Scandinavia in the Revolutionary Era, 1760-1815 by Hildor Arnold Barton

By Hildor Arnold Barton

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During the century there was a tendency for the government to replace the traditional magistracies of the towns with appointed mayors (byfogder), and even where older municipal forms persisted, the burgomaster (borgmester) and councillors (radmcend) were responsible to the local amtmand. Still, the towns retained some vestiges of their old liberties, even where the magistracies had disappeared, through their "elected men" (eligerede mcend), who represented the citizenry and reviewed administration and finances in their municipalities.

Yet friction between these diverse elements was dampened by a royal absolutism which allowed no corporate role in the government of the realm to any of them. In Sweden-Finland circumstances were more uniform and contrasts less extreme. The political representation of the Estates, however, gave social distinctions a more immediate significance and led earlier to social conflict. Although conditions in Sweden's small German territories in Pomerania and Wismar resembled those in Denmark's German lands, their populations were far smaller.

In Norway, Iceland, and the Fserees, they were both juridically free and largely freeholders. The same was true in Sweden and Finland, where the peasant freeholders were also represented by their own Estate in the Riksdag. Once again, it is the Danish monarchy that offers the greatest contrasts. In Denmark proper, the peasantry had been free—as it was in the other Scandinavian lands—until the agricultural depression of the fifteenth century, when the practice of vornedskab developed on the islands of Sjaelland (Zealand), M0n, Falster, and Lolland.

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