Swedish Occupation: Backstugusittare
Backstugusittare is a old term for people in rural areas who lived on someone else's land, or on the commons in a small cottage or hut. Unlike the torpares who rented land, the backstugusittaren normally did not have a lease agreement to use a plot of land. Many backstuga's had just a single room and were often built into a hillside (three walls of wood with the fourth wall of dirt.) This style of building was common in southern and southwestern Sweden, where wood was expensive.
The person (or people) living in these dwellings were called backstugusittare. They were completely dependent on the landowner's discretion. Sometimes the landowner let them use a small parcel of land to grow potatoes or a garden. Often the household also had smaller animals, like cats, pigs, goats or chickens.
Almost always, those who lived this way were very poor, making a living from temporary jobs, handicrafts or other tasks. The household was exempt from tax. In contrast, there were some backstugusittare's who had a better standard of living such as craftsmen who lived in a cottage for low-cost housing (although still poor.)
During the 1600 and 1700's the poorest, or sometimes outcast and despised, lived in the backstuga's. The "social status" improved slightly during the 1800's, when many laborers moved to simple cottages. With the Laga Skifte in 1827, the number of backstugusittare's increased. The reason was that many farming households (landowners) were moved out of villages which created new demands upon the land used by the torpare's (tenant farmers.) Many torpare's became day laborers, and moved to backstuga's. In the late 1800's there were as many backstugusittare's as torpare's in Sweden.
Along the west coast of Sweden they used the title "strandsittare" (day laborers who made a living from fishing.)
In Skåne, Blekinge and parts of Halland such a cottage was called "gatehus" and a backstugusittare was called "gatehusman".
In the south part of Norrland such people were called "utanvidsfolk".
Swedish Wikipedia Community. Backstugusittare. Wikipedia, July 2012.
Nationalencyklopedin. Gatehus. NE.se, August 2012.
Nationalencyklopedin. Utanvidsfolk. NE.se, August 2012.