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A peasant rebellion can be defined as an armed action involving a large proportion of peasants, where their participation is motivated by a wish to improve their own conditions. Peasant rebellions have been widespread throughout history in most of the world, even in present-day South America. True peasant rebellions only arose in Denmark during the Middle Ages until 1536.

Purpose

The purpose of peasant rebellions has usually been to restore the previous balance between peasants and landowners or states, when this had shifted and given the peasants unfavourable conditions. During these actions, sometimes more radical goals, such as abolishing all levies, arose, possibly in conjunction with utopian religious goals. Most peasant rebellions were short-lived affairs ending in bloody defeat. Peasants could not afford being away from their farms for sustained periods, they could not make a living by robbing peasants such as regular armies did, and they were inferior to their opponents both militarily and organisationally.

Organisation and causes

The organising of peasant rebellions in Denmark usually happened in the district or country things (assemblies), after which orders or fiery crosses were sent to every man in the area, obliging them to participate under the threat of death penalty. This same system was used to mobilise when foreign enemies attacked Denmark.

The oldest known peasant rebellions, which the rebellion against Knud the Holy in 1086 should probably be considered part of, along with a series of uprisings in Scania 1180-82, were directed at the expanding Crown and church. Most of the larger known rebellions during the following centuries, for instance in 1249 and 1313, happened as a response to the crown demanding additional taxes. All of the mentioned rebellions also enjoyed broad support from landowners.

Knud den Hellige
Knud the Holy. From Danmarks Riges
Historie (1896-1907).

 

The Late Middle Ages in Denmark, as in the rest of Europe, was the heyday of peasant rebellions: Rebellions arose in all parts of the country in 1438-41, in Schleswig 1472, wide unrest in various areas 1523-31, most violent in Scania 1525. This culminated during ‘the Count’s Feud’ 1534-36, and, as part of it, Skipper Clement’s uprising in Northern and Western Jutland in 1534. The general background for and cause of the rebellions of the Late Middle Ages were the comprehensive economic and social changes following the agricultural crisis ca. 1350-1450.

Results

The peasants would often be victorious in the preliminary phase, but apart from the rebellion in 1086, they all ended in defeat. This did not prevent the fear of a rebellion from playing a significant role in different situations, however. After ‘the Count’s Feud’, there are no real peasant rebellions in Denmark. This is likely connected with the landowners getting an increasingly tight hold on the peasants.

Om artiklen

Forfatter(e)
Anders Bøgh
Tidsafgrænsning
1086 - 1536
Medietype
Tekst
Sidst redigeret
20. juni 2011
Sprog
Dansk
Litteratur

Bøgh, A. m.fl. (red.): Til kamp for friheden. Sociale oprør i nordisk middelalder (1988)

Sørensen, Jørgen Würtz: Bondeoprør i Danmark 1438-41 (1983)

 

Udgiver
danmarkshistorien.dk

Relateret indhold

Om artiklen

Forfatter(e)
Anders Bøgh
Tidsafgrænsning
1086 - 1536
Medietype
Tekst
Sidst redigeret
20. juni 2011
Sprog
Dansk
Litteratur

Bøgh, A. m.fl. (red.): Til kamp for friheden. Sociale oprør i nordisk middelalder (1988)

Sørensen, Jørgen Würtz: Bondeoprør i Danmark 1438-41 (1983)

 

Udgiver
danmarkshistorien.dk