a Swedish term for a tenant holding a parcel of land in Sweden or Finland under a long-term or lifetime lease in exchange for, usually, his labor. The equivalent Finnish term is torppari. The Swedish term for a parcel of land so held is torp; the Finnish term for the parcel of land is torppa.
Until the 16th century the torp was mainly a small private peasant farm outside the boundaries of a village or commune. The first tenants in the modern sense of torpare appeared in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. The leasing system was developed primarily to meet the need for a work force on the noble landholdings, since the peasant was not directly dependent on the feudal lord. Beginning in 1743, plots subject to such a lease were established not only on the landowners’ holdings but also on the lands of the peasants. As a result, the number of such tenants rapidly increased: in Finland there were 70,000 by 1895, and in Sweden there were approximately 100,000 by the end of the 19th century. The number substantially decreased in the 1920’s and 1930’s owing to the mechanization of agriculture and the extension to the tenants of the right to buy their plots. The last such farms went out of existence in the 1950’s.