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Peasant Aristocrats? Wealth and Social Status of Swedish Farmer Parliamentarians 1769–1895

Erik Bengtsson and Mats Olsson ()

No 175, Lund Papers in Economic History from Lund University, Department of Economic History

Abstract: Sweden was unique in early modern Europe, in that its parliament included a peasant farmer estate. It is commonplace in Swedish and international research to consider the peasant farmer politicians as the guarantee of a liberal and egalitarian path of development. On the other hand, in the Swedish-language political history literature, the peasant politicians are often seen as rather narrow-minded, their common political program limited to the issue of keeping (their own) taxes as low as possible, and opposed to any expansion of social policy and citizenship rights. To address the role of peasant farmer politicians, this paper presents a novel dataset of the social and economic status of the peasant MPs, with benchmarks for the 1769, 1809, 1840, 1865 and 1895 parliaments. We show that the politicians were three to four times wealthier than their voters, and in the 1895 parliament even 7.8 times wealthier. They were more likely to take bourgeois surnames and their children were likely to make a transition away from the peasant class and into the middle class. The exclusiveness of the peasant politicians, which increased over the nineteenth century, has implications for their policies, and helps explain the increasing conservatism and right-ward drift of Swedish farmer politics over the century.

Keywords: peasant farmers; parliaments; Sweden; political economy (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I31 N13 N33 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 27 pages
Date: 2018-06-20
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-his, nep-hpe and nep-pol
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