Medieval Stockholm

I just finished reading Nils Ahnlund’s 1953 history of Stockholm up to 1523, which marks the end of the Middle Ages in Swedish historiography. Its 538 pages of text offers less concrete detail than an archaeologist might wish for, and I soon lost track of everybody named Anders Jönsson and Jöns Andersson, but it was an interesting read nevertheless. Here are a few of the best things I learned.

  • Now I finally understand why the inhabitants of Dalecarlia play such a large role in the city’s and country’s history. I mean, OK, there’s reasonable farmland up there, but it is way north and the growing season is correspondingly shorter. Why does every half-bit rebel leader through the centuries try to secure the aid of the Dalecarlians, specifically?

    Now I understand. It’s not about the farming up there. It’s about the mining, particularly the copper mine in Falun. Dalecarlia had an unusually large and rich population of mine owners, miners and metalworkers. And all of them depended on Stockholm to sell their products and supply them with imported goods. Stockholm and Dalecarlia were in fact integral parts of a machine whose purpose was to pump copper and iron onto the Continent via the Hanseatic league. If something bothered Stockholm, then the Dalecarlians were bothered too. Couldn’t somebody have explained that to me long ago?!

  • I knew that Medieval Stockholm was a tiny place, hemmed in on its island where Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea. But I didn’t know that time and time again, the town on the island and the heavily fortified castle at its northern end were in the hands of opposing political factions. Little wars were repeatedly fought between the town and the castle!
  • The Battle of Baggensstäket in 1719 was not the first recorded battle out in my neck of the woods. In July of 1518, during the run-up to the Battle of Brännkyrka, a skirmish was fought at Duvnäs between Danish cavalry belonging to Christian II and troops loyal to the Steward of the Realm, Sten Svantesson. I guess the Danes disembarked there because they couldn’t get through the Skurusundet passage into town.

    Another local piece of news to me is that Drevinge was used by its owner Tideman Rump (!), obit. c. 1331, as “a kind of private loading port”.

  • Finally, the thing that originally inspired me to read the book was to find out more about the Medieval farmsteads that have been obliterated by Stockholm’s post-Medieval expansion. I find it fascinating that much of today’s city area was like any other piece of Lake Mälaren countryside up at least to the 14th century. The names of these forgotten farms go back at least to the Viking Period, and some have left surviving pagan cemeteries.
    • Svaneby. Still farmed in the 15th century. Located near St. James’s church.

    • Väsby. Owned by St. Clare’s convent. Located near Hötorget square.
    • Ekeby. Donated along with Väsby to St. Clare’s in 1288. May have been located near Humlegården park.
    • Karleby. Owned by the arch-see. May have been located near Biskopsudden point on Södra Djurgården.
    • Vädla. Became the town’s first kungsladugård, Crown farm, shortly after 1400. Located immediately west of Nobelparken.
    • Kaknäs. Became merged with Vädla. Located near the broadcasting tower.
    • Medelby. Became merged with Vädla. Located on Ladugårdsgärdet.
    • Telgede. Bordered on Årsta. Located somewhere near Lake Hammarby.
    • Rörstrand. First mentioned in 1288. Located east of Karlberg on the lake shore.
    • Löing 1269, Lögiaboda 1499. Located west of Vanadisberget hill.
    • (Ersta on Södermalm is a late establishment named after Erstavik in Nacka.)

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