Urbanization in History: A Process of Dynamic Interactions

By A. M. Van Der Woude; Akira Hayami et al. | Go to book overview

8 Agricultural Productivity, Trade, and Urban Growth during the Phase of Commercialization of the Swedish Economy, 1810-1870

GUNNAR FRIDLIZIUS

Department of Economic History, Lund University, Lund, Sweden

It has generally been considered that foreign trade was the driving force of economic growth in Sweden during the second half of the nineteenth century. A rapidly growing volume of exports of cereals and timber has been regarded as the foundation of the growth of Swedish welfare.1

This picture of Swedish economic growth appears to have been confirmed by estimates of the national income for different European countries presented by Bairoch. Economic growth was faster in Sweden after 1870 than in most other European countries. This is quite remarkable, considering that the figures presented by Bairoch for the period before 1870 painted a picture of an extremely poor country in which gross national product per head was growing more slowly than in any other European country.2

This model of backwardness was articulated further in an article by Lars G. Sandberg who wrote: 'About the best thing that can be said for the country's economic performance between 1750 and 1850 is that Sweden proper was supporting more than twice as large a population in 1850 as in 1720.'3

However, following recent Swedish research on this period, the validity of this view has become more doubtful. In its place has emerged a picture of a vital economy with a considerable degree of market integration.4 Development during the latter part of the nineteenth century no longer appears as a

____________________
1
Cf. e.g. G. Fridlizius, "'Sweden's Exports: 1850-1960'", Economy and History, 6 ( 1963); L. Jörberg, "'Structural Change and Economic Growth: Sweden in the 19th Century'", Economy and History, 8 ( 1965); B. Carlsson, 'Jordbrukets roll vid Sveriges industrialisering', in E. Dahmen and G. Eliasson, Industriell utveckling i Sverige. Teori och verklighet under ett sekel ( Stockholm, 1980).
2
P. Bairoch, "'Europe's Gross National Product: 1800-1975'", Journal of European Economic History, 9 ( 1976).
3
L. G. Sandberg, "'Banking and Economic Growth in Sweden before World War I'", Journal of Economic History', 38 ( 1978).
4
L. Jörberg, A History of Prices in Sweden, 1772-1914 ( Lund, 1972).

-113-

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