Between Tradition and the Welfare State – Local, Rural Modernization in Sweden 1863-1919

Sofia Carlfjord, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

During the middle decades of the 20th century, the Swedish state led by the social democrats strived to improve the well-being of its citizens by building a large and inclusive welfare state. However, the welfare state was preceded by a time of intense change; a time of industrialization, of political reforms, of school reforms and of the expansion of a capitalist economy leading up to and making the politics of the mid 20th century possible. These changes, often conceptualized through the concept modernization took place in all of Sweden during the 19th and early 20th centuries. While most studies of the Swedish modernization focus on a national or an urban modernization, this study focuses on rural Sweden, where the vast majority of the population actually lived and experienced the changes. In this paper I will look at local, rural modernization by studying two municipalities in the Swedish region Dalarna. Sweden has a long history of landowning peasant farmers in politics on both local and national level. A reform in 1862 resulted in the civil municipalities being separated from the parishes, opening up for all tax paying members of the community to take part in local decisions at the municipal meetings. This study is mainly based on minutes from such meetings, looking at the local modernization and the role of peasant farmers in this process. Additionally, farmers’ diaries, governmental records and contemporary newspapers are used. The aim of the study is to widen our knowledge about Swedish rural modernization and how it was handled at and influenced by the local political level. It places modernization in a rural context and focuses on local agency, especially studying the role of peasant farmers. Additionally, the study adds to the general knowledge of the Swedish modernization process leading up to the Swedish welfare state.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 206. Policymaking and rural municipalities