The preeindustrial possession and consumption of iron in rural Sweden 1750-
1870. (Publications of the Department of Economic History, School of Economics
and Commercial Law, Göteborg university no 89)
ISSN 403-2864. ISBN 91-85196-57-6 . Göteborg 2003
Author: Per Hallén
Doctoral Dissertation at the Department of Economic History, Göteborg university.
(Written in Swedish with a Summary in English).
Distribution: the Department of Economic History, Göteborg university, Box 720,
SE-405 30 Göteborg, Sweden.
The main purpose of this thesis was to investigate how much iron the rural population
in Sweden possessed 1750-1870. The aim was also investigate and to calculate
the amount of iron needed to replenish iron stocks lost to each year due to attrition.
Many studies of inventories have been conducted in Western Europe and North
America however; these studies have primarily focused on luxuries items such as gold,
silver and furniture. Iron objects were different, as households did not consider their
consumption as a luxury.
Households used objects made of iron as coocking pots and other kitchen utensils.
On farms the use of iron also increased. During the period 1750-1870, iron
steadily replaced wooden parts in almost all farm implements, from spades to
ploughs and harrows. The transition from wood to iron parts played an important
roll as humans gradually took control over the landscape. The new iron tools made
digging ditches easier and facilitated large-scale drainage of marches. Iron parts on
ploughs and harrows broke the soil faster and deeper than older ones made entirely
Iron tools were not luxuries but they played an important roll in farm economics
during the period studied.
In the mid 18th century, an average farm possessed about 150 kilos of iron, in 1870
that had increased to around 500 kilos. During that, time the composition of the
different groups of iron shifted. Iron used in transport and agricultural production
became increasingly important. It was in the transport sector that the rise in the
possession of iron was first noted as farmers began to use iron tipped wheels and
iron axels on wagons and carts. This improvement meant that wagons and carts
could load more goods.
The second wave of new and improved iron objects included agricultural tools –
ploughs and harrows. Some important changes were made already in the late 18th
century, however, the breakthrough of iron implements in agriculture came 1800-
20. It is interesting to note that this change was contemporary with a major shift to
iron ploughs and harrows in British, Danish and Norwegian farming