I am a writer, public lecturer, and Associate Professor of History at the University of Stockholm. My reasearch focuses on existential, cultural, and social conditions in 16th and 17th-century Sweden. In particular I am interested in the ways life was organized, how people interacted, what kinds of conflicts arose, and how conflicts were resolved. What was it like growing up as a girl or a boy in a small parish in the 1590s: getting married, having children, organizing a farm, running errands at the district or the municaple court, buying and selling goods, having a beer at the market place? I am interested in what life was like at that time. Who would I have been if I lived then? Would we recognize our home communities if we were inexplicably taken back in time, if we encountered them in another age when they were draped in green in the summer, and almost pitch black in the winter - in the absence of noisy cities, cars, and all kinds of technology and all the sounds that surround us today? What sounds would we hear? What did people say to each other, over beer mugs and laundry tubs, or just before going to sleep at night? I strive to as much as is possible understand and make comprehensible life in the past. In addition I aslo want to portray the historical actors as living, sentient people.
My research deals with everyday conditions in the Swedish 16th and 17th centuries. The interest in the everyday life, local community, and interpersonal relationships has followed me ever since I began my studies in history at Linköping University in the 1990s. In 2005 I defended the dissertation City Community resources and conditions: Societal and welfare efforts in Linköping 1600-1620. The thesis analyzes the city board's work. The main research question was what kind of benefit the board’s work may have provided, who benefited from it, and how it was achieved and maintained. The thesis takes its starting point, just as later studies, in a social and cultural historical perspective. As time has passed, I have come to focus on the outcasts of society. The anthology Wretched, miserable and poor. Outcasts of society for 700 years (2013) deals with alienation och social vulnerabilty in a longer historical perspective. In this volume I contributed with an article about survival strategies among the outcasts of the region Östergötland in Sweden during the turn of the 17th century. The following year I published the monograph Miscreants. Crimes and human destinies in Sweden around the 1600s. This book analyzes six loosely connected chapters, cases that summarizes my research interests and view of history. The cases of miscreants deal with dramatic events and serious crimes, but also reflects everyday conditions and people's habits, standards of right and wrong, honor and shame. My most recent monograph, Executioners. Life, death and shame in Swedish 1600s, futher develops that perspective. This book places the hangman and his professional duties in a cultural, religious and social context. Here the executioner’s background is treated, in particular what services they offered, as well as their working conditions and forms of social interactions, but also their dealings with the supernatural world. The book focus on the general need of belonging to a group—a houshold at the least—in order for survival and security. More importantly is where the boundaries and conditions around a group are set , how they are maintained and manifested itself in local society at this time.
Early modern Sweden, The Swedish Empire, everyday life, law enforcement, social control, social vulnerablility, alienation, norms, social boundaries, reformation
Executioners. Life, death and shame in 1600s Sweden
Executioners were employed to carry out capital and corporeal punishments, but they served many other functions as well. The executioner was in charge of emptying latrines in the cities, castrating horses, and pulling hides. He was regarded as having one foot in the supernatural world. Items from the execution site were illegal to use, yet some people believed in their power to heal illnes or make fortune. Since the executioner was in charge of the gallows, he also made buisness in the dark. No honest man, though, wanted to deal with the executionar since they feared to be "infected" by his shame. Who then wanted a career as an executioner? Who were those who under such circumstances actually became executioners - and where did the social and spatial boundaries around them appeare? In this book, Swedish executioners are placed in a social and cultural context.
Miscreants. Crimes and human destinies in Sweden around 1600
During the 1600s, Sweden was a superpower empire and numerous wars were fought on the muddy battlefields on the continent. At home however, everyday endeavors contiunied in cities and villages. Conflicts arose and crimes were committed, people fell in love, had children, accidents and sorrows. Based on a number of criminal cases this book depicts a few people's lives and values at this time. Through their life histories a story is told about Sweden that is not at all similar to the country as it is today. These people’s doings and destinies tell us an eternal story, one about everyday problems and worries, about dreams and desires for the furure.
Wretched, miserable and poor. Outcast of society in 700 years
Vagrants and beggars. Vulnerable people have existed in all times. Many have been born into poverty and exclusion, others have suffered accidents that made life a struggle. Some managed to rise, others succumbed. What do we really know about the vulnerable people in Swedish history? What was life like for those who were mentally ill or disabled? What happened to the young women who became pregnant outside of marriage? And how did the their children lead their lives, those who were called bastards? This volume presents in fifteen texts a different kind of history from a bottom-up approach. The authors are researchers that in different ways have grappled with these issues in their work. Together, they give voice to people we seldom hear from, either in the history or in contemporary life. Apart from being one of the editors, I contribute with the article "In life's shadowy valleys. Poverty and survival in Reformation Sweden".
Approaching Collapse: Archbishop Angermannus in the Apocalyptic time
In the 1600th century, Europe seemed to have reached the dreaded condition that the Bible spoke about: the end of the world. Unfortunately, everything was the people's own fault. The rampant sin had angered God, and now came the penalty: war and plagues, earthquakes, famines and floods. However, in Sweden there were two men who wanted to deal with the misery. The regent Duke Karl gave Archbishop Abraham Angermannus a warrant to examine the kingdom. He went from parish to parish to examine, judge and punish the sinful - in order to ease the wrath of God. Angermannus inquisition was the culmination of a long period of political struggle in Sweden. But the inquisition was not sucessful. It did not stop the rain or the misfortunes of the people. A a matter of fact it became the starting point for even another turbulent decade in swedish history - which would end in terror and civil war.
Death as punishment. Forgotten graves at the gallows
This book is based on an archaeological survey of a former execution site just outside Vadstena in Östergötland. It emerges from a collaborative project among an archaeologist, an osteolog, and an historian to interpret the old place of execution. I'm involved with the article "And at the 3 of March he was beheaded at the gallows and buried there."
The Foundations of the Town's Sense of Community : Views of Society and Welfare Strategies in Linköping 1600-1620 (thesis)
The thesis deals with the local municipal court and the diocese in the city of Linköping (about 1000 inhabitants). What were the social conditions and what strategies did communities create to maintain a functioning society? The main research question was what the city's inhabitants perceived to be a functioning society - as for whom it was good - and how it was made. This thesis shows that despite the fact that the city government did not own any democratic legitimacy and that this was essentially a hierarchical society, it was organized in such a way that the residents commanded significant influence and insight into how the city was driven and shaped. Also the magistrate and the church linked resources to the poorhouse, and dealing with marginalized individuals was a frequent issue at their meetings. In the same way that modern-day democracy must constantly be scrutinized, so too must premodern non-democratic systems be examined in practice.