The Agrarian History of Sweden: From 4000 BC to AD 2000

Article excerpt

The Agrarian History of Sweden: From 4000 BC to AD 2000. Edited by Janken Myrdal and Mats Morell. (Lund, Sweden: Nordic Academic Press, 2011. Pp. 336. $54.95.)

Between 1998 and 2003, an impressive five-volume history of Swedish agriculture was published and soon became the outstanding standard work in the field. It is now available in a condensed version in one handy volume in English. It is an enlightening and comprehensive narrative of the development of agriculture and the agrarian society of the entire period, from the first vestiges of agricultural activities around 4000 BC up to the present. It covers the development of the area of modern Sweden, thus including the provinces incorporated through the peace treaties of the seventeenth century but excluding present Finland, an integrated part of the realm from at least the end of the thirteenth century to 1809.

It is a great advantage to have this overview of the development of agrarian Sweden and its social relations in an extended perspective presented for an international audience. The study follows a strict chronological order, and the six chapters are all written by eminent specialists. All reflect up-to-date research. Two chapters cover the prehistoric period: Stig Welinder analyzes the earliest period and how agriculture transformed human minds and mentalities; Ellen Anne Pedersen and Mats Widgren concentrate on the organization of the agrarian space up to c. AD 1000. Janken Myrdal describes in his chapter the period 1000-1700, here termed as "the feudal age." Some emphasis is laid in this assessment upon implementation of technology and social organization. The peasantry is related to the political development, and peasants' revolts and protests are integrated as well. …