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Peasant Aristocrats? Wealth and Social Status of Swedish Farmer Parliamentarians 1769–1895

Author

Listed:
  • Bengtsson, Erik

    () (Department of Economic History, Lund University)

  • Olsson, Mats

    () (Department of Economic History, Lund University)

Abstract

Sweden was unique in early modern Europe, in that its parliament included a peasant farmer estate. It is commonplace in Swedish and international research to consider the peasant farmer politicians as the guarantee of a liberal and egalitarian path of development. On the other hand, in the Swedish-language political history literature, the peasant politicians are often seen as rather narrow-minded, their common political program limited to the issue of keeping (their own) taxes as low as possible, and opposed to any expansion of social policy and citizenship rights. To address the role of peasant farmer politicians, this paper presents a novel dataset of the social and economic status of the peasant MPs, with benchmarks for the 1769, 1809, 1840, 1865 and 1895 parliaments. We show that the politicians were three to four times wealthier than their voters, and in the 1895 parliament even 7.8 times wealthier. They were more likely to take bourgeois surnames and their children were likely to make a transition away from the peasant class and into the middle class. The exclusiveness of the peasant politicians, which increased over the nineteenth century, has implications for their policies, and helps explain the increasing conservatism and right-ward drift of Swedish farmer politics over the century.

Suggested Citation

  • Bengtsson, Erik & Olsson, Mats, 2018. "Peasant Aristocrats? Wealth and Social Status of Swedish Farmer Parliamentarians 1769–1895," Lund Papers in Economic History 175, Lund University, Department of Economic History.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:luekhi:0175
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Schonhardt-Bailey, Cheryl, 2003. "Ideology, Party and Interests in the British Parliament of 1841 47," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 33(04), pages 581-605, October.
    2. Heckelman, Jac C. & Dougherty, Keith L., 2007. "An Economic Interpretation of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 Revisited," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 67(04), pages 829-848, December.
    3. Lehmann, Sibylle & Volckart, Oliver, 2011. "The political economy of agricultural protection: Sweden 1887," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(01), pages 29-59, April.
    4. Bengtsson, Erik & Svensson, Patrick, 2018. "The wealth of the Swedish peasant farmer class 1750–1900: Composition and distribution," Lund Papers in Economic History 177, Lund University, Department of Economic History.
    5. Schön, Lennart & Krantz, Olle, 2015. "New Swedish Historical National Accounts since the 16th Century in Constant and Current Prices," Lund Papers in Economic History 140, Lund University, Department of Economic History.
    6. repec:bla:ehsrev:v:71:y:2018:i:3:p:772-794 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. repec:cup:apsrev:v:68:y:1974:i:02:p:561-571_11 is not listed on IDEAS
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    peasant farmers; parliaments; Sweden; political economy;

    JEL classification:

    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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