It used to be said that the history of Sweden is that of its monarchs and
contemporary history still tends to follow a modified version of this
notion: the history of Sweden is that of its politicians. It is a view that is
very much to the fore in assessments of how Swedish policy has been
formed during the long period of social democratic hegemony.
It is evident not least in discussions of how the crisis policy in the
Thirties was arrived at and how post-war economic policy emerged. As I
have pointed out elsewhere,
works by Erik Lundberg, Leif Lewin and
Assar Lindbeck continue to be the foundation on which most historical
accounts of this period are built. They all focus on politicians and assign
the active role to members of the cabinet, primarily Ernst Wigforss.
But how were the decisions prepared? What part was played by the
government institutions and drafting bodies?
In my opinion, the political role the Riksbank and ministerial officials
played in the construction of Swedish policy is seriously underestimated.
Dag Hammarskjöld was undersecretary in the Finance Ministry in
the period 1936–45 and thereby immediately under the finance minister,
Ernst Wigforss. From 1941 to 1948, moreover, he chaired the Riksbank’s
board of governors. For a revaluation of the part played by government
institutions in the practical construction of economic policy, it is relevant,
in connection with the recollections of Hammarskjöld’s contributions
See Appelqvist, Ö., (2000),
Bruten Brygga. Gunnar Myrdal och Sveriges ekonomiska efterkrigspolitik
This applies to surveys of political as well as economic history; there is no mention of Hammarskjöld in
Möller, T., (2003),
Svensk politisk historia 1890–1975 or in Schön, L., (2001),
Compare this with the excellent institutional analyses of French and German fiscal history that have been
made under the auspices of CHEFF, the French institute for studies in fiscal history, perhaps above all the
studies of the respective importance of the Banque de France and the Commissariat du Plan for the evolution
of French post-war economic policy. See in particular Margairaz, M., (1991),
L’Ètat, les finances et
l’économie. Histoire d’une conversion 1932–1952
that are being presented to mark the hundredth anniversary of his birth
in July 2005, to look at Hammarskjöld’s political role in a number of
important situations, something that research to date has largely failed
Stockholm: Sveriges Riksbank , 2005. no 3, 33-49 p.