Historisk Tidskrift. Utgiven av Svenska historiska föreningen
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Historisk tidskrift 127:2 • 2007

Innehåll (Contents) 2007:2

Uppsatser (Articles)

Stormaktstidens krig – och kvinnor. Något om betydelsen av perspektiv

Maria Sjöberg

Fulltext (pdf)


Warfare and women during Sweden’s Age of Greatness: the importance of choosing perspective

The wars of Sweden’s Age of Greatness have attracted much scholarly attention. Nevertheless, new perspectives such as gender history can still generate new insights. But the application of gender history on Sweden’s seventeenth-century wars not only promises to further our knowledge of these wars, but also to enrich gender history.

This article discusses why women and children were present in such a high degree in seventeenth-century field armies, whereas their presence was unacceptable in the conscripted armies of the twentieth century. International research has addressed this issue, but it has not been fully investigated. There is no reason to believe that conditions in Swedish armies differed in any significant respect from conditions in other armies of this period.

Based on international research and a journal kept by a mercenary soldier in the Thirty Years’ War, this article argues that gender relations shaped society, including military organisation, in fundamental ways. In the seventeenth century, the gender order was organised around the patriarchal household. It was therefore quite natural for soldiers’ wives to accompany their husbands in the field. By the mid-nineteenth century, the patriarchal gender order was being replaced by a more individual order. This replacement coincided with an increased demand for professional military organisation. As a result, wives could no longer accompany their husbands in the army. Women could only participate in wars in a professional capacity, for example working as a nurse. In contrast to previous times, such women were supposed to be unmarried.

When the wars of Sweden’s Age of Greatness are analysed from a gender perspective our knowledge of both gender- and military history is improved. The partnership between gender- and military history also shows how each tradition can benefit from the other. Already at the outset the claim to write a total history, a social history, is formulated.


Sweden, greatness, war, gender, campfollowers, household, individual, marital status