Det kosmopolitiska svenska 1700-talet.

Abstract till Rundabordssamtal:
Det kosmopolitiska svenska 1700-talet.
Historikermötet, maj 2011, Göteborg
Sessionsledare, Göran Rydén, Uppsala universitet
The aim of this Round Table Session is to present book project dealing with the Swedish
eighteenth century from a cosmopolitan perspective. The project has been organised around
three workshops, of which two have been held, with twelve eighteenth-century scholars from
different disciplines; history, economic history, history of ideas, history of religion, literature,
musicology and art.
Our point of departure has been to merge our different disciplinary backgrounds and attempt
to create a more cosmopolitan picture of the Swedish eighteenth century; the ambition is to strive
for a picture more alike the one eighteenth-century intellectuals imagined. The disciplinary
differences have not, however, been abandoned altogether, as each of us writes chapters based on
prior themes and knowledge. Instead this more unified picture is found in angles we all adopted
while writing our texts. An obvious beginning is that we all started from a spatial understanding
of the Swedish eighteenth century whereby Sweden is inserted in a much wider global and
cosmopolitan framework; one common question is if such a setting in any way can explain
Sweden’s development during the century. A second point of departure was found by swapping
the spatial aspects for a more common beginning for historians, that of chronology; the
eighteenth century has often been hailed as the beginning of our modern society, and such a
standpoint is also frequent in Swedish historiography. Our approach has been to deal with the
eighteenth century as a century of change and transition, but we have added the question of when
this also became clear to people of the century.
One last point in our common framework stems from our different disciplinary backgrounds.
It is fair to say, picking two extremes, that economic history has a tradition of analysing the
material aspects of economic development, while literature has dwelled more on the discursive
side. However, in dealing with our ambition of returning to an eighteenth century understanding
of the century such a distinction is not feasible, and all participants have been asked to address
both these sides in their chapters. The French eighteenth-century historian, Daniel Roche, has
stated that ‘we must try to understand the possible connections between facts of intellectual
culture and facts of material culture.’ This is an ambition we share!
The organisation of the session will be as follows:
• Presentation of the overall framework, followed by the presentation of four of the twelve
contributions. These are presented below.
• This project aims at a publication in English, and therefore are some of the abstract in
English. The session, though, will be in Swedish!
Swedish agriculture in the cosmopolitan 18th century
Mats Morell, Stockholms universitet
This paper discusses the connection of the transformation of agriculture in Sweden starting in the
mid 18th century to the circulation of international ideas of economy and husbandry and new
“global products”. It starts out by discussing the increased interest in farming by an emerging
agricultural elite, better defined as European than as Swedish. Gentleman farmers acted in a context
where new perceptions of nature, natural history and ideas about private and national
housekeeping - economy - developed, some of which later labelled “mercantilist”, others “liberal”
or “physiocratic”. These political and economic ideas, along with many much more down-toearth farming advices – mostly connected to the national economic dilemma of necessitated grain
imports - were manifested in an increasing flow of pamphlets and periodical literature and in the
gradual construction of an institutional apparatus aiming at reforming agriculture. Internationally
flourishing ideas concerning enclosure, privatization of property and land consolidation and
about crop rotations which gave more fodder and therefore manure; new crops like potatoes and
tobacco; new efficient implements or even machinery, as ploughs and threshers, were frequently
discussed and there developed an interesting interplay between scientifically accreted reformers
and common peasants whose practice the reformers wanted to change, but whose adaptations
they were at the same time very keen on learning about. Generally most of the ideas tried in the
18th century, were - if at all - more generally implemented and spread only by the 19th century.
This was because widespread implementation of novelties was conditioned by a broad social and
economic development which concerned the costs, the risks and the benefits connected with the
novelties and which seems not fully understood by contemporary reformers. The paper will
discuss in detail three developments which however did gain full pace in the 18th century and
their international connections: It is the early land consolidation (or enclosure ) reforms from the
mid 18th century; the spread of indoor rolling threshers in a rather marginal farming area along
the northern Baltic coast and the widespread cultivation of a new crop stemming from across the
Atlantic: not the often discussed potato which was so strongly promoted as it was believed to,
and certainly did save grain, but a “luxurian” stimulant which spread across all social frontiers:
tobacco. Tobacco is interesting since it on the one hand according to authorities was an unnecessity which affected the trade balance (although medical appraisals were not lacking), while
the quick broad spread made authorities decree its cultivation. Largely I argue that the success of
the implementation in these cases followed from the common agriculturalists for various reasons
found it beneficial to do the investments concerned and saw no huge risk in doing so.
A Divided Space: Subjects and Others in the Swedish West Indies during the
Late Eighteenth Century
Holger Weiss, Åbo Akademi
This study focuses on the establishment of the three social spaces and articulation of the racial
factor on Saint Barthélemy during the late eighteenth century. When the Swedish Crown took
over the island in 1784 it opened the doors for a new chapter in its history – Sweden ranked not
only among the (minor) colonial powers but also as a nation of slave owners and slave traders. By
1800, the free port of Gustavia had emerged as perhaps the most cosmopolitan place controlled
by the Swedish Crown.
