onsdag 16 juli 2014

Workday Wednesday - Swedish Iron Industry: Bergsmen


Bergsman (I have note been able to find the English word for this) was originally a free farmer who along side farming produced pig iron in a smeltery and also mined for iron ore. These bergsmen worked together in so called Bergslag, meaning they each owned shares in the mines and smelteries, and did not have to pay taxes in return for there services in the iron industry. They did however pay taxes on the pig iron they produced, a tenth of the production. Depending on the value of the farm the farmer owned he could be a whole, a half or a quarter bergsman.


The custom of having bergsmen mining for ore on their property started during the middle ages and ended in 1859 when the handeling of ore became free in Sweden. The mining was regulated by law and the letter of privilages showed which rights and obligations the crown gave the people who extracted ore on their property. The value of the farm came to deside how many shares a Bergsman had in the smeltery.
The Bergregal stated that the crown had the rights to all land with ore. This ment that the Bergsman did not really own the land he was farming, but he owned the rights to farm it and also the buildings.
The rules and conditions could vary a lot from bergslag to bergslag but the general rule was that you payed a tenth of what you produced and you did not have to pay other taxes.
Some bergslag continued working together as usual even after their obligations had been taken away in 1859.

[edit]Daily Life

During the summer the bergsmen and their families extracted ore from bogs, lakes and red earth. From 1600 and onwards under ground mining took over. In the fall they took care of the harvesting and threshing before it was time to start working with the charcoal kilns. The winters were used for taking down trees and transport goods and materials. The snow made the job easier. To produce pig iron the smelteries needed the spring rivers. The bars were marked with the personal stamp of the bergsman and the number of the smeltery. Spring was also the time for sowing.
The pig iron was sold to the ironworks at markets during the year. There they could also sell hammered iron ware that they had produced on their own.


The farm of a Bergsman could, according to the letter of privilages, be inherited by the children of a Bergsman and therefor they often took over the farm and became Bergsmen themselves.
Wikipedia on Bergsman
Wikipedia on Bergslag
Wikipedia on Bergsprivilegium

Nordiska Museumet through Digitalt Museum
 Bergsmän, Falu koppargruva. Teckning av Hans Ranié, 1680-tal
License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.5 SE

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