The Swedish Land Survey (ca 1628 to 1809)

Andreas Bureus (d. 1646) had founded the Swedish Land Survey (Landtmäteristyrelsen) as early as 1628, but it wasn’t until the 1680s that the Swedish Land Survey became institutionalized and identified as a specific branch of the administration. During its rule (approx. 1620-1721) Sweden was geographically extensive but poor and sparsely populated, lacking in resources to create an efficient land survey office. It was not until the middle of the 18th century that the land survey office gained significant prestige and access to resources.

When founded, the Swedish Land Survey was subordinated to a part of the Chamber Collegral Body (kammarkollegiet), more precisely its accounts chamber (räknekammaren). However, the Chamber Collegral Body lacked the expertise necessary to effectively administrate the land survey office. The Central Land Survey located in Stockholm faced many challenges in the large realm with poor means of communication. Some of the surveyors worked independently and disregarded the Chamber Collegral Body when they performed private surveys for the nobility or ignored regulations by ordering their apprentices to do official work for them. Training was inadequately organized through the apprenticeship system, while personal relationships replaced expertise. An office of Inspector was instituted in 1643 to improve the situation. The first incumbent was surveyor Peder Menlös. However, no improvements were achieved. An indication of future developments was that the expression landtmäteriet was used of land survey, which meant that administratively and operationally land surveying had already been separated from the Chamber Collegral Body.

However, the poorly organized Land Survey achieved some significant results in cartography during the Swedish rule, particularly the Geometrical Land Books (geometriska jordeböcker) for improving taxation. Geographic mapping (geografiska mätningar) also started in 1643. In addition, surveyors performed private surveys for the nobility, which occupied a dominant position in society during the Swedish rule and whose tax exempt land holdings (frälse) had increased (to more than half of the realm’s land area) owing to fiefs (förläning) obtained from the Crown. Surveyors preferred the lucrative surveys commissioned by the nobility to poorly paid governmental work. In the late 17th century there were approx. 60 surveyors in the realm of Sweden. This was not much, considering that the Swedish Land Survey did not only cover Sweden and Finland but also the provinces in the Baltic area and Swedish Pomerania.

A significant turning point both for Sweden and the Swedish Land Survey occurred in the1680s.  The power of the king increased and it culminated in autocracy, thus causing great changes. The position of Bodies within the administration decreased, and civil servants in the good graces of the king became very influential. The crucial changes also include the introduction of a new remuneration system for the military and the civil service known as the allotment system (indelningsverket), as well as the confiscation of land properties granted to the nobility, what is known as the great reduction (stora reduktionen). The significant scientific advances in european astronomy and geodesy also affected Sweden.

Carl Gripenhielm (d.1694) was appointed as the first Director of the Swedish Land Survey in 1683. The new Director started an ambitious development project to provide Swedish Land Survey with an identity as a governmental office. The professional competence of surveyors was improved and the accuracy of maps was increased. The central administration of the Swedish Land Survey acquired a larger workforce when an inspector, two engineers, clerks and other assistants were hired to assist the Director. Supervision was increased. Field surveyors were required to keep a journal, swear an oath of office and to provide a report of their commissions to Stockholm. The Swedish Land Survey started to cooperate with the universities in an effort to recruit more surveyors. Mapping and surveying work connected to the allotment system and the reduction became the focus of activities. So did the mapping of forests, which became important due to the increased commercial activity of the Dutch and English in the Gulf of Finland. The mapping of coastal waters to improve trade connections also increased. Gripenhielm produced a significant map of the realm of Sweden, the first since the Bureus map of 1626. The number of surveyors was multiplied when commissions were introduced, with dozens of authorized district surveyors, to carry out extensive legal surveys (reduction and cadastral surveys in the Baltic and Swedish Pomerania). In addition, the corps of surveyors consisted of ordinary surveyors (ordinarie landtmätare) in their respective counties, extraordinary surveyors (extra ordinarie landtmätare) and the staff at the survey office. Only the ordinary surveyors were paid a regular salary.

The nuisance of long distances caused to the administration could be partly eliminated when the first county land survey offices (länslandtmäterikontor) were founded in the early 18th century. In contrast, the survey office in Stockholm became known as the Head Land Survey Office (generallandtmäterikontoret).

The Great Northern War (1700 – 1721) interrupted Gripenheim’s reform work and consequently the surveying stopped and the number of surveyors declined. Gripenhielm’s followers Johan Transchiöld (d. 1699), Gunno Eurelius Dahlstierna (d. 1709) and Jacob Nordencreutz (d. 1747) kept a low profile, nonetheless following in the footsteps of Gripenhielm.

A significant connection between Swedish geodesy and the field of international science was forged by the Frenchman Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis whose survey expedition visited Lapland in 1736 and 1737. The Swedish Land Survey started to measure locations using astronomical methods, some with instruments donated by the French. The focus moved to geographical mapping near the Russian border. The mapping of waterways leading to the important fortress Sveaborg, which was being built off the Helsinki shore, was started in order to carry out the project to build a thoroughfare waterway. In the mid-18th century Finland obtained its land survey office and E. O. Runeberg (d. 1770) was appointed as the first director.

A significant new era in the history of the Swedish Land Survey began in 1747, when Jacob Faggot (d. 1777), who had formerly worked as an Inspector at the Head Land Survey Office in Stockholm was appointed as the Director. He recruited more staff to the Federal Land Survey Office, including a filing clerk (registrator) to deal with the increasing flood of official documents. Faggot instituted an internal code of practice at the Head Land Survey Office and even improved the surveyors’ salaries. Despite the administrative reforms he introduced, Faggot is best known as a fervent supporter of land consolidation, where jointly owned fields were consolidated into contiguous parcels of land (storskift). The implementation of land consolidation was the most important task of the Head Land Survey Office until the end of the 18th century, and transferred the focus from geographic surveys to cadastral surveys. Privately financed geographic mapping started in the late 18th century (Hermelin atlas), as well as military reconnoitering surveys commissioned by the Crown. Faggot was succeeded by Eric af Wetterstedt (d. 1822). The number of surveyors in Sweden was approx. 300 at the end of the period covered by this study. Following the Napoleonic wars, Finland ceased to be a part of Sweden and was incorporated as autonomous state into Russia in 1809.

Mikko Huhtamies (kään. Maria Hällfors)

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