Case Studies - Commons - The Netherlands

Raalterwoold, Raalte, The Netherlands


Type of institution for collective action


Name/description institution  



The Netherlands


Province of Overijssel

Name of city or specified area 


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

The mark Raalterwoold was one of the five marks ressorting under the schoutambt of Raalte; the other marks were those of Luttenberg, Heeten, Pleegst, and Ramele. The mark consisted of the church village of Raalte and five surrounding hamlets (Tij, Rade, Linderthe, Boetele, and Luttenberg; the latter one would later become a part of the mark Luttenberg, as this mark was split off from the mark Raalterwoold). It was the only mark of the five marks mentioned above that bwas owned in common by the inhabitants of several hamlets.


For the approximate location of the mark of Raalterwoold on Google Maps, click here.

Surface area and boundaries

In 1832, the mark Raalterwoold was one of the largest marks of Overijssel, covering a surface of about 55 square kilometers. Before the sixteenth century, the mark was even larger: just before the start of the seventeenth century, the mark Luttenberg was split off from the Raalterwoold to become a separate mark. The primary boundaries of the Raalterwoold seem to be determined by natural boundaries: to the north, the sand ridge of the Velthoek, to the southeast the heathlands of the Boetelerveld and the Schoonheterheide, to the west extensive marshlands and the extensive swamps of Hellendoorn to the northeast (Spek et al. 2010, 30).

Foundation/start of institution, date or year

Before August 22, 1445.

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

First regulation preserved dates from August 22, 1445 (be it in a transcribed form, the transcription dating from 1615).

Foundation act present?

From the first known regulation, dating from 1445 (although only preserved in a transcription dating from 1615) we know that even earlier written regulations must have existed, since the preamble to the regulations of 1445 states that ‘the inheritants of the hamlets of Tij, Rade, Linderthe, Boetele and Luttenbarge have transferred all the regulation described underneath’ (Hannink 1992, 1).

Description of Act of foundation

This first set of rules is quite extensive, containing 45 articles, not only describing the division of user rights, the rights and duties of the several groups within the mark, and the do’s and don’ts regarding the collecting of resources, but also directions on the way decisions and convocations should be communicated. Given the content and size of this set of regulations, we may assume the year 1445 was in one way or another a significant year for the mark, causing the need for drawing up a renewed and extensive set of regulations. This cause is, however, not explicitly mentioned in the preamble (or may have been lost in transcription).

Year of termination of institution


Year of termination: estimated or confirmed?


Act regarding termination present?


The markenboek states that in 1841, after several pieces of land already had been sold to solve the debts of the mark, it was decided to sell most of the remaining uncultivated land. Only a small area would still remain to be used for common pasture, but this use was also terminated in 1843.

Description Act of termination

See above.

Reason for termination?

Just like the other marks, Raalterwoold was subject to the legislation of 1810 that sought to divide the uncultivated lands. In 1825, the chairman of the assembly of the mark, together with some commissioned members of the assembly of the mark, refused to accept a proposal by some inheritants to implement the division as suggested by the Royal Decree of 1810. Their main argument was that most of the uncultivated lands had already been developed or had been used for the construction of roads and so on; division of the remaining lands among the owners of shares would result in less than half a hectare (bunder) per share, an amount they considered as being ‘never a reasonable compensation for the [loss of] existing rights of mowing and grazing’ (Hannink 1992, 163). The tax burden on the mark, however, increased year after year, causing increasing deficits to a level at which these deficits could no longer – as had been customary practice – be resolved by the tax collector of the mark by paying this out of his own resources. After several pieces of land already had been sold to solve the debts of the mark, it was decided in 1841 to sell most of the remaining uncultivated land. Only a small area would still remain to be used for common pasture, but this use was also terminated in 1843.


Recognized by local government?


Concise history of institution

In early medieval times, the area of Raalterwoold has been one of the largest uncultivated areas in the eastern part of the Netherlands (Spek et al. 2010, 27). Research results from other areas (Slicher von Bath 1944, also mentioned in Spek et al 2010, 26) indicate that from the thirteenth century on, large areas of uncultivated land have been developed. One may assume that, regarding the use and maintenance of these newly developed common landf, mutual agreements must have existed even before the first (preserved) written regulation: not only does the text of the oldest regulation preserved seem to imply the existence of previous agreements, according to Spek et al. (2010, 26) also the straight lines of the historical boundaries of the mark Raalterwoold seem to indicate that these boundaries originate from (unrecorded) agreements about the boundaries with the owners and users of the adjacent marks, rather than from natural 'markers'.


