I want to stay : Local community and prisoners of war at the dawn of the eighteenth century

Sammanfattning: This dissertation is about war captivity in the early eighteenth century. It is also about the ways in which early modern local communities negotiated their boundaries towards the outside world. The resident populations’ interaction with prisoners of war (POWs) offers unique perspectives on how local communities handled wartime migrants. The dissertation studies three towns forced to receive POWs during the Great Northern War: Aarhus, in the kingdom of Denmark, Torgau in the electorate of Saxony and Uppsala in the kingdom of Sweden. It represents the first attempt to situate this conflict within the larger field of research on early modern war captivity. The dissertation uses a broad range of sources—including official correspondence, POW muster rolls, town council minutes and parish records—to reconstruct the movements and actions of individual POWs. These reconstructions show how their position in the community changed over time, a perspective that represents a distinctly new approach for studying early modern war captivity. The results underline that the local community played a crucial role in organising war captivity and, consequently, how the situation of the POWs became closely intertwined with other challenges facing the community at the time. The state strove to delegate costs and administrative responsibilities associated with housing, supporting and guarding POWs. These attempts were a forceful claim on local resources. Thus, the administration of war captivity was part of an ongoing negotiation regarding the relationship between the local community and the state. At the same time, the everyday interactions of war captivity were shaped by the fact that the status of POW lacked distinct social and legal meaning in the local context. The state showed little interest in regulating the POWs’ relationship to local institutions, such as the congregation and the legal system, leaving such questions to be negotiated on the local level. With little or no previous experience of interacting with POWs, the local community treated these people much the same as well-known and already established social groups, such as billeted soldiers and servants. The POWs’ position in the community was therefore not a great deal different from that of other groups of migrants, and the level of local belonging which POWs were able to achieve depended fundamentally on their individual ability to live up to local social norms. Of particular importance was the fact that POWs were employed in local households as servants, which provided them with a widely accepted social position in the community. However, building up a local social network, cultivating relationships with influential local patrons and marrying a local woman were processes that took time, generally requiring that the POW was able to remain in the community for several years.The experience of war captivity in Aarhus, Torgau and Uppsala demonstrates how a stranger could relatively easily achieve a basic degree of belonging in early modern towns. The threshold to full belonging, however, was steep. The dissertation argues that, particularly in Aarhus and Uppsala, the war served as an engine of social integration. Wartime mobilisation of economic and human resources destabilised these communities, creating vacant social and economic niches which some POWs were able to fill.