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Erik Bengtsson . Foto

Erik Bengtsson


Erik Bengtsson . Foto

Wealth, work, and industriousness, 1670–1860: Evidence from rural Swedish probates


  • Marcus Falk
  • Erik Bengtsson
  • Mats Olsson

Summary, in English

This paper uses a new database of 1,891 probate inventories from rural southern Sweden from the 1670s to the 1860s to investigate the development of wealth and productive capacity in the Swedish countryside in this period. We show that while real wages fell in the 1700s, material living standards — as measured by the contents of probate inventories — improved, indicating greater labour inputs. This was not driven by more widespread ownership of the means of production, as the rural underclasses rather owned less means of production over time, and to some extent farmers did too. The wage labour inputs of the labouring classes intensified, and for workers’ and farmers’ households alike, textile production at home became more important; in the 1860s, half of working-class households owned spinning wheels and weaving looms, and for farmer households, the shares were 68 and 82 per cent, respectively. We argue that the results support an interpretation of an industrious revolution in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Sweden, with the improving material living standards shown by probate inventories, in contrast to the stagnating GDP per capita suggested by historical national accounts research.


  • Ekonomisk-historiska institutionen
  • Tillväxt, teknologisk förändring och ojämlikhet






Lund Papers in Economic History




Working paper


  • Economic History


  • living standards
  • industrious revolution
  • Sweden
  • probate inventories
  • early modern Europe
  • N33
  • N43