Case Studies - Commons - The Netherlands

Berkum, Zwolle, The Netherlands


Type of institution for collective action


Name/description institution  

Mark Berkum


The Netherlands


Province of Overijssel

Name of city or specified area 

Former hamlet of Berkum, now belonging to the municipal area of the city of Zwolle

Further specification location (e.g. borough, street etc.)

The hamlet of Berkum, and subsequently the mark of Berkum, was situated just east of the city of Zwolle. Although the exact location of the common land of the mark of Berkum is not mentioned in the markenboek, the mentioned estates and the fact that the regulation of the mark shows that animals were grazed on both sides of the river Vecht, the common land was probably situated just northeast of the hamlet of Berkum, which is confirmed by the map, drwan by Beekman (1920).

Surface area and boundaries

The borders of this mark are not explicitly mentioned in the markenboek. Van Engelen van der Veen (1924, 84) mentions that the mark of Berkum was surrounded by the respective marks of Dieze, Zalne, Herften, Emmen, Rozengaarde, Haarst, and Langerholte; he assumed the boundaries of the mark of Berkum more or less followed the boundaries of the communities in 1924.

Foundation/start of institution, date or year

Probably before 1300.

Foundation year: is this year the confirmed year of founding or is this the year this institution is first mentioned?

The first (probably incomplete) set of rules dates back to 1300 and is only known from a later transcription of those rules. Given the range of subjects mentioned in this oldest set of rules, it appears that the regulation of 1300 either was an integral copy of a previous set, or the first recording of rules, formerly known by heart by all commoners and practiced in the manner of customary law.

Foundation act present?

No. The content of the oldest set of rules preserved (see also above) does suggest that, before the regulation was put on paper, an unwritten form of customary law already was in use among the users of the common land of Berkum.

Description of Act of foundation

N/a, see also above.

Year of termination of institution


Year of termination: estimated or confirmed?


Act regarding termination present?



Description Act of termination

In 1994, the lady chairman of the assembly of the mark, Mrs. Crommelin-Slichterman – although the appointment of the chairman of the assembly in the case of the mark of Berkum was determined by election, subsequent generations of the Slichterman family seemingly succeeded each other –, decided to donate the remaining funds of the mark to the Prins Bernhard Foundation. This donation, together with the donation of the remaining funds of another mark, the mark of Streukel, formed the basis for the current 'Marke van Streukel / Marke van Berkum-fonds’, which is administered by the Prins Bernhard Foundation and endorses three provincial cultural institutions.

Reason for termination?

Although, just like in many other marks, many of the common and uncultivated lands were sold in the middle of the nineteenth century, the mark of Berkum actually continued to exist much longer. Later on, after the sale of the major part of the uncultivated lands, it appeared  that some land still remained undivided. In the course of the second half of the nineteenth century and also in the twentieth century, these remaining land wasf sold. The money earned by this sale of land was invested, the revenues of which investments befell to the mark. In 1994, the formal decision was taken to terminate the mark as an institution (see also above).

Recognized by local government?


Concise history of institution

Although some sources mention that the small village of Berkum, located just east of the city of Zwolle, has not been mentioned before the beginning of the seventeenth century, the markenboeken however indicate a far earlier existence of the mark Berkum. Even more, the mark of Berkum, in the late Middle Ages also known as Bercmede or Berkman, has one of the oldest regulations preserved within the Northern Netherlands, dating back to 1300.


Over the years, the mark of Berkum was subject to several divisions. The first big division was in 1630. According to Van Engelen van der Veen (1924, 84), the lands of Broeck and Ooyte were divided among the owners of, in total, 838.5 shares. A second division took place only 23 years later, when, in 1653, the Berckmerbergen and Nemelervelden as well as the Berckmervelden near Dambrugge were divided among the owners of 390.5 shares. A third division is mentioned in 1819, when it was decided to divide the mark of Berkum into a southern and a northern part, each part to be regarded as an individual entity.

The mark of Berkum is one of the few examples of marks that survived until the late twentieth century. After the sale of all the land belonging to the mark, the mark as institution formally still remained in existence, investing the money gained by the sale of land and administering the revenues of these investments. In 1994, however, the transfer of the assets of the mark into the 'Marke van Streukel / Marke van Berkum-fonds' also marked the final dissolution of the mark as such. 

Special events? Highs and lows? Specific problems or problematic periods?

  • 1300: oldest (preserved) set of rules regarding the use of the mark of Berkum.
  • 1630: Division of parts of the area of the mark (the lands of Broeck and Ooyte) among shareholders.
  • 1653: Division of the Berckmerbergen and Nemelervelden as well as the Berckmervelden near Dambrugge among the shareholders.
  • 1819: Division of the mark of Berkum into a southern and a northern part, each part to be regarded as an individual entity.
  • mid-19th century - 1994: Sale of parts of the mark; the money gained from selling these parts was invested, the revenues of these investments befalling to the mark.
  • 1994: Formal end date of the mark of Berkum, donation of remaining funds of the mark to 'De Marke van Streukel / Marke van Berkum-fonds', administered by the Prins Bernhard Foundation.


