Before the "European Miracles". Four Essays on Swedish Preconditions for Conquest, Growth, andVoice

by Emilsson, Erik Örjan, PhD

Abstract (Summary)
This thesis consists of four studies that further develop the perspectives introduced in the author’s licential dissertation, Sweden and the European Miracles: Conquest, Growth and Voice (1996). The dynamic properties of the European system of independent but interacting societies are traced back to the institutional polystruc-turality of European feudalism and the peculiarities of Sweden’s historical experience are asserted to be part of this intersocietal heritage. Sweden’s contributions to the developments resulting in (World) Conquest, (sustained economic) Growth and (extensive political) Voice are discussed, and the Medieval roots of the social configurations that make possible military expansionism, growing peasant affluence, and institutionalized political negotiations are explored. The almost permanent power struggles between oligarchic and monarchic regimes that characterize medieval Sweden are viewed as a crucial factor behind the survival of communal self-rule and the resultant compromise is interpreted as a form of parallel, competitive statebuilding, predicated upon the institutional separation of the land and the peasantry into two ‘separate economic bases’: a public and a private (noble) sector. The so called Engelbrekt rebellion is seen as a crucial watershed in these developments, and the role of the regional judges – the lawspeakers (lagmän) are emphasized. In the second study, the Swedish peasantry is discussed: its subdivision according to nature of land tenure and manner of political representation, and its economic stratification; also trends in peasant wealth and in the degree of inequality. Evidence from property taxations is used in order to resolve these questions for sample parishes and the results of earlier research are scrutinized and criticized. Different kinds of economic dynamics are discussed and a change from ‘feudal’ to modern economic dynamics is inferred. The ‘shortcut’ explanation where the free Swedish peasantry is interpreted as a survival from the Viking Age is also rejected. Peasant self-representation and affluence were in the main independent of tenure, and the strong position of peasant proprietors in 19th century Sweden is a late development connected to the rise of market production and to the extraneous interest in freehold property rights, leading tax peasants to political standpoints and alliances that eventually would fracture the peasantry. The role of lagmän (‘lawspeakers’) in medieval Swedish society is explored in the final chapter, arguing their central role in state-building and in the formation of oligarchic factions opposing absolutist tendencies. The ‘lawspeaker myth’ of independent regional spokesmen risen from the local peasantries is shown to have no foundation in known facts – on the contrary all of the earlylawspeaker whose families we know anything about were closely related to the royal and ducal dynasties.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Göteborgs universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation

Keywords:HUMANITIES and RELIGION; History and philosophy subjects; History subjects; Economic history; aristocracy; agrarian history; comparative history; Early Modern Sweden; economic dynamics; evolutionary social science theories; institutional theories; jurisdictional system; lawspeakers (lagmän); Medieval Sweden; parliamentary politics; peasant categories; peasant rebellions; political contestation; political representation; property taxations; Sweden?s Great Power Age; theories of feudalism; transition to capitalism


Date of Publication:01/01/2005

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