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Migrant, officer och fosterlandsförädrare: Dödsdomen mot Fredrich Sahlgård och föreställningar om nationell tillhörighet i stora nordiska krigets Sverige
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of History.
2018 (Swedish)In: Historisk Tidskrift (S), ISSN 0345-469X, no 3, p. 391-420Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Migrant, officer and traitor to the motherland: the death sentence against Fredrich Sahlgård and perceptions of national belonging in Sweden during the Great Northern War

In September 1717 a Swedish court martial accused the Danish officer Fredrich Sahlgård of treason, and during this trial defining Sahglård’s nationality was a focal question. Sahlgård had been born in Sweden, but had moved to Norway as a child and the defendant therefore claimed that he could not be considered a Swede. His judges, however, argued that Sahlgård was a Swede by birth and therefore bound by both god and nature to protect his native land. Based on this argument the court sentenced Sahlgård to death and a few days later he was shot.

This court martial from the great northern war reveal the limitations of studying perceptions of national identity through normative sources. Student of national identity in early modern Sweden have primarily focused on what ideas of swedishness were communicated in state propaganda and elite discourse. Several authors have claimed that contemporary perceptions of loyalty were strongly centred on the person of the monarch and expressed through the politically potent term "fatherland" (sw. fädernesland). These sources, however, tell us little of how notions of nationality were applied in practice. During Sahlgård’s trial the military court defined swedishness in a way that not just ran counter to, but expressly rejected, contemporary norms. The judges disavowed the foundations of natural law, despite its status as contemporary legal dogma, and formulated an essentialist definition of nationality, based around the concept of “motherland” (sw. fosterland) – completely disregarding the royal propaganda.

On the one hand, the case study suggests that the intense military mobilization in early 18th century Sweden had a significant impact on perceptions of national identity within the Swedish army, as the arguments of the court stands out from both contemporary Swedish and European norms defined by previous research. On the other hand, the study questions what actual role national identity played during the court martial. Sahlgård was sentenced to death for being a Swede, but notions of oaths and rank seem to have been just as important in defining bonds of loyalty as definitions of nationality – if not more so.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. no 3, p. 391-420
Keywords [en]
Sweden, Denmark, 18th century, great northern war, national identity, natural law
National Category
History
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-163938OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-163938DiVA, id: diva2:1281395
Available from: 2019-01-22 Created: 2019-01-22 Last updated: 2019-05-28Bibliographically approved

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