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Accueil > Suède > Repères historiques > Parcours historique > 17e-19e siècle : la Suède est une société agraire

17e-19e siècle : la Suède est une société agraire

The history of modern Sweden is rooted in the agrarian society which revolved around the local parish, the struggle for survival and belief in God. It was during this agrarian epoch that Christianity was established and organised as a national religion in Sweden. The geographical division of the congregations of the Church of Sweden in terms of local parishes evolved as part and parcel of the needs of agrarian society.
Production consisted largely of what nature could provide. The family constituted the basic entity of production and social relations were local in character and based on the family. Society was predictable and governed by tradition. The local regional bond fostered a settled way of life and patterns of living which favoured continuity. The seasons of the year created a general cyclical view of time : people expected the future to repeat the experiences of the past. Changes were looked upon as something threatening since they risked interfering with repetition and continuity. Security, stability, continuity and family solidarity were fundamental values. These values were legitimised and preserved to a great extent by the church.
Until the middle of the nineteenth century, the church and society were intertwined in a way that it is difficult to imagine today. Church and state, parish and municipality, formed essentially one and the same object. A certain proportion of the members of the Swedish Parliament consisted of clergymen and thus formed an integral part of the state in steering social development. The local priest (who was always a man) was a person of unquestioned authority and functioned in various ways as a civil servant and state official with legal, educational, informational, and custodial duties. Human activities from birth to death took place within the framework of the rites of the church. Because of the strong position of local society and the slow pace of change, the values of society and the church could be handed down from one generation to another without any great changes. Citizenship was combined with baptism and confirmation meant a coming of age and an entry into the adult world and its values according to the classical rites of passage. Divine service functioned not simply as a religious ceremony but equally as a central meeting place for various social activities. Public announcements from the pulpit during the service were important sources of information. According to Swedish law, every citizen was obliged to participate in Holy Communion at least once a year. The church was also responsible for the greater part of society’s care services, including care of the poor, health care and teaching.

April 2014
4 octobre 2012