Violence and the Peasant Elite in Lower Satakunta (1550–1680)
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“The lengthy quarrels over inheritance hint that these people had fiery tempers”, wrote Mauno Jokipii in his pioneering article on the history of the Lavila family—one of the prominent families of freeholders in Lower Satakunta.1 In our study on the women from that same family, Virpi Nissilä and I have encountered about 100 court cases from the 1620 to the 1650s, in which six women from two generations have been present. The most prominent of them is Anna Mårtensdotter who appeared in court 28 times in the four years for which we have the court minutes still intact. These records tell of her offensive behaviour: neighbours complaining about her physical violence, insults, appropriations, and even tearing roofs down. Against her brother Valentin, Anna engaged in an exceptional dispute that lasted for decades and covered a variety of matters. The number of times and way she handled appearing in court reveals her active and aggressive agency.2 The knowledge that there was a tradition in her family for its members to hold positions of trust in the local administration throws the contentious behaviour of her and her siblings into stark relief. Her grandfather had been a scribe and her father, uncle, and grandmother had held the post of local constable in Eurajoki parish for decades. So where did this fiery behaviour come from, and what might have caused it? What was its social context? And does the story of Anna Mårtensdotter tell us something more general about violence in Western Finland?