Cultural Materiality: The correlation between material and cultural capital in the late eighteenth century Stockholm elite burgher home

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis


The eighteenth century saw the slow but steady rise of the middling classes to their nineteenth century social and cultural prominence, reinforced by a changing political landscape and the steadily increasing importance of the market. As the social and cultural power of the city burghers making up the majority of the middling classes grew, so did they start to consume in a manner to reflect to their new status in society. The question that arises then is more exactly how this group consumed, what types of objects that became important and what type of status that became the most paramount. Since status and social groups can differ greatly between both times and places, focus of this investigation is the burgher elite of Stockholm, the social, economical, and cultural centre of Sweden during the whole of the early modern era. By using a combination of Bourdieu's capital theories and Erving Goffman's theories on the presentation of self the inventories of fourteen elite burgher households has been analysed in order to investigate how these individuals constructed their home to present their own perceived social and cultural status. Through a thorough and theoretical investigation of these early modern front regions it can be revealed that the traditional representations of cultural capital, the main form of symbolic status capital, such as paintings and books, albeit important, constituted but a minor part of the capital presentation in the home. Instead it appears as if the most important status capital is presented through sociability, the ability to host social events or, if that option is unavailable, attend social events. Objects with the express function of sociability, such as tea- and dinner-ware, together with chairs, tables, and fashionable interior decoration suggests that sociability indeed stood at the forefront for the presentation of status for the late eighteenth century Stockholm burgher. At the same time, fashionability appears to have been extremely important, with almost all of the investigated households going to great lengths to stay up to date with the most recent trends in both furniture, colours, literature, and china. Much more research is however needed in order to really understand the structures of status and how it was expressed during the early modern times, and especially comparative studies between estate borders is needed in order to understand the status relations between social groups and how this affected status presentations.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Uppsala University
  • Andersson, Gudrun, Supervisor, External person
Award date2018 Sept 11
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Sept 11
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-360585
DiVA, id: diva2:1248435

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • History

Free keywords

  • early modern history
  • cultural capital
  • social capital
  • middling class
  • burgher history
  • Stockholm history
  • status presentation
  • probate records


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