Perceptions of local uprisings in Swedish and Danish diplomatic correspondence of the 1620s

Following our participation in the RSA annual conference in 2015, we have decided to publish a collective volume on revolts and diplomacy in early modern times.

Alongside scholars from Germany, England, Russia, France and Hungary, Nils Erik Villstrand and Miriam Rönnqvist have contributed a Scandinavian perspective to our joint endeavour.


Nils Erik Villstrand is an internationally recognized historian whose research mainly focuses on political culture in the early modern Swedish empire. He is a professor of Nordic History at Åbo Akademi University in Åbo (Turku), Finland.

Miriam Rönnqvist is a doctoral student in Nordic history at Åbo Akademi University in Åbo (Turku), Finland. Her research interests include transnational and diplomatic history, the history of revolts and emotions, as well as information dissemination in the early modern Swedish empire.

Their article is entitled Neighborhood trouble. Popular unrest and expressions of dissatisfaction in diplomatic cross-border reporting between Denmark and Sweden, 1622-1624 and explains why the seventeenth-century Nordic world underwent substantial changes:

Formerly insignificant peripheral countries were rising to power while others lost their hegemonic influence and were forced to make room for the new actors on Europe’s political stage.

The point of departure for their considerations is the precariously strained political relationship between Denmark and Sweden in the early 17th century. The emerging great power Sweden challenged Denmark’s supremacy in the Baltic Sea Region, thus igniting a power struggle for the dominium maris baltici. Simultaneously, this period witnessed the initial implementation of diplomacy between these two powers with the appointment of the first agents. In 1621, the Swede Anders Svensson was appointed toll commissioner at the Sound (Öresund) and the first Danish agent Peder Galt was sent to Stockholm in 1621. One year later, Svensson was promoted the first Swedish residential agent in Denmark.

The nascent fierce competition between the two Scandinavian kingdoms can be traced in the diplomatic correspondence on both sides, illustrating the close relationship between the tenure of power and the fear of revolts. Both monarchies had an interest in stoking fear of revolts in the other country, with the kingdom of Poland being especially instrumentalized as a potential threat to the Swedish throne.

This article ties in with this unique political situation, analyzing not only the role of the first Danish and Swedish diplomats, but also the manner in which they reported on events abroad. The two specific cases of unrest we would like to present took place on the island of Gotland (then Denmark) and in Södra and Norra Möre (Sweden) in 1624. At first sight, these two cases might seem like minor events usually neglected in earlier research. However, the unrest in Gotland led Danish king Christian IV to decide to travel to the island with a fleet in order to investigate the course of events, whereas the riot in the Swedish empire was described as a “new Dacke War” by the Swedish king Gustav II Adolf, referring to one of Sweden’s most central and infamous peasant revolts in the 16th century.

The consulted sources consist mainly of Galt’s and Svensson’s diplomatic correspondence, along with excerpts from the royal Swedish correspondence (Riksregistraturet) and Swedish Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna’s correspondence. In this article we draw a line from political history and research on political culture and revolts to diplomatic history and the history of emotions.


The naval Battle of the Sound took place on 8 November 1658 during the Dano-Swedish War. (c) Wikimedia

Selected publications by Nils Erik Villstrand:

”Memorialets makt. Bonderiksdagsmän i det frihetstida Sverige som aktörer i en förskriftligad politisk kultur” [The power of the written word. The peasant estate and the challenge of a literalizing political culture in Sweden’s age of liberty], Historisk Tidskrift (Stockholm) 134:2 (2014), pp. 191–224, English summary p. 224.

Furstar och folk i Åbo 1812 [People and Sovereigns in Turku/Åbo 1812], (Helsinki & Stockholm 2012: Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland and Bokförlaget Atlantis 2012), 167 pp.

Sveriges historia 1600–1721 [The History of Sweden 1600–1721], (Stockholm 2011: Norstedts 2011), 592 pp.

Riksdelen. Stormakt och rikssprängning 1560–1812. [Finland as Part of Great Power Sweden and the Dissolution of the Kingdom 1560–1812], Finlands svenska historia 2 (Helsinki & Stockholm 2009: Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland and Bokförlaget Atlantis) 416 pp.

”Skriftlighet med förhinder. Den svenska statsmaktens kungörelser i finskspråkiga församlingar under 1700-talet” [Written communication with obstacles. Swedish royal proclamations in Finnish speaking parishes during the eighteenth century] in Max Engman & Nils Erik Villstrand (eds.) Maktens mosaik. Enhet, särart och självbild i det svenska riket (Helsinki & Stockholm 2008: Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland and Atlantis), pp. 315–360.

“Finnland und der Grosse Krieg: Erfahrung und Erinnerung“ in Maik Reichel & Inger Schuberth (eds.), Gustav Adolf. König von Schweden. Die Kraft der Erinnerung 1632–2007 (Dössel 2007: Verlag Janos Stekovics) pp. 27–36.

”Stormaktstidens politiska kultur” [Political culture in great power Sweden] in Jakob Christensson (ed.), Stormaktstiden. Signums svenska kulturhistoria (Lund 2005: Signum), pp. 17–101.

”Adaption or Protestation: Local Community Facing the Conscription of Infantry for the Swedish Armed Forces, 1620-1679”, in Leon Jespersen (ed.), A Revolution from Above? The Power State of 16th and 17th Century Scandinavia (Odense 2000: Odense University Press), pp. 249–314. (This is a short version in English of my doctoral dissertation in 1992.)

”Bokstäver, bönder och politik. Muntligt och skriftligt i 1700-talets politiska kultur” [Letters, peasants and politics. Oral av written communication in eighteenth century Swedish political culture] , in Peter Danielsson & Håkan Nordmark & Jan Samuelson (eds.), Att komma till tals. Nedslag i den nordiska historiens vardagslunk och konflikter. Rapporter från Växjö universitet. Humaniora 5 (Växjö 1999), pp. 89–150.

”Die Nähe eines fernen Krieges. Erfahrung, Memoria und Nachwirkung des Dreissigjährigen Krieges in Finnland”, in Benigna von Krusenstjern & Hans Medick (eds.), Zwischen Alltag und Katastrophe. Der Dreissigjährige Krieg aus der Nähe (Göttingen 1999: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht), pp. 159–179.

Publications by Miriam Rönnqvist:

”Fighting Fires and Weathering Storms. Fear of Peasant Revolt and Communication of Revolts in Early Modern Sweden”, Revue d’Histoire Nordique/Nordic Historical Review 18 (2014):1, s. 125-145.

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