The social effects of 19th century enclosures

Loneliness is a central theme in the discussion about Swedish mentality.

In 1967 an American born journalist, writer and scholar with a long experience of living in Sweden wrote a book with the title The New Sweden.

In the first chapter he described the effects of the Swedish enclosures, which took place from the end of the 18th to the middle or end of the 19th century. He based his description on Swedish historians.

“The effects on the people and the country were harmful, according to a number of Swedish historians. … After the peasants had been uprooted from the village street and settled on isolated homesteads, they became self-centered and lonely. Swedes became suspicious of their neighbours, these historians claim, and competitiveness and pride often kept them from making friends.”

Fleisher, Frederic. The New Sweden. The challenge of a disciplined democracy. New York: David McKay Company Inc., 1967, 8.

This is interesting because it suggest a different image of Swedish society. In this view, Swedish loneliness does not include “autonomy” or “individualism” as much as emotional loss, suspicion, self-centeredness, competitiveness and hurt pride.

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