Pomerania Land and Property

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Landownership in Pommern

This article traces the development in farming and landowning practices in Pommern beginning in the 16th century. At this time the nobility, which already had owned most of the land, began displacing even more previously free farmers and acquiring their lands in a process called the Bauerlegen (to lay-down farmers). The majority of the people became renters of their farms, or landless agricultural laborers.

Farmers who rented from the local nobleman (called Junkers or Gutsherren) had little control of their own farmland or their lives in general. They had to provide statutory labor to the landowner, pay whatever rent the landowner demanded, and could not leave or marry without the landowner's permission. In addition they could not decide who their farm went to on their death. Although the landowner usually transfered the lease to the farmer's oldest son, he could also transfer it to another family or retain the land to himself.

 An individual farm was not usually one large tract of land, but smaller strips in various locations in the local cropland fields. This was done to divide equally the bad and good land among the farmers. Crop rotation occured to prevent exhaustion of the soil. Some land was so poor it was only planted once a decade. Villagers shared the pastures and forests.
In 1807 and 1811, Baurenbefreiung (liberation of the farmers) laws were passed to reform this feudal landowning system. Farmers were allowed to own and purchase their own land. However the lands available were small as the nobles still retained large holdings. Laws allowing partible inheritance in 1845 diminished the sizes of farms even further. Most villagers did not own enough land to be self sufficient farmers, but were mainly craftsman or agricultural laborers. This lack of available land in large quantities made places like America with vast amounts of land available inexpensively, attractive to many in Pommern.


Alan Moll

Die Pommerschen Leute
Vol. 29 Issue 3
Fall 2006
943.81 D25p page 50-51