Äreminnen : Personmedaljer och social status i Sverige, cirka 1650–1900
Sammanfattning: The purpose of this dissertation is to study the waning of premodern ideas about society by investigating the ways in which social status was conceived. Analyses of linguistic expressions and negotiations of status are used to study changes in how different social groups related and acted on one another, what changed, and what remained constant as premodernity gave way to modernity.The shifting conceptions of social status are studied through the medium of commemorative medals. These small and exclusive objects – made in precious metals such as gold, silver, or bronze – were made with the explicit purpose of recording the good qualities and desirable actions of ‘great men’ for posterity. The medium’s inherent bias makes it an ideal source for studying attributes that were highly valued at a certain time and by a certain group. The study concentrates on medals of private, non-royal individuals. All the medals of private individuals issued in Sweden, from the very first in the early seventeenth century to the mid nineteenth century, are included in the study. The methods used are both quantitative and qualitative: the quantitative approach makes it possible to establish what was representative, while close studies are adopted to identify its expression. To understand the medals as part of a discourse, a contextual approach has been applied.Conceptions of social status from 1650 to 1900 underwent a constant change from exclusion to argument. The conceptualisation of status went from being ascribed, uniform, and collective in the seventeenth century to being achieved, diverse, and individual in the nineteenth century. Rather than replacing old modes of expression and groups of people, new ones supplemented them, making the discourse increasingly diverse. The study offers three major arguments about how and way premodern ideas about society were superseded. These ideas concern the causality, anatomy, and chronology of change. The study demonstrates that linguistic expressions many times preceded political reorganisations and should be regarded as performative; it shows that change came about through overwriting of expressions from established groups, with large quantities of symbolic capital, to less well-established groups and contexts they found relevant; and it demonstrates, through its the study focus on a long perspective, that important cultural and social changes did not necessarily coincide with political transformation. The degree of continuity over time and the constant negotiations between various groups, points to the fallacy of dividing history into distinct periods. Modernity should not be seen as a contrast to premodernity. Rather, it was its elongation.
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