The demise of keuter farms in Coastal Flanders
Farms were under tremendous pressure during wars. In addition to the destruction and the diseases spread by the roaming bands of armies, the governments or occupiers also increased the tax burden. This burden was so high that some farms went bankrupt.
In Coastal Flanders, the wars went hand in hand with farm expansion in the 17th and 18th centuries, with large (tenant) farmers gobbling up the downtrodden small- and medium-sized farms. This indicates that large (tenant) farmers were better able to withstand the heavy pressure of rising taxes.
Combining accounting data from farms and tax collector accounts, Sander Berghmans (UGent, Dep. History) shows that taxes played a crucial role in the enlargement of farms in Coastal Flanders. First, his research showed that taxes were a very important expense for farms, especially during wars. Second, he was able to proof that large farms were able to secure payment deferrals.
Although granting payment deferrals was not allowed by local governments, it was found that local tax collectors did so for large farms. Large farms possessed the social and economic power to obtain payment deferrals from the tax collector. Smaller and medium-sized farms did not have this power and were therefore declared bankrupt very rapidly in the event of arrears. Their abandoned farms could then be leased for little money by the large farms. Territorial data from the STREAM-database were used for the spatial representation of data in this study.