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WINNING A WAR WITH WORDS Oaths as means in military conflict in early modern Scandinavia

Journal article
Authors Sari Nauman
Published in Scandinavian Journal of History
Volume 39
Issue 2
Pages 198-211
ISSN 0346-8755
Publication year 2014
Published at Department of Historical Studies
Pages 198-211
Language en
Keywords oath, military history, Scandinavia,
Subject categories History


From a distance, the many wars that took place during the early modern period were fought by kings and armies, conquering territories and losing them, signing peace treaties and breaking them. Wars fought with armies were, however, costly and, if possible, the rulers did what they could to avoid them while still trying to acquire and protect territories. One strategy employed was to persuade the people of a disputed territory to surrender to the conquering state by swearing an oath of allegiance to its king. Seen in this perspective, territories could be acquired and lost by using the oaths as means in military conflict. The following article discusses the role of oaths in keeping and conquering territories in the early modern Scandinavian countries, with a special focus on Sweden and to some degree Sweden's constant enemy during this period, Denmark-Norway. It also studies the same oaths from the people's point of view, and what happened after an oath was sworn and the war ended. By taking examples from areas under dispute, the article investigates how oaths could be used by both authorities and subjects in warfare and after in the early modern context.

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