University Studies of the University of Nebraska


Date of this Version



1977 by the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska


AGRARIAN REFORM can be one of the most complex tasks of government. It has immense consequences for the social, political, and economic structure of a society and for this reason often encounters resistance from traditional elites. In addition, the interrelated questions of land, labor, capital, education, and marketing require a comprehensive response and any single element in this matrix may be ignored only at considerable risk. Finally, the institutional and psychological characteristics of rural society have often proved remarkably impervious to change, yet if government is to be sensitive to the cultural and psychological needs of the rural community it has to exercise patience, tolerance, and ingenuity without at the same time losing the momentum of the reform effort. This is a balance that is difficult to achieve and maintain. The inherent obstacles to reform, therefore, are great, but this has not precluded success in some countries. One of the most interesting examples of effective reform occurred in Denmark during the eighteenth century. Its character has much to contribute to the continuing discussion of agricultural development, but unfortunately outside of Scandinavia, it has received little attention by scholars-a frequent problem with historical developments that occur in a less populous society whose language is not widely understood. This work, as a brief case study of the Danish movement for agrarian reform in the eighteenth century, is intended to partially fill this gap.