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I faderns ställe. Genus, ekonomisk förändring och den svenska förmyndarinstitutionen ca 1700-1860

Författare Ann Ighe
Datum för examination 2007-04-13
Opponent at public defense Maria Ågren
ISBN 91-85196-65-7
Förlagsort Göteborg
Publiceringsår 2007
Publicerad vid Ekonomisk-historiska institutionen
Språk sv
Ämnesord gender, guardianship, coming of age, property rights, legal change, legal history, legal status, credit relations, embeddedness, Göteborg, orphans, unmarried women, widows, citizenship, institutional change, 18th century, 19th century, patriarchal relations, economic history
Ämneskategorier Ekonomisk historia, Genusstudier


In Sweden, a highly gender-specific construction of legal majo¬rity, coming of age and guardianship over children and minors was part of the pre-industrial order and it’s ar-rangements of pro¬perty rights. This thesis is a study of a gender specific legal sys¬tem and it’s interaction with economic change. Guardianship over minors – orphans, fatherless children or unmarried women - had economic implications, and was an arrangement with effects for the economy. Unmarried women’s status as minors contri¬buted to the accumu-lation of re¬spon¬sibility and disposition in the hands of men, over far more property than they actually owned. A new, nationwide law on guar¬dian¬ship was introduced in the late 17th century, and many of its basic principles prevail into the 19th century. These included unmarried women’s status as minors, primarily in relation to dispo¬sition of property, the principles for replacing deceased fathers with appoin¬ted male guardians and the regulation of the guardianship of widowed mothers over their children. Important changes appeared dur-ing the period, many of them with obvious gender aspects. One was that unmarried women gained majority status in 1863. The political debate on legal change in the 19th century shows that the issue of women’s status was important, but contro¬versial. An emerging liberal discourse was also opposing what was perceived as negative and obso-lete sides of patriarchal authority. The embedded character of guardianship was seen as ham¬pering for the male individual as well as detrimental to economic develop¬ment. Through a local case study of court records over the appointment of guar¬dians and their wards in the city of Göteborg some other aspects of this institu¬tion was made evi-dent. A comparative analysis of two cross-sections, from the years 1777-82 and 1852-57, pointed to continuities in some functions of this institution and changes in others: Among the changing features were its character as a civic duty for male citizens, a less restrictive handling of the guar¬dianship of widows over their children, and the transfor¬mation of guardianship from an often collective and kin based institution to a more individual task. The basic function of this institution was to maintain patriarchal relations of depend-ency and authority, through the replacement of the father. Inheritance and upbrin¬ging of orphans and semi-orphans as well as unmarried women were thus taken care of, and became parts of the local relations of credit. In addition, interests of different lines of kinship were protected when former marital property relations were separated from new ones. Stepfathers were not favoured as guardians. An increasing share of unmarried women in the population created a greater demand for guardians. At the same time, society went through a pro¬cess of increasing mobility, i. e. urbanisation, which