A new view of the population? On the consequences of the 1723-cadaster and the causes of its fall

By Trond Bjerkås

In 1721, King Fredrik IV pronounced that a new cadaster should be made in Norway. This was to provide an updated basis for land taxation after the Great Nordic War, which had emptied the treasury and forced the state to increase the tax burden on the land population. However, in 1724, after three years of work, the whole project was abandoned.

This article has two main objectives. Firstly, it provides a calculation of what consequences the cadaster would have had, had it not been abandoned. It shows that taxes would have been increased, and thereby continued the process of tax increases that had been taking place through out the 17th century. By abandoning the cadaster, the king in effect set the state on a new path of limiting and lowering the tax burden, making Norway in the 18th century, according to some historians, a «low taxed country».

Secondly, it is argued that the opposition to the cadaster came not only from the taxed farmers themselves, but from local government officials. This reflects a new view of what constitutes the states assets. The population came increasingly to be regarded as valuable, not only as objects of taxation, but as industrious producers.