This article provides a critical survey of research on social and economic stratification within the province of Jämtland, Mid-Scandinavia, during the Viking Age, Middle Ages, and the 16th century. Both historical, archaeological, and toponymical research is covered.
The author shows that the grade of social and economical stratification among the peasant population of Jämtland during the Viking Age and the early Middle Ages, up to circa 1350, have been judged very differently in former research. Some scholars have characterized Jämtland during this period as a strongly stratified society, others have characterized Jämtland as a relatively egalitarian society, where the distance between the top and the bottom were smaller than in many other parts of Scandinavia. However, when it comes to the 16th century there seems to be a consensus among scholars that Jämtland was unusually egalitarian.
Scholars have also put forward different opinions of what the elites of Jämtland lived on. Some have claimed that a surplus from trade was more important than a surplus from farming, while others have claimed that before 1350 an agrarian surplus was the base for the elite, but that this stratified society collapsed with the Black Death and the late medieval agrarian crisis. The author objects to the latter opinions and points out that there is no evidence for a large change of the social structure of Jämtland at the time of the agrarian crisis.
All this concerns the agrarian population of Jämtland. The author also touches on the Sami population in Jämtland, but notes that questions about social and economic stratification within this group before 1600 have not been disussed in earlier research, due to the the lack of sources. However, sources from the first half of the 17th century give the impression of a strongly stratified Sami society.
2010. Vol. 23, 114-148 p.