Accessibility statement

Memory, Modernity and L’ancien regime: the Swedish Nobility 1866-1974 as a Case Study

Thursday 31 October 2019, 6.00PM

Speaker(s): Magnus Bergman (PhD student in History at Malmö University, Sweden, and currently visiting scholar in the Department of History at York

Co-organized by the Medievalism and Imperial Modernity Research Strand,  the Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past and Department of History. 

One of the grand narratives concerning European 19th century history is the victory of the forces of modernity over those of the old society it replaced. Democracy, industrial capitalism and urbanisation (amongst other things) came to be the defining characteristics instead of the quasi-feudal, agrarian and rural old ways. While the overall ascension of these things is unquestionable, the persistence of the old regime, the monarchies, the nobility and the churches, even into the 20th century are often overlooked. From a European perspective, studying the meetings, conflicts and merging between the new and the old will produce drastically varying results – from the violent revolutions of France and Russia to the more peaceful incorporations of the old elite in the UK and Sweden (my particular area of research) – as well as many similarities. In this seminar, I will discuss the noble process of “adapting to modernity”, adopting a series of strategies and collective actions which were invariably linked to concepts such as memory, identity, power and heritage. This process followed the abolishment of noble political and economic pre-eminence in Sweden during the 19th century and included noble uses of history to legitimize the continuing existence of a noble caste in a modern society. Initially this was done to try to retain power in the new political system of the late 1800s. In the 20th century, the importance of heritage in relation to noble identity would eclipse that of power, in a process that can be understood as a veritable “heritageization” of the very concept of nobility. Some analogous European developments will be discussed as well.

Location: Treehouse (BS/104), Berrick Saul Building

Admission: All are welcome to attend.