Poverty of the Country
lived under a tax so heavy, that they hardly could bear it. The most
significant reason for the poverty was the miserable circumstances for
the farming. The time after 1660 brought no progress. A number of years
there was even reduction in growth, the heather spread, and the the
number of wolves grew. Even in the better of years yield from harvest
was scarce, normaly only 3-4 fold.
The whole surplus from the farming was often not larger than the amount
of taxes, which they had to pay. Therefore the land was almost worthless.
The cattle was small and bad, and at many places the peasants had to
keep more horses and cows to be able to overcome the compulsory work at
The Danish nobility sank into poverty because of the bad situation for
the peasants. Many estates came into the hands of the middle class, and
among the counts and the barons the most were Germans.
They exercised their superior right with firmness, and it is at this
time the wooden-horse came into use. The worst peasant-pesters were,
however, often the peasants, who themselves became landowners or bailiff
for the landowners. A proverb from that time tells: “no sharper sword
you can find, than the peasant, who became landowner”.
But in spite of all this the desire for freedom and need of independence
never quite was cowed to the peasants. Even from Zealand the farmhands
frequently escaped to avoid slavery at home. By the Jutlanders and the
natives of Funen, where here and there was found relative prosperity,
the youth often gave in to their urge to wander and searched for better
conditions of life in other countries, which troubled and gave loss for
the squire, who could not find tenants to his farms.
The market towns did not play any part, they were small and poor. The
largest provincial towns, Helsingør and Ålborg had in 1672 only 4.000
inhabitants. Only Copenhagen grew in numbers, from 30.000 in 1660 to
60.000 a generation later.
But this growth was more due to the court and military, which attracted
a number of tradesmen and craftsmen, than actual progress in business
Wealth was not to be found among the middle class, and the self-esteem
of the citizens was forced backwards by the absolute monarchy and by the
snobbery of ranks, which followed.