The Non-Ocurring Wars. Swedens Peaceful Officers Corps in the Middle of the 19th Century

Mats Hellstenius

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


Abstract Sweden has experienced a dramatic change from being a belligerent greatpower in the 17th and 18th centuries to becoming a peaceful small nation in the 19th and 20th centuries. The country has not been involved in war for over 180 years. Modern Sweden has established more or less peaceful relations with other countries. This thesis focuses on the 19th century as beeing an important period of transition. The analysis focuses on the military élite, the most prominent and high-ranking officers in the country, i.e. the army- and navyminister, general-staff officers, task-force officers etc. The purpose has been to establish this military category's view on four subjects. The first is the military élite's view of peace and war. The military always portrayed peace as the desirable state of affairs and war as a sad and tragic interruption of this state. Civil war was described as the most tragic kind of all wars. The élite did not approve of wars of aggression, or re-conquest, only self defence. The best way of preventing war, however, was to be prepared, "si vic pacem, para bellum". At the same time the military accepted the realist notion of war being an inseparable part of international politics The second is the military élite's view of political change. The military was a very conservative group in society. They opposed liberal and nationalist movements, portraying them as warprone charlatans. The same attitude is valid about the liberal press. Liberalism was also thought to have undermined the moral within the military forces, thus being a threat to national security. The third is the military élite's view of their own rôle in society and politics. The military wanted to stay above internal political strife and be the neutral support of the government. At the same time they were very interested in the political evolution and were not always acting in a neutral way. During the Crimean war, the military openly opposed the activism of both liberals and monarch. The fourth is the military élites view of Swedens military capabilities. Being realists the élite considered Sweden's military forces very weak. Russia was seen as the main opponent. The military élite thought that Sweden should stay out of European power-politics and maintain a neutral and isolationist policy. The élite did not favor a re-conquest of lost territories, for example of Finland. The analysis relies on various kinds of sources, governmental propositions and reports, military publications and an extensive reliance on private letters. In the thesis it is also shown that the military élite argued that Sweden must learn from past war-tragedies and failures. It is also shown that the military élite served as a peace-keeping group in the Swedish society.
Translated title of the contributionThe Non-Ocurring Wars. Swedens Peaceful Officers Corps in the Middle of the 19th Century
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
  • History
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date2000 Apr 29
Print ISBNs91-628-4055-X
Publication statusPublished - 2000

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2000-04-29
Time: 10:15
Place: Department of history, Room 3

External reviewer(s)

Name: Åselius, Gunnar
Title: Assistant professor
Affiliation: Stockholm


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • History


  • Contemporary history (circa 1800 to 1914)
  • Swedish Foreign Policy 1848-1864
  • Nationalists
  • Liberals
  • Political Change
  • War & Peace
  • Military Elite
  • Attitudes
  • Modern historia (ca. 1800-1914)


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