Schleswig-Holstein Manumission

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Adlige Güter and Serfdom in Schleswig-Holstein[edit | edit source]

Farms owned by nobility were called “Adlige Güter” (manors). They were mainly located in Angeln, Schwansen, Dänish Wohld, around Westensee, East Holstein and the Duchy of Lauenburg. To the manors belonged the so-called “Hofland” and the “Bauernland”. Bauernland was the soil the farmers cultivated but did not own. It all belonged to the manor lord. For the privilege to farm the Bauernland, the farmer in return had to provide his services re. the Hofland. Until 1804 farmers were serfs. They had no right to move away, they were not able to choose a profession, they were not allowed to marry whom they wanted or when. In return, the manor lord had to make provisions for health and poverty issues. He had to provide seed and wood. When there was a crop failure he had to render assistance. The manor lord was judge, church and school patron as well as the highest level of administrative issues.

How severely such rules were handled, depended on the manor lord and the increased demand of service re. the Hofland. This left the individual farmers with little time to cultivate their own land (Bauernland). Serfdom turned out more and more to be unprofitable until in 1805 it was abolished.


An history of serfdom found in this essay


Wulf, Peter. Güter in Schleswig-Holstein um 1800 – Gutsherrn, Güterverkauf, Güterspekulationen

Cord, Alix-Johanna. Bäuerliche Besitzverhältnisse in Gutsherrschaften

Lorenzen-Schmidt, Klaus-Joachim. Bäuerliche Besitzverhältnisse in Schleswig-Holstein vom 15.-20. Jh.

Drygalla, Peter. Das Verzeichnis der Leibeigenen im Amt Einfeld 1744. FamilySearch Catalog call number 943.512/E3 D2d

Drygalla, Peter. Das Verzeichnis der Leibeigenen in den Ämtern Plön und Rethwisch 1744 FamilySearch Catalog call number 943.512 X2d

Manumission[edit | edit source]

In the beginning of the 19th century the release from serfdom for the German farmer began. In the Age of Enlightenment the oppression of one person to another seemed inappropriate. Practical experiments proved that abolition of serfdom was also advantageous to the manor lord as the Earl of Rantzau in Schleswig-Holstein had demonstrated. The development of industry required more workers and had to come from the ranks of serfs. Between the second half of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century manumissions occurred in many German states. The release from serfdom was very well documented with either an actual document or an official entry in a record. The release was granted by the respective sovereign lord.
The releases occurred step by step. Sometimes the entire estate of the manor lord was transferred to the serfs without compensation to the previous owner. On the other hand the release from serfdom only covered personal choices such as granting agency in matters of marriage. In some German states the serf was able to purchase land from the manor lord or was supported by the state in purchasing land.

In the Duchy of Holstein, Hans Graf zu Rantzau was the first manor lord, who released his serfs step by step from his services beginning in 1739. In 1796 manumission on a larger scale took place in Holstein and also, in the Duchy of Schleswig. After all manor lords were contacted and the King notified, the resolution of June 30, 1797 was sanctioned and the abolition of serfdom completed by the end of 1804.