Page:Economic Development in Denmark Before and During the World War.djvu/22

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6
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN DENMARK

later Bernstorff followed her example on the Gentofte estate, and other landowners did likewise. An ordinance of 1771 specified the amount and kind of compulsory service to be rendered, and another of 1781 was intended to abolish the old system of 'common fields'—a sharing of agricultural labour and produce which was no longer of any importance. This ordinance allowed an exchange of 'parcels' or strips of land, so that the holdings of one man might lie in two or, at the most, three places.

In 1784 the King himself began to introduce reforms on many of the crownlands in the north of Zealand. The peasants were exempted from most of their former obligatory services, land was allotted to them, buildings were moved for them, and in many cases they were made owners or freeholders. Finally, in 1786, an agricultural commission was appointed to investigate the condition of the entire peasant class. Reforms then followed in rapid succession. In 1787 the question of land tenure was examined; in 1788 the corn trade and cattle trade were declared free; in 1791 an important ordinance regulating tenant service was issued, and in 1792 another concerning allotments. Most important of them all was the abolition of bondage in 1788, with a transition period of twelve years.

These reforms were of the greatest value from every standpoint, and wherever they were carried out they made room for technical progress. Profits from agriculture, which until then had been very modest, increased considerably for the reason that the peasants, released from many compulsory services and protected against arbitrary demands, held a stronger economic position and found it much easier to pay their dues both to their landlords and to the state.

The majority of the peasants continued as leaseholders. But after the system of 'common fields' was abolished there was this change in favour of the landlords, namely, that in leasing their land they could demand as high a rent as the peasants would pay, the amount being determined