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Danish Sound toll registries accessible online

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

GRONINGEN - A joint effort, involving the Frisian Archive depository Tresoar and a research institute at the Groningen University, has resulted in posting the data of 1,8 million ships which passed through the narrow Sound between Denmark and Sweden. The information was extracted from 700 voluminous, hand-written Sound toll registries which are kept at Denmark’s archives. The online version helps researchers everywhere access the Sound Toll Registers, saving them an expensive trip to Denmark to consult microfilms. The Sound Toll was introduced in 1429 by the Danish King Erik VII as a transit duty paid by all vessels passing through the Sound, the most efficient way in and out of the Baltic Sea. At that time the Sound fell within Danish territorial waters. Despite protests from foreign ship owners, Danish kings succeeded in forcing them to pay the Sound Toll (the Hanseatic towns were exempt, including a number of Dutch cities.) In time, the cargo toll became by far the most important source of income in the Sound Toll Registers. Between 1497 and 1857 the ships paid a total of eighty-six million rix-dollars, an amount, which in today’s currency represents a stunning €11,5 billion. Their profitable Baltic trade allowed Dutch merchants to expand their business worldwide.