In the distant past, the land on Mallorca was held by the aristocracy, who generally lived in the city and lived from the proceeds of the land they owned. However, with the economic decline of this dominant social class, peasants were able to buy land and thus escape the almost feudal exploitation to which they had previously been subjected.
Nowadays, the land is mainly divided among small properties, which were traditionally small family agricultural concerns. This is a reflection of the social and economic transformations that have occurred in rural Mallorcan life over recent centuries. Between the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, great changes in the structure of rural land ownership came about, as the day labourers gained access to land possession, and as a consequence of this, a class of land-owning peasants came into being. The general system for the sale of parcels of land by the big landowners was the L’establiment a cens (settlement of ground rent), this involved the purchaser making an initial down payment, and the rest would be paid back off in instalments, with the cens functioning as an annual interest payment. This wasn’t just a mortgage loan though, because the original owner was reserved part ownership of the land of the property under what were known as alodial rights.