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Aristocratic Wealth and Inequality in a Changing Society: Sweden, 1750–1900

Bengtsson, Erik LU ; Missiaia, Anna LU ; Olsson, Mats LU and Svensson, Patrick LU (2019) In Scandinavian Journal of History 44(1). p.27-52
Abstract
The role of the European nobility and their ability to retain their political and economic power are part of the debate on the modernization of Europe’s economy. This paper contributes to the literature by exploring the wealth of the Swedish nobility as the country evolved from an agrarian to an industrial economy. We use a sample of 200+ probate inventories of nobles for each of the benchmark years 1750, 1800, 1850 and 1900. We show that the nobility, less than 0.5 per cent of the population, was markedly dominant in 1750: the average noble was 60 times richer than the average person, and the nobles held 29 per cent of all private wealth. 90 per cent of the nobles were richer than the average person. By 1900 the advantage of the nobles’... (More)
The role of the European nobility and their ability to retain their political and economic power are part of the debate on the modernization of Europe’s economy. This paper contributes to the literature by exploring the wealth of the Swedish nobility as the country evolved from an agrarian to an industrial economy. We use a sample of 200+ probate inventories of nobles for each of the benchmark years 1750, 1800, 1850 and 1900. We show that the nobility, less than 0.5 per cent of the population, was markedly dominant in 1750: the average noble was 60 times richer than the average person, and the nobles held 29 per cent of all private wealth. 90 per cent of the nobles were richer than the average person. By 1900 the advantage of the nobles’ wealth had declined; the group held only 5 per cent of total private wealth. At the same time, stratification within the nobility had increased dramatically. One group of super-rich Swedish nobles, often large land owners from the high nobility, possessed the biggest fortunes, but a large minority of nobles were no richer than the average Swede. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Inequality, Wealth, Sweden, Nobility, Economic stratification, Social groups
in
Scandinavian Journal of History
volume
44
issue
1
pages
27 - 52
publisher
Routledge
external identifiers
  • scopus:85048378457
ISSN
1502-7716
DOI
10.1080/03468755.2018.1480538
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
0681bc53-7fcf-4254-a9b3-a45ce9c64188
date added to LUP
2018-06-12 21:54:57
date last changed
2019-02-20 11:19:46
@article{0681bc53-7fcf-4254-a9b3-a45ce9c64188,
  abstract     = {The role of the European nobility and their ability to retain their political and economic power are part of the debate on the modernization of Europe’s economy. This paper contributes to the literature by exploring the wealth of the Swedish nobility as the country evolved from an agrarian to an industrial economy. We use a sample of 200+ probate inventories of nobles for each of the benchmark years 1750, 1800, 1850 and 1900. We show that the nobility, less than 0.5 per cent of the population, was markedly dominant in 1750: the average noble was 60 times richer than the average person, and the nobles held 29 per cent of all private wealth. 90 per cent of the nobles were richer than the average person. By 1900 the advantage of the nobles’ wealth had declined; the group held only 5 per cent of total private wealth. At the same time, stratification within the nobility had increased dramatically. One group of super-rich Swedish nobles, often large land owners from the high nobility, possessed the biggest fortunes, but a large minority of nobles were no richer than the average Swede.},
  author       = {Bengtsson, Erik and Missiaia, Anna and Olsson, Mats and Svensson, Patrick},
  issn         = {1502-7716},
  keyword      = {Inequality,Wealth,Sweden,Nobility,Economic stratification,Social groups},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {1},
  pages        = {27--52},
  publisher    = {Routledge},
  series       = {Scandinavian Journal of History},
  title        = {Aristocratic Wealth and Inequality in a Changing Society: Sweden, 1750–1900},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03468755.2018.1480538},
  volume       = {44},
  year         = {2019},
}