Norwegian Skipreide

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Skipreide (Skipreie) was first established by “Håkon the Good” around 955. In the beginning it was an administrative division of the coast in Norway. Denmark had a similar system. A Skipreide included free men (farmers), who were to build, equip, maintain, and man a Lething (typically a public levy of free farmers). This is a form of conscription to organize coastal fleets for seasonal excursions for defense of the realm and it was to provide provisions for two to three months. The Skipreide was also to provide a boat-house for the ship and was responsible to notify everyone in case of an attack on the country. The size of the ship was defined by the number of oars, initially 40 oars, to be manned by 100 men.  In 1277 there were 279 such districts, and the head of a district was called a “styrmann” steermand (Captain).  He  functioned as a captain of the ship and he was nominated by the King. The crew was chosen by rules set up by the court system which, at this time was called “Gulating”. This kind of “military” service was selected by choosing one out of every 7th head; which translates to about 14 % of the population.

The Skipreie would be mobilized if the country was attacked by enemy forces. In this case a fire would be built on high hills where it could be seen by the majority of the farmers.

A skipreide was from the beginning a system of defense or military service in Norway. Gradually it became Skipreieting (Skipreie court) until it became part of the local financial and jurisdictional center, where law was held and taxes were paid. The Skipreie’s eventually became tinglag (Courts) around 1660.

You may say that a Skipreide (Skiprede, Skipreie, Skibrede, Skipreite) is an area that was assigned to outfit a ship for military use. Its size was determined according to the number of farms in the area and did not usually include the entire parish. A skipreide may therefore include a number of farms of a given parish while another skipreide may include the remaining farms in the same parish. A skipreie was not confined to a parish border and may include farms in several parishes. As the population grew and there were more people in a given area, the boundaries of a skipreie became smaller as the number of skipreie increased. Today a skipreie (skipsrederi) is just a factory in a city or town where ships are being built.


-lokalhistoriewiki. ”Skipreide.” Accessed 15 November 2012.

-Wikipedia. “Skipreide.” Accessed 15 November 2012.

-Imsen, Steinar og Winge, Harald: Norsk Historisk Leksikon-Kultur og samfund ca. 1500 - ca. 1800 pages 381-391. (Oslo: Cappelen Akademisk Forlag, 2ed, 2004). Accessed 15 November 2012.