I säng och säte : relationer mellan kvinnor och män i 1600-talets Småland

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


What did people think about the relationship between a man and a woman in Early Modern Sweden? Did they consider love and the parties' free choice to be of any importantance in the making of a marriage? What happened when marriages were falling apart, how common were divorces? I also discuss why sexuality was restricted, and how it affected women and men. What effects did changes in the legislation have? In discussing these questions my theoretical perspective is influenced by New Cultural History. I use material from one cathedral chapter, domkapitel, and some hundred courts, häradsrätter, in southern Sweden during two periods, 1650-1655 and 1692-1694. The ecclesiastical court decided if marriages were valid and in divorce cases, while the hundred courts decided in cases concerning fornication and adultery. During the seventeenth century it was tried to put an end to the traditional forms of betrothals in which the promises and the sexual intercourse made a marriage without interference from any authority. But it is obvious that both people and authorities thought that these relationships - based on promises and sleeping together - were marriages. The importance of the official announcement of the betrothal were emphasized in the Church Ordinance of 1686. This, and harder demands on evidence, had serious consequences for women because they were no longer able to prove that a man had given a promise to marry them. In this respect the judicial revolution was unfavourable to women. When a man and a woman were to be married everybody thought that it was important that they loved each other. That is not to say that every marriage was based on love or that no other things were important - but love mattered because relations based on love were supposed to lead to harmonious marriages. But every marriage was not harmonious. The law approved divorces in two cases; when a spouse had committed adultery or abandoned the home. The most common reason for a divorce was when the husband had committed adultery. The importance of a loving marriage is also obvious when couples tried, and did manage to get a divorce because they could not live happily together. Divorces were of course not common, but more frequent than earlier studies have suggested and most divorces were initiated by women. In the latter period divorces were not so frequent as they had been earlier in the century. Sexuality was condemned when it threatened the foundation of society - marriage - but otherwise appreciated as a fundamental part of the relationship between a man and a woman. In the 1650s a man who had slept with a woman he did not marry afterwards was fined and she was considered to be guiltless. During the period this was changed so that both the man and the woman were fined. In cases of adultery both the man and the woman were fined - this was gender neutral. As far as law and the judicial system can tell there was no sexual double standard.


  • Malin Lennartsson
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • History


  • Church Ordinance., hundred courts, cathedral chapter, judicial revolution, men, women, sexuality, divorce, marriage, love, Early Modern Sweden, New Cultural History, Modern history (up to circa 1800), Tidig modern historia (till ca. 1800)
Translated title of the contributionBed and Board : Relations between women and men in Småland during the seventeenth century
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date1999 May 21
  • Lund University Press
Print ISBNs91-7966-567-5
Publication statusPublished - 1999
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 1999-05-21 Time: 10:15 Place: Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Malmstedt, Göran Title: [unknown] Affiliation: Göteborg ---