About 1600, the area of the mark of Luttenberg was split of from the Raalterwoold to become a separate mark (the status of this new mark as being an independent mark however was contested way into the seventeenth century (Spek et al. 2010, 30)). After this, the surface area of the mark Raalterwoold remained more or less the same, let alone some minor border conflicts with users of adjacent marks and some sales of land to cover existing debts from the mark.


Just like the other marks, Raalterwoold was subject to the legislation of 1810 that sought to divide the uncultivated lands. Although some inheritors requested the implementation of the Royal Decree of 1810, the chairman of the assembly of the mark, together with some commissioned members of the assembly of the mark, refused to do so, arguing that there would be too little land left to compensate the members' loss of rights (see also text above about dissolution of the mark). The increasing tax burden, however,  in the end made it inevitable to sell the remaining uncultivated areas, ultimately leading to the final dissolution of the mark in 1843.


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

  • 1445: oldest (preserved) mentioning of mark Raalterwoold in regulation of August 22, 1445 (transcribed in 1615).
  • c. 1600: part called Luttenberg was split off to become the mark Luttenberg (oldest markenboek of this mark dates from 1604).
  • 1600-1632: status of mark Luttenberg as being an independent mark contested by authorities of mark Raalterwoold.
  • 1810: Royal Decree seeks to divide uncultivated lands.
  • 1825: chairman assembly mark and commissioned members assembly mark refuse proposal to divide uncultivated lands as prescribed by Royal Decree of 1810, for reasons of 'insufficient compensation for shareholders'.
  • 1825-1841: increasing tax burdens and subsequently, increasing number of land sales to cover the increasing debts of the mark.
  • 1841: major part of the common land sold, only small area of common land remaining, intended to be used for common pasture.
  • 1843: sale of remaining common pasture, final dissolution of the mark.


Numbers of members (specified)

Unfortunately, the older sections of the markenboek contain no lists of share-owners, hence the amount of share-owners is unknown for most of the time period the mark existed. The first full list of share-owners (gewaarden) dates from September 15, 1840 (Hannink 1992, 187-9), so from the final stage of the existence of the mark Raalterwoold. From this list, it shows that there were at that time 65 gewaarden owning at least half a share. The total number of shares was 55.5: 46 full shares and 19 half shares. Of these 55.5, 10 shares belonged to (inhabitants of) the hamlet (buurschap) Boethele, 22.5 to the hamlet of Thijenraan, and 23 shares to inhabitants of Linderte (Hannink 1992, 187-9).

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

Although the regulation of the mark Raalterwoold does not contain a very explicit description of the admission requirements, from the content of the regulation it shows that full membership (i.e. with the right to vote and participate in decisions regarding the use of the common land) was based on the ownership of shares (waardelen). The regulation states explicitly that the ownership of a share was reserved exclusively for the owner of the piece of land the estate was built on. Those who would obtain (either through purchase or through inheritance) an estate that was connected to a share (these estates being called the gewaarde erven), would have to donate a barrel of beer at the first forthcoming meeting of the assembly of the mark.

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 Raalterwoold does not state any revoking of rights.

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).

Obligations of members? 

All members had to comply with the regulation, recorded in the markenboek, which regulation prescribed:

  • proper maintenance of dikes and waterways
  • the amount of animals allowed to be kept and the way in which these animals should be kept (regarding location and timeframe, but also containing prescriptions about how animals ought to be kept: members were obliged to brand their horses and to ring the noses of their pigs, before they were allowed to graze them on the common)
  • the penning in of animals gone astray or animals that were put on the common illegally
  • the obligation to accept the function one was appointed to and to fulfil the tasks belonging to this function properly
  • the obligation to turn lands dug up into arable land within 18 monts after the initial digging
  • the attending of the regular annual meetings of the members of the common
  • the timely payment of tenancy fees

Literature on case study

  • Spek, Theo, Van der Velde, Henk, Hannink, Herman, and Terlouw, Bert, 2010. Mens en land in het hart van Salland. Bewonings- en landschapsgeschiedenis van het kerspel Raalte. Utrecht: Uitgeverij Matrijs.
  • Hannink, Geert, 1992. Het markeboek van de marke Raalterwoold. S.l. : s.n. Also available online at:

Sources on case study

Links to further information on case study:


Case study composed by

René van Weeren.