Ett massmedium för folket : studier i de allmänna kungörelsernas funktion i 1700-talets samhälle

Elisabeth Reuterswärd

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)

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As from 1686 it was decreed by law that all government regulations, orders, edicts and other information any government official wanted to make public, had to be read out to the people by the clergy from the pulpits of all churches in Sweden and Finland at the end of the sermon. The system of communication remained in full force until the end of the 19th century and was not finally abandoned until 1942. I have treated all such announcements as a type of mass media and the method by which they were transmitted to the public as a process of mass communication. It had been developed to serve the government, which needed efficient channels of communication for its commands and regulations. The public announcements were also used for propaganda purposes and to instil a sense of national unity and confidence in the king and his government.

The general public also made use of the communication system and fiercely defended it when the clergy wanted to abolish it as from the beginning of the 19th century. Swedish landowning peasants had the right to influence many decisions at regional and local levels. Through the public announcements they gained information about dates and places where such negotiations were to take place. Auction sales, information about things lost and found, about missing persons, criminals at large, advice on how to cure or prevent diseases, new methods in farming etc were also announced from the pulpits. An important result is that the Swedish rural population received much more information about the government at central and local levels than has until now been known. All the decisions that the Swedish parliament (Riksdag) had reached were publicly announced, as were all the public complaints (allmänna besvär) from all parts of Sweden and Finland. Another result is that the number of announcements issued at regional and local level far exceeded those issued by the King in Council. The importance of the provincial governor becomes clear.

The system for mass communication has been examined in its various historical contexts. It was first established during a period when the majority of the population lived in a society which was predominantly oral, while the government, the town dwellers and the élite were increasingly literate. These conditions lasted during a long transition period. When the whole of society had become literate the communication between government and subjects also changed in character. Modern massmedia took over some of the functions of the old system. Others became obsolete through changes in administrative practice. Paid government servants did the work that every citizen previously was expected to carry out within many public sectors such as transport, repairing roads, equipping soldiers etc.
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
  • History
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date2001 Sept 29
ISBN (Print)91-628-4906-9
Publication statusPublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2001-09-29
Time: 10:15
Place: Department of History, Magle Stora Kyrkogata 12 A, Lund

External reviewer(s)

Name: Liljewall, Britt
Title: Ph.D.
Affiliation: Göteborg


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • History

Free keywords

  • Tidig modern historia (till ca. 1800)
  • Modern history (up to circa 1800)
  • legitimacy
  • laws and regulations
  • government
  • clergy
  • peasants
  • literate society
  • oral society
  • public announcements
  • mass medium
  • mass communication
  • Philology
  • Språkvetenskap

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