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The Meaning of the Word "Mantal"


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A mantal cannot be given a specific size because it's not a size measurement unit but a value unit of the property. I also read in a book (think it was one of "Karleby Hembygdsbok") where the name and the use of the word mantal has its roots. It was in the 1500s when Gustav Vasa was our king and as with all kings and presidents after him, he wanted taxes. The essential word consisted of actually two words man and tal, in English man and number. I don't know if it meant that the property could support 1 man (and his family, of course) or if it meant how many grown-up men lived on the farm, but I think it meant that the farm could support one family. This was the basis for the word mantal, but as you surely have noticed there were only a few farms in Nedervetil about 1600 that were taxed for 1 mantal (Kaino, Pelo, Murick, Tast and maybe Hästbacka), the rest was 1/4, 1/2 and so on. Our tax authority at that time made their own judgment of the value of the property and according to that they paid taxes (grain and fish mostly) to the king (and his army).

Then there were also so-called "frälse" farms. I don't know of any of those in Nedervetil but they had been "frälst från skatt" (saved by the king from paying taxes). Such a farm could have been given to a good soldier or a noble (I think most of the nobles lived on frälse at that time). If a property had been abandoned for a number of years (which was quite common after "stora ofreden"), the new settler could also ask the king to tax him less than the original mantal of the property. So if the previous owner of the property had been taxed, let's say for 1/2 mtl, the new settler could get 5 tax-free years and the following 10 years it could be raised to 1/4 mtl and so on. This also tells us, it wasn't the amount (size) of land but its value. Mantal is still used today but the meaning of the word has again changed.

The only time (I know of) mantal is used today, is when we are voting on something concerning the whole mantal, for instance the usage of "sammfälligheter" (the joint property of a mantal). Those who own a greater part of the original mantal than others, usually has a greater mantal number, but you can't count the mantal share by using the size of the property. I know of an interesting case in Överby (Tast, Kaino, Riippa and others) when they had to vote, when they couldn't decide about letting a local Rally association use the joint property for rehearsal purposes. More were against it than for it, but two brothers, members of the Rally association, convinced their father to vote for it, and he had more mantal than the rest of the participants together, so you can figure out yourself the result of the voting.

The mantals today are commonly something from 0,01 to 0,0001 mtl/property, so it's a long way to the numbers that our great grandfathers owned, but this is only natural because they have been divided so many times. If you and I would be the sole owners of Antas and Juhos mantal today, we would dictate a lot of what is happening in Pelo. Another thing to consider is that all the forestlands were joint property in the 16th and 17th century so only the fields and meadows were considered as something of real value of a mantal.

Briefly, I guess you can say that the meaning of the word mantal has changed many times during the last centuries but one thing still remains, it's a kind of measurement of the value of a property.

Written by Robert Plogman in April, 1998.

June Pelo

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