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Historisk tidskrift 136:1 • 2016

Innehåll (Contents) 2016:1

Uppsatser (Articles)

Sverige som partner 1319–1905. Ett perspektiv

Harald Gustafsson

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Sweden as partner 1319–1905: A Perspective

During most of the period from 1319 to 1905, the kingdom of Sweden formed part of a larger state, either through union with other states or through the possession of provinces that were not part of the kingdom proper. This is a neglected theme in Swedish historiography, where Sweden is described as a trans-historical entity, sometimes larger and sometimes smaller than the present state but still basically one and the same political unit. In an attempt to overcome methodological nationalism, this article presents what can be called a trans-territorial perspective on the development of the Swedish state. Sweden’s history as partner is followed from the personal unions with Norway and Denmark in the late middle ages, through Sweden’s early modern experience as the centre of a conglomerate state, to the 19th-century union with Norway.

The medieval unions were loose, basically dynastic connections where each kingdom kept its domestic laws, political institutions and social organisation. The early modern conglomerate state was more firmly held together and ruled from Stockholm, especially with regards to the public finances and foreign policy. But each province kept its distinct internal organisation, which allowed for considerable political influence to be exercised by the local political elite. In this perspective, the often neglected integration of the Scandinavian provinces into the realm in the early 1680s is unusual and interesting, even more so than the well-studied acquisition in 1658. In a long trans-territorial perspective, it becomes clear that the weakness of the 19th-century Swedish-Norwegian union was that it attempted to house two modern nation-states within one state.

A trans-territorial perspective on Swedish history gives rise to many new questions that have been neglected in the dominant national narrative. For example, was the adoption of a national law code in the 1350s the result of inspiration from the union partner Norway, which had a more centralised judicial system? Was the strengthening of the state apparatus under the rule of Gustav Vasa in the 1500s possible because the territory of the Swedish state was unusually homogeneous after the break-up of the Union of Kalmar and before the acquisition of Estonia? What was the influence on Sweden proper from the possession of the provinces east and south of the Baltic? How did the Swedish experience of ruling a conglomerate state influence Swedish policy towards Norway in the formative phase of the 19th-century union? Much is to be gained by adopting a non-national perspective on Swedish history.


Sweden, state connections, unions, provinces, conglomerate state, state formation, medieval, early modern, nineteenth century, trans-national