The question of the Swedish medieval town genesis is quite extensive and at the same times little-studied, especially in the Russian historiography, although the Northern Europe theme study in the USSR was very popular. Currently there is an increased interest in the Northern Europe history, because now the countries of the Scandinavian Peninsula are very important players on the world stage.
This article presents analysis of J. Callmer work «Urbanization in Scandinavia and the Baltic region c. AD 700-1100: Trading Places, Centers and Early Urban Sites».
The purpose of this study will be the above mentioned article analysis and its data further use to the later period of urbanization, in particular in Sweden of XIII-XV centuries. To achieve this goal it is necessary to solve several problems: 1) specify the reasons that led to the special urbanization type creation in this region; 2) examine the reasons of towns and trading places interconnection; 3) to determine the town functions in studied period.
J. Callmer begins his article with the explanation of such concepts as "trade" and "exchange", saying that for a deeper understanding of the problem, it is better to use only the first term, which would include both terms, as he says, "to avoid the awkwardness and confusion" in the expressions. [1, 50]
The author also specifies that the issue can be examined by the two parties: archaeologists and historians, and each party will be guided by their definitions and arguments. [1, 50]
Historians look at a town through the prism of its legal status and define socio-political relations in it, while archaeologists consider the town as a structure, focusing primarily on its territorial boundaries. But, despite the different approaches to this phenomenon study, both archaeologists and historians bring a lot of significant discoveries on the subject into historical knowledge bank. [3, 267]
Certainly it is worth to begin this topic analysis with reference to the archaeological data. According to Callmer, archaeologists must develop "their criteria of urbanization, on the basis of material sources." After that it is possible to use the historical evidence for the necessary support, addition or thinking over. Since the majority of sources contain the idealized town model, the system specified in the source may not factually have been. After all, most of sagas, chronicles and other sources that we study had been commissioned by somebody, that’s why archaeological evidence in this case is more reliable. [1, 51]
It should be noted that urban communities in Northern Europe has been the result of two distinct development lines: the first line originated from urban settlements as centers of social activity, the second one stemmed from the settlements, which served as places of trade. In this regard there appeared certain main features of the early towns’ diversity, as well as the "Scandinavian" town type uniqueness. [3, 267]
In analyzing the causes that led to the special type urban settlement emergence in this region, it is worth noting the fact that there was a deep synthesis of local cultural and political features, as well as strong external influences.
It is worth recalling that in this particular period missionary work was held in Scandinavia, about its impact we can judge with certainty according to such works as, for example, "Deeds of Bishops of the Hamburg Church" by Adam of Bremen" or " Life of St. Ansgar ". [4, 130]
In addition to the above reasons, the author suggests that the urbanization process has been prepared by social differentiation. That is, at the time of the urban settlements emergence in Scandinavia, there were certain "points": some of them were responsible for the political and religious functions, the other for trade, and the third ones for the agricultural sector. It's easy to see even in later periods, since this differentiation has left its deep traces for a long time. If we look at the territory of Sweden in the period 13th -15th centuries, we will see that many of the regions political boundaries coincide with the of population occupations boundaries. [2, 59]
The author also makes it clear that, unlike the towns of Western Europe, in Scandinavia each newly built town could not afford combining several functions simultaneously, that is differentiation, especially in the early periods, was forced and very strong. Subsequently, its preservation may be explained by the existing system, the destruction of which would cause the new whole economy destruction. This differentiation can be seen through the example of different Swedish lands, so Götaland has always been a handicraft factory, and, Birka was predominantly engaged in trade. Though the difference can also be explained by government political disability during its first stages. [1, 58]
In the 8th century we can see the changes in all urban settlement locations in the area under the study, as there appear a significant fact – permanent trading posts with fixed boundaries, earlier only their approximate boundaries were mentioned. Of course, this reflects certain economy stability. This was actually a future town model, because not only traders but also craftsman began to concentrate there. [3, 268]
It is also necessary to clarify that the population in these so to say "town predecessors" could reach a few hundred people, and in the trade season it could be several thousand. At that time political centers could not boast such population numbers. This is confirmed by archaeological finds, "inland areas representing vast stretches of plain with a recognized commercial center; as well as a number of coastal areas testify about a close connection trade and exchange sites, which were densely populated." [1, 56]
But there is little doubt about the coastal areas, because archaeologists have not determined the purpose of their majour part. Were they really specialized places of trade and exchange, or simply coastal areas that merchants and craftsmen visited seasonally. [1, 56]
In the period of 8th – 9th centuries there were about 10 towns in the region. At that time, according to J.Callmer, local elite took trade under its control. And there began the fusion process of the town as the trade center, with the town of the political center. It is also claimed that these towns already had the Western European model; probably of the English type, that is the town had taken up the function of commercial, political, administrative and spiritual centers. [1, 61]
In the 11th century, as expected, further growth of towns was observed and with it a further change in the town structure. More and more town at this period acquired the features peculiar to the towns of Northern Europe. To this group they often refer not only the towns of the Scandinavian Peninsula, but also the towns the North-Western and North-Eastern Russia. Although by the 13th century Rus had dropped out of the group, but a certain influence in the town structure still remained. This was due to the Russian-Swedish wars, which since the 12th century were almost incessant.
Constant clashes of Novgorodians and Swedes left a strong imprint on the towns at that time. Due to these campaigns numerous fortresses were constructed such as, for example, Landskrona and Vyborg, some of them were to become towns.
Of course in addition to social and economic reasons, which were caused by the construction of towns, an important and perhaps even crucial role belonged to political reasons, because these particular reasons for example caused the some fortresses construction during the Russian-Swedish wars.
The state structures stabilization also caused the new towns appearance, and of course new territories development attempts because one way to take hold of them was to build there a fortress, which was both a military stronghold and a symbol of certain political influence. [3, 268]
The process of Christianization directly linked with the political processes had an impact not only on certain characteristics inherent to the town, but also on the formation of new towns which became the centers of Christianity.
People accepted Christianity brought by missionaries rather strangely especially at the initial stage. Still we should not forget about its steady impact as well as about the paganism influence. Indeed, before the Christian centers rise we can talk about the pagan centers existence. In modern cities, such as Stockholm, archaeologists find that a lot of such evidence. One of the most striking evidence is the presence of runestones in the foundations and piers of bridges, buildings and other structures. [4, 133]
Combining all the above given arguments and data obtained from J. Callmer’s article analysis we can make a conclusion that the author is a supporter of the town genesis "market" theory in the Scandinavian region, since the major part of his research has been focused on trade relations.
It also should be noted that at the initial stage of towns formation in Scandinavia the "market" theory is more than realistic. At the same time in the 10th -11th centuries we can already speak about the formation of new economic regions, based on the state internal economy stabilization progress, rather than trade relations. All this does not speak in favor of "the market" theory, although in the early stages, it actually works.
Callmer, J. 1994. Urbanization in Scandinavia and the Baltic region c. AD 700.1100. - Developments around the Baltic and the North Sea in the Viking Age. The Twelfth Viking Congress. Eds B. Ambrosiani & H. Clark. (Birka studies, 3.) Riksantikvarieambetet, Statens historiska museer, Stockholm, 50-90. ISBN 91-7192-950-9
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