The Academy of Finland granted funding to our project.

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Research Plan



The aim of this project is to provide new insights into the state building process in Sweden during the transitional period c. 1550-1650. During those years, many far-reaching administrative reforms were carried out, and the Swedish state developed into a prime example of the early modern "power-state", but it seems that focused state building faltered at a time when it would have been most needed. What happened?

Our project approaches state building in early modern Sweden from the point of view of personal agency. This approach has long remained in the shadow of the study of structures and institutions. We believe that with this approach, we will shed light on numerous important questions about the nature of administration and the possibilities of state formation. The emphasis on individuals also corresponds well with 16th-century reality. The powerful, all-pervasive centrally controlled structures that characterized the Swedish power state in the following century simply did not yet exist in the 16th century.

In the early modern period, the private and the public were often closely intertwined, and this connection is of particular interest to us. By researching individual lives or careers, we want to take a look at the period from below but without forgetting "the big picture". The personal approach enables us to expose the difficulties, setbacks and false steps that the administration had to deal with. In addition, this approach makes it possible to study how personal power and institutional power were interwoven. Patron-client networks and informal relations inside "public" institutions have so far received little attention in research on Swedish history.

One of the central methods of the project is the systematic use of previous biographical research. We want to give the individuals and their actions under discussion a background that reflects the contemporary structures of individual life cycles. With the existing biographical research, it is possible to create a comprehensive set of data that provide the general outlines of individual lives or the career tracks of various estates or social groups, and even to construct collective biographies (prosopographies) of certain groups. Individuals can be compared with the groups' most common life trajectories. Comparative methods will also be applied in outlining temporal changes and geographical differences. This brings a new "personal level" to the much debated state building process, which has so far been mainly studied from a structural perspective.