Karriärer i högadelns hägn : social mobilitet bland Magnus Gabriel De la Gardies västgötska förvaltare cirka 1650–1680
Sammanfattning: Careers under the Auspices of the Aristocracy. Social Mobility among Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie's Stewards in Västergötland circa 1650–1680 The present study provides new knowledge on the prerequisites for social mobility in seventeenth-century Sweden by placing focus on a forgotten arena for the social dynamics of the time: the aristocratic manors. The investigation deals with count Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie’s stewards – with the titles hauptman and befallningsman – at the estates Läckö and Höjentorp in Västergötland during the period circa 1650–1680. In particular, the analysis concerns the importance of knowledge and social networks for the possibilities to climb the social ladder and how these factors were intertwined. The theoretical points of departure are the phenomenon of social stratification as well as a social network perspective with emphasis on mutual exchange and a knowledge-historical approach with focus on the circulation of knowledge. Methodologically, a qualitative text analysis of the letters from the stewards to De la Gardie is conducted. It is supplemented by a prosopographical analysis based on other sources of biographical and genealogical nature. The study shows that employment as a steward resulted in several economic benefits, along with multiple risks. Furthermore, the stewards obtained theoretical as well as practical knowledge within a range of fields concerning estate administration and social interaction, which was important for their possibilities to improve their social and economic position. A crucial prerequisite for the circulation of knowledge were, at the same time, the network ties within the framework of the aristocratic household. The stewards built up large networks consisting of mutual relations, which included both clientage to the landowner and contacts in the local setting. These ties were, in turn, dependent on social competence and were essential for the social mobility as well. The family background also had an impact on the opportunities for success, along with – to a certain extent – formal education. In their shifting careers, inside and outside of the aristocratic household, both obtained knowledge and network ties mattered as the stewards sought to improve their situation. This pursuit of social advancement was also manifested in material form and the stewards showed great concern for the future of their children, something that was often depending on the family’s position at the estate. The aristocratic household was, however, an integrated part of the surrounding community, although it constituted an important foundation for the circulation of knowledge and the building of networks. Successful careers coexisted with heavy failures in the lives of the estate stewards. It is argued that in order to understand their fates, it is vital to apply a broad approach to the concepts of knowledge and networks – not as opposites, but as prerequisites for each other.
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