The two pillars of the Caribbean colonial system were the slave plantation and the trade in
colonial produce. While both of them were found on all of the Larger Antilles and on most of
the Lesser Antilles, some of the latter islands, such as Saint Barthélemy, were too small or too
barren to provide a basis for a thriving plantation sector. However, the solution for some of
these islands was to turn them into special purpose localities, namely free ports.
However, the foundation of the colonial system in the Caribbean was race and skin colour. In
contrast to the North American colonies, which evolved as settler colonies inhabited by a
majority of White persons (but including a substantial number of Black slaves), the Caribbean
colonies were plantation colonies with an overwhelming population of African-descent slaves, a
lesser number of so-called Coleurs of a mixed racial background and freed slaves, and a varying
but still minor number of Whites. The Sub-Tropical Climate in the Caribbean was regarded as
unhealthy, if not hazardous, for Europeans. Indentured servitude had provided White workers to
the plantations in the seventeenth century but had soon be replaced by the importation of
African slaves as the plantation sector economic rationale was based on the minimization of
labour cost and the maximization of economic output. The profit of the plantation and the rights
of its owners were the maxim of the day. The owners, sometimes absentee, others on lesser
plantations not, had exclusive land and property rights. Slaves were merely ‘speaking tools’, listed
among the inventories and objects of a plantation, barely regarded as human beings, never as
subjects. The Freed Slaves, too, had limited access to economic and social rights, not to speak
about political rights. This had resulted into a division of two, if not three social spaces on any of
the Caribbean islands: a White, a Black and a ‘Coloured’. The first had rights, the two others
restrictions. The three spaces existed simultaneously on every island, including St. Barthélemy.
The Progress of Fiction: Bengt Lidner and Global Compassion in 18thcentury Sweden
Anna Cullhed, Uppsala universitet
Det svenska 1700-talets litteratur är knappast en rent nationell angelägenhet. Den samtida
aristokratiska kulturen var, precis som den lärda världen, orienterad mot en gemensam europeisk
tradition. Med den expanderande pressen och bokmarknaden mötte läsare både nyheter från en
växande värld och litteratur som färdades över gränser – språkliga såväl som nationella.
Ett slående exempel på denna kosmopolitiska tendens är poeten Bengt Lidner (1757–1793).
Han föddes i Göteborg, studerade i Lund och i Greifswald, skickades iväg på en ostindiefarare
men hoppade av i Kap, han lyckades imponera på Gustav III som bekostade studieresor till
Göttingen och Paris. Sina sista år tillbringade Lidner i Finland och slutligen i Stockholm, där han
dog utfattig. Lidner är den främste representanten för en sentimental poetik i svensk litteratur
och kallas ofta tårarnas poet. Hans diktverk fick därigenom en tydligt kosmopolitisk prägel.
Lidner ömmade för alla uslingar – mödrar i det jordbävningsdrabbade Messina, galningar på
Danvikens hospital och ångrande syndare inför domaren Messias. I sin diktning rör han sig över
en stor del av världen, från Jakarta, via Ceylon, till Amerika och de upproriska kolonierna, vidare
till Italien, Frankrike, Tyskland, Danmark och England, och från det svenska riket ända till ”Nova
Zembla”. Han väljer också att föra in samtida namngivna historiska personer i sin dikt, som
George Washington, drottning Caroline Mathilde av Danmark, bröderna Montgolfier, och den
tyskromerske kejsaren Josef II. Hans upprepade appell är ”Hör mänsklighetens röst” och han
talar för ett grundläggande människovärde, oavsett geografisk eller social hemvist och oavsett
Är den globala dikten enbart en form av ytlig exotism? Spelar Ceylon och ”Nova Zembla”
någon egentlig roll eller fungerar de mest som geografiska överdrifter och som klingande ord? En
central fråga är hur fiktionen tar platsen och rummet i anspråk, som en frizon, som en spegel,
eller som en uppmaning till medkänsla. Lidners diktning väcker framför allt generella frågor om
relationen mellan det materiella och det diskursiva i 1700-talet. Hans karriär och hans diktning
kräver en djupare analys av platsens betydelse i det revolutionära och kosmopolitiska 1700-talet.
När Sverige fylldes av lättingar – genus och äktenskap i det sena 1700-talets
svenska samhällsdebatt
Karin Hassan Jansson, Uppsala universitet
Det ökade inflödet av nya varor, vanor och tankar i Sverige under 1700-talet ledde till en mängd
inlägg i en växande offentlig samhällsdebatt. Diskussionerna handlade om handelsbalans,
jordbruksmetoder och fritänkeri, men också om de nya tidernas följder för den äktenskapliga
maktbalansen, befolkningstillväxten och de enskilda hushållens ekonomi. När det gäller de
sistnämnda frågorna dominerades inläggen av oro. De kostsamma och moraliskt tvivelaktiga
vanorna som fått fäste i de övre sociala skikten i städerna kunde sprida sig till de lägre skikten och
till landsbygden. De nya konsumtionsmönstren riskerade att ruinera såväl hushållen som
nationen. De äkta männen höll på att förlora herraväldet i sina familjer och fåfänga, lättja och
ytlighet spred sig bland de unga och fördärvade framtiden. I mitt konferensbidrag ger jag några
exempel på hur könsideal och könsordning relaterades till det kosmopolitiska 1700-talet i svensk
samhällsdebatt. Vad var man orolig för? Hur skulle man komma tillrätta med de problem som
målades upp?