The farmers’ army

Before 1700, there was no information on how many people lived on the island. The Black Death had taken many lives from 1350 onwards. It is difficult to know just how large the farmers’ army was in 1361. Perhaps 3,000-5,000 strong. Findings in mass graves show that among them were young boys, old men and men with long-term diseases and old injuries.

We also have no idea of how well-equipped they were. The Gutalagen, a law book written in Gotland in the 1200s, states that adult males shall be “fully equipped and armed”. What does this signify? The provincial law of the mainland speaks of headgear, protection for the upper body and weapons. The same was likely true on Gotland.

Many discoveries of chain-mail hoods, which could be identified as originating in Gotland, are of a type that were common in the late 1200s. Perhaps the equipment had not been modernised following the civil war of 1288? Wealthy farmers with large holdings were likely better equipped.