Relieving famine. Northern Sweden (Västerbotten) during the 1860s: Local, Regional and Comparative Perspectives.

Lilla Sparbanksfoajén Session 6: Pre-Industrial Households and Markets organized by Marcus Falk


Henrik Forsberg, Magnus Bohman


In 1867-68 northern Sweden suffered from a famine that has not gained much scholarly interest. Here we study how this famine was relieved. Furthermore, we emphasize the importance of regional and comparative perspectives since similar and simultaneous weather anomalies wrecked harvests all around the Baltic Sea but with very different outcomes. In a Swedish context Västerbotten county suffered from a famine, but the effects in terms of famine-related deaths were mild compared to e.g. Finland. We use unique regional and local administrational archival sources alongside other contemporary reports. Our results show that sufficient aid to feed the population arrived on time, and reveal the complex interplay between the state, market, and civil society for a seemingly efficient administration at the national and regional level. However, our results point to bottlenecks in the administration of relief at the local municipal level which call for further investigation. In summary, famine scholars should ask what in the 1860s contributed to make the Swedish economy more resilient and its famine relief administration seemingly more efficient than was the case in its neighbouring countries.


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