land revisions in Estland and Livland at the beginning of the Swedish reign

The article focuses on the ways land revisions were carried out in the provinces of Estland and Livland at the beginning of the Swedish reign and the purposes they served. Land revision data from the Swedish period has been used in numerous studies on Estonian and Latvian settlement and agrarian history. The current picture we have of the structure and changes of the population and settlements, enfeoff ments, imposts on peasantry, and agricultural conditions in various regions originates mainly from these sources. The materials on the revisions are kept in the Chamber Archives of the National Archives of Sweden, Historical Archives of the National Archives of Estonia, and the State Archives of Latvia. The revisions done within the territory of Estonia have been published which has notably expanded the scope of their use.
The article pays special attention to the process of carrying out the revisions, temporal framework, methods, people who performed the tasks, but also to the general goals of Swedish economic rule in the Baltic provinces. There were several setbacks in conquering the area for the Swedish crown. Every time a part of the land became a Swedish possession, a swift assessment of the landed property was carried out.
The Swedish crown organized several big revisions at the beginning of its rule in these provinces, namely in Estland from 1586–90 and in Estland and Livland from 1600–01, and additionally in Livland from 1624–27 and in 1638. Apart from these major revisions, there were several other limited revisions that were not completed or the results of which have only partially been preserved (from 1617–19 and in 1630).
Revisions took place on the king’s command and according to specific instructions. Land revisions were primarily organized to plan, examine, and specify the state’s revenues. The tasks of the revision commission were generally rather broad, and one of the most important obligations during the first revisions was to check the landowners’ right of possession. It is especially evident during the revision in Estland from 1586–90. It was typical for Swedish revisions in Estland and Livland to be were carried out by commissions created for that purpose. On rare occasions, the revision was managed by the landlord visiting either Estland or Livland, as was the case with Duke Karl in 1601. The custom of delegating the organization of the revision to numerous sub-commissions was practiced in Livland in 1638.
Members of the commission were typically appointed from the ranks of the high nobility of Sweden, Estland, and Livland. Mixed commissions of Swedes and Germans were common, but the local German members were naturally special trustees to the Swedish government. In 1638, the commissions consisted again mostly of local German officials, primarily lawyers. The real executer of the work was, however, a lower-level official (a secretary or scribe) appointed by the commission. It is clear that the knowledge of those officials about local conditions varied greatly, but the use of previous economic documentation and helpers, and the questioning of taskmasters and peasants improved the level of outcome.
Intervals between revisions in Estland and Livland were very long, and every revision collected different information in comparison with the previous one. The state revenues from agriculture in the Baltics were often limited due to enfeoff ment, because only during the time of political turmoil and war and in their immediate aftermath were most of the farmsteads taxed by the state. The state representatives did not keep an account on the tax revenues of the enfeoffed territories. It sufficed when the officials checked from time to time whether the landed property did indeed belong to the nobles who claimed the relevant right.
The revisions in Estland and Livland can be viewed in parallel. The major revisions in Estland took place from 1586–90 and again in 1601, and in Livland from 1624–27 and in 1638. The interval between the revisions was 11–12 years, so that the first revision was carried out during a longer period, while the later one only in the course of a single year. The first revisions were organized in the shadow of war, and the latter ones already during the time when Swedish reign was solidifi ed. The earlier revisions surveyed the territory that had only just been conquered by Sweden and the opportunities for enfeoff ment were still great. The latter revisions reflect the situation when the enfeoff ment had been almost accomplished. It is remarkable that aft er 1638 there were no revisions in Estland or Livland before the big cadastre of 1688–1690. The reason was that nearly all landed property had been enfeoff ed and the system of manors had become stable.

KEYWORDS: Estonian history, province of Estland, province of Livland, history of Sweden, early modern period, agrarian history, payments, land revisions, manors, peasants.

ÜLLE TARKIAINEN (b. 1957) is a Senior Researcher at the Institute of History and Archaeology, University of Tartu.130

Correspondence: Institute of History and Archaeology, University of Tartu, Ülikooli18, 50090 Tartu, Estonia. E-mail:

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ISSN 1406-3859 (print)
ISSN 2228-3897 (online)
Journal DOI: