bonde (OSw) bonde (ODan) bondi (OGu) bóndi (ON) búandi (ON) noun

As indicated by the last form the noun bonde (pl. bönder) is derived from the present participle of the verb (OSw) boa/(ON) búa in the sense ‘live, dwell’. The term bóndi/búandi was used to denote a man fixed to a location (as opposed to göngumaðr, q.v.) and usually married (cf. Beck 1975, 64). Düwel (1975, 190−92 (citing Hjärne)) defines bonde as a free, weapon-bearing man who has a fixed abode where he can be lawfully summoned.

In general, the bonde was a farmer and landowner, and head of a household. However, not all farmers were landowners; many were tenants (OSw landboar, ODan garthsæter, landboer, ON landbúar, leiglendingar, leiguliðar) (see landboe, garthsæte, laigulenningr, leiguliði). In WNorway (the province of the Gulathing law) there were thus two kinds of free bönder. In Mid and Northern Norway (the province of the Frostathing law) three kinds of bönder were distinguished: hauldr (see hölðr), árborinn maðr, and reksþegn (q.v.) (see below). There were also two classes of landowners: (1) farmers who had purchased their land (ON kauplendingar (see kauplendingr)), and (2) farmers who owned their land by hereditary (odal) right. The latter category, in ONorw called a hauldr or óðalborinn maðr, was considered the normal man with respect to legal and social status. He was to be preferred as witness, and he set the standard for the system of compensation and fines (bǿtr (see bot)) and sektir (see sækt) (see Helle 2001, 117). This system was graded according to the rank of the person(s) insulted, whether they had a higher or a lower status than a bonde. Only landed men (lendir men, see below), the king's marshal (stallari), the earl (jarl), the bishops and the king had a higher rank, tenants and freedmen (frjálsgjafar, leysingjar) had a lower standing. Slaves had no personal rights whatsoever. The social stratification of the Norwegian society was also reflected in the gravesites: the higher the rank of the deceased, the closer to the church this person was buried.

Peculiar to the FrL was the reksþegn, a bonde whose legal rights were half of those of the hauldr. He was ranked between the freeborn man (the árborinn maðr), and the freedman and each of their descendants. The former had at least four generations of free men as ancestors, but he could not match the hauldr because he lacked odal rights. He either was a tenant or owned purchased land.

It should be noted that the tenant, although inferior to the hauldr in social status, enjoyed the same personal rights (réttr) as the bonde with respect to fines and compensations.

In the OSw provincial laws and in the law of Gotland, the peasantry was less hierarchically structured, the main distinction being that of the free versus the unfree man. The latter group consisted of the slaver (þrælar). An exception to this pattern occurs in the VgL, where the landed man (the lænder maþer) enjoyed a higher social status than the bonde. On the other hand, the bonde was ranked above the landed man, the bishop, and the king with respect to the vitsorþ (q.v.), which probably refers to the right of possessing land. A parallel may be found in the ÖgL, which supports the bonde against the king in disputes about the vitsorþ. In Norway, the landed men have been considered a special higher class of bönder who owned extensive lands themselves or possessed lands as grants from the king. It is doubtful whether this is the case in the VgL, despite Norwegian influence (see Lindkvist 2009a, 63 with further references).

An example of a hierarchically inferior bonde may be seen in the HL, where the messenger of the king (the kunungs ari) enjoyed a special protection when travelling in Hälsingland. If insulted he was entitled to a compensation double that of a bonde.

In the GL the landowners (bönder) and the tenants (laigulenningar, landboar) were equal before the law, except in their function as witnesses. In this and in several other respects there was a distinction between Gotlanders, non-Gotlanders, and slaves, with falling degrees of status. See, e.g., GL A 15, 17, 20, 20a, 24.

In Sweden, as well as in Denmark, the bonde belonged to a commune. He was part of the village (byr) and the parish (sokn). As such, he was responsible for the building and upkeep of churches, roads, and bridges. The priest was legally on a par with the bonde. He was a member of the village, sharing the same obligations as the bönder. The importance of a bonde as a free man, implying a designation of respect, is evident in the laws of Västergötland. Here it is stated that a bishop and a judge (laghmaþer) have to be sons of bönder.

The ODan provincial laws indicate that most farmers were freeholders, but the number of tenants was increasing, esp. in Zealand. There were small differences between the two classes and mainly of a legal nature: Only freeholders were allowed as nævninger (nominated men, members of judicial panels, see næmpning) in Jutland and compurgators in Scania in disputes about property. Within the group of tenants, there was a distinction between the landbo and the garthsæte. The latter was a smallholder, more dependent on his landlord. He was allowed to till a small piece of land for himself in return for compulsory labour for the landlord. The class of garthsæter was greatly increased by the liberation of slaves.

OIce law distinguished between freeholders, tenants, and smallholders (búðsetumenn). Only the freeholders visited the assembly (the þing). This implied that they had to be wealthy, because they were obliged to pay a fee for travelling to the assembly, the so-called þingfararkaup (q.v.). After the union with Norway had been established they were called skattbǿndr. In contrast, the bonde who lived on land belonging to the church was called kirkjubóndi. These two terms were peculiar to Iceland.


adult man OSw SmL
farmer ONorw BorgL 4.2 5.2 passim
OSw DL Tjdb
ONorw EidsL 8.3 10.5 passim
ONorw FrL Intr 12 Tfb 1 KrbA 22
OGu GL A 5, 7, 10, 17, 28, 48, 56, 56a, Add. 1 (B 4)
OSw HL Kkb, Kgb, Äb, Mb, Jb, Kmb, Blb, Rb
OFar Seyð 8, 9
OSw SmL

freeholder ONorw FrL Intr 1, 15
head of the household ONorw GuL Kjb, Tjb, Leb
householder OSw ÄVgL Kkb, Md, Smb, Vs, Slb, Äb, Gb, Rlb, Jb, Tb, Fös, Föb
OSw DL Kkb, Eb, Mb, Bb, Gb, Tjdb, Rb
ODan ESjL 1−3
ONorw FrL Intr 12, 19, 20 KrbA 2, 18 KrbB 19 passim Mhb 4, 7 Var 1
OIce Grg Klþ passim Þsþ 23, 27, 35, 59 Vís 97 Lsþ 116 Arþ 120 Fjl 225 Rsþ 230 Hrs 234 Misc 251 Tíg 255
ONorw GuL Krb, Kpb, Kvb, Løb, Llb, Arb, Tfb, Mhb, Tjb, Olb, Leb
OIce Sg 1 Mah 2, 3 Kge 17, 24 Llb 18 Kab 25 Þjb 2, 6 Fml 2, 12
OIce Js Mah 11, 14 Kab 1
ODan JyL 1−3
OIce KRA 1, 4 passim
OSw ÖgL Kkb, Eb, Db, Vm
OSw SdmL Kkb, Kgb, Gb, Äb, Jb, Bb, Kmb, Mb, Tjdb, Rb, Till
ODan SkKL 1−3, 7, 9, 12, 13
ODan SkL passim
OSw SmL
OSw UL passim
OSw VmL passim
ODan VSjL 1, 24, 32, 52, 57−59, 64−66, 84, 85, 87
OSw YVgL passim

husband OSw ÄVgL Äb, Gb
ONorw BorgL 3.5, 17.3
OSw DL Kkb, Mb, Gb
ONorw EidsL 23.1
ONorw FrL KrbA 3 KrbB 7 Mhb 35 Kvb 5
OGu GL A 20
OIce Grg Þsþ 81 Vís 89, 95 Arþ 118 Ómb 143 Misc 248
ONorw GuL Krb, Kvb, Løb, Arb, Mhb
OSw HL Kkb, Äb
OIce Mah 2, 30 Kge 5 Kab 24
OIce Js Mah 9 Kvg 2
ODan JyL 1, 3
OIce KRA 17
OSw ÖgL Db
OSw SdmL Kkb, Gb, Äb, Mb
ODan SkL 8, 10, 23
OSw SmL
OSw UL Kkb, Äb, Mb, Jb, Rb
OSw VmL Kkb, Äb, Mb, Jb, Rb
ODan VSjL 1, 61
OSw YVgL Äb

man OSw DL Kkb, Mb
ODan SkL 22, 57, 161, 162

master OSw HL Mb
OFar Seyð 7
ODan SkL 131

neighbour OIce Grg Fjl 223
parishioner OSw SmL
peasant OSw ÄVgL Kkb Refs:

Beck 1975, 64; Düwel 1975, 190−92; Helle 2001, 117; KLNM s.v.v. bonde, böter, gärd, hauld, husbonde, husmand, leiglending, rekstegn, stænder, þegn; Lindkvist 2009a

Citation
  • ‘bonde’. A Lexicon of Medieval Nordic Law.

  • http://www.dhi.ac.uk/lmnl/nordicheadword/displayPage/641
    (10/04/2022)