Numbers of members (specified)

On the evening of February 21, 1492, it was recorded in the markenboek which number of shares (waren) and how many plots of land destined for the grazing of cattle (scharen) were owned by the respective shareholders. This overview is headed in the markenboek by the statement that each waar entitled the owner the use of 9 scharen: 3 scharen in the area called Broek, 3 scharen in the area called the Ooyte, 1 schaar in the area of Savelt, 1 schaar in the area of the Bergen and 1 schaar on the so-called Nemelerveld.


In total, according to the overview of February 1492, all 33 shareholders together owned just over 37 waren and an additional 829.5 scharen. This concurs with the number of waren of 838.5 for the year 1630, mentioned by Van Engelen van der Veen (1924, 84), regarding the sale of the land belonging to the respective areas of the Broek and the Ooyte among all shareholders.


From the overview, it shows that three specific locations for the plots of land were mentioned within the overview:

  • the fields located 'on this side of the river Vecht';
  • the fields located 'at the other side of the river Vecht';
  • the fields belonging to the estate called Ordel.


It also shows that waren only were assigned for the land 'on this side of the River Vecht'.

Membership attainable for every one, regardless of social class or family background?

Membership was dependent on the owning of shares (waren) and/or grazing land (scharen). Since the phrase "now owned by" appears several times within the overview, it seems that those rights were transferrable.


The overview also shows that the amount of waren and additional grazing land was also dependent on the location the cattle was grazed. For example, as the picture underneath shows, member Muler (who was owner of the estate of the Ordel (Van Engelen van der Veen 1924, 84)) was allowed to use 65.75 scharen when grazing them on the lands near the Vecht, while he was only allowed to use 54.25 scharen when grazing his animals on the land belonging to the estate of Ordel. The rest of the entries also show considerable differences in grazing rights between at one hand the fields 'on this side' and the fields located 'at the other side' of the river Vecht.



Transcription: Item Mulert als men die marsch bij die Vechte / weydet, heeft hie - 65 1/2 schaer en een vieren- / deel, als men die marsch bij den Ordell wey- / det soe heeft hie niet meer dan 54 scharen / ende een vierendeel.

Translation: Also, regarding Mulert: if he uses the fields near the river Vecht, he will be entitled to 65.75 scharen; in case he grazes his animals at the estate Ordel, he will not have any more than 54.25 scharen.

Source: Historisch Centrum Overijssel, Archief Marken in Overijssel (0157), 148, Markenboek 1300-1648 (composed 1656), p. 12.


Although the assembly of the mark of Berkum was formally headed by an elected chairman, the elected chairman (or chairwoman) however mostly originated from the Slichterman-family, hence giving this position a kind of hereditary character.

Specific conditions for obtaining membership? (Entrance fee, special tests etc.)

See above.

Specific reasons regarding banning members from the institution?

The regulation of the mark of Berkum does not state any revoking of rights. However, from the preamble to the overview of waren of 1492, it shows that those users who already had extended their number of used scharen without authorization, were sanctioned by decreasing the number of scharen they were entitled to by three scharen per waar.

Advantages of membership?

The main advantage for all entitled users was the right to use the natural resources of the mark (within the prescribed limits). In the mark of Berkum, this mainly was the use of grazing rights for the cattle.

Obligations of members? 

Whereas a major part of the regulations of other marks (such as those of Exel and Raalterwoold) was related to the use and potentional abuse of (scarce) natural resources, the regulations of the mark of Berkum only deal with this issue in a minor way. Instead, the focus within the regulations of mark Berkum is for the major part on the proper maintenance of the dykes of the mark and, subsequently, of the monitoring of such maintenance. The location and the natural surroundings of the mark explain this difference: since the common land was situated at both sides of the river Vecht, it was mostly used for grazing animals and, of course, had to be protected from flooding at both sides of the river.

Literature on case study

  • Beekman, A.A., 1920. Geschiedkundige Atlas van Nederland, III, Kaarten, VI, De marken van Drente, Groningen, Overijsel en Gelderland. 's-Gravenhage: Martinus Nijhoff.
  • Van Engelen van der Veen, G.A.J., 1924. Marken in Overijssel. Geschiedkundige Atlas van Nederland IV-VI.2.  's-Gravenhage: Martinus Nijhoff.
  • Archief Familie Sichterman, met marken Berkum en Streukel en Overijsselsche Kanalisatie Maatschappij : Inleiding (available online at [Accessed march 2012]

Sources on case study

  • Historisch Centrum Overijssel, Zwolle:
    • Archief Marken in Overijssel (nr. 0157), inv.nrs. 148-156.
    • Archief Familie Sichterman, met marken Berkum en Streukel en Overijsselsche Kanalisatie Maatschappij (nr. 1321), inv.nrs. 153-183.

Links to further information on case study:


Case study composed by

René van Weeren.