FI / SV / EN


Year of induction: 2022

Custodian: The National Archives of Finland

The Accounts of the bailiffs

The Accounts of the bailiffs (Voudintilit) is a unique collection of tax rolls, land registers, receipts, copies of letters, lists of deserted farms and penalty lists concerning Finland from 1537 to 1634. The materials were created during a tax reform carried out under King Gustav Vasa (c. 1496–1560, reign 1523–1560) when bailiffs, working directly under the Crown, were appointed to handle the taxation of the realm. The kingdom was divided into bailiwicks, and the bailiff of each bailiwick had to annually submit the documents produced in connection with the collection of taxes to the counting house of the Royal Palace in Stockholm for inspection. After the inspection, the documents were placed in the castle’s archives.  

The collection contains nearly half a million folios of lists and other documents related to tax collection that have very varied contents. The collection includes the annual accounts of the bailiwicks, receipts, copies of letters, land registers, penalty lists, tithe lists, lists of deserted farms, lists of livestock and sowing tax, and lists of various special taxes. Because documentation culture was quite new, the ways in which documents were recorded varied, and the personalities of the bailiffs who produced them can be seen in the contents.  

The collection accounts form an exceptionally extensive and comprehensive source of information, without which our knowledge of Finland in the 1500s would be considerably more limited. The collection makes it possible to examine the era’s social phenomena, settlement, economy, commerce and social conditions, both in bailiwicks and in individual parishes and royal estates. The documents also describe the administrative and accounting system more broadly throughout the Swedish state, making the collection significant for Nordic historical research as well.   

Broadly speaking, the collection accounts reflect a period of transition, when the Crown took control of the Swedish realm more tightly, gradually breaking down the highly fragmented medieval system of government. Reforms of tax and legal systems were important tools in this process. At the same time, Sweden shifted from Catholicism to the Crown-led Lutheran faith, leading to a change in religious culture as well. As a whole, these changes are linked to the process of modern state formation, which is considered to have begun in Sweden during the reign of Gustav Vasa.  

The bailiff accounts concerning Finland are particularly well preserved, and they were transferred from Sweden to the National Archives of Finland in the 1800s. Throughout history, fires have taken a heavy toll on the bailiff accounts of the current Swedish territory, but the bailiff accounts of the Finnish territory have survived almost completely. In its integrity, scope and versatility, the Accounts of the bailiffs collection of the National Archives is therefore a unique and irreplaceable collection of documents describing life in the 1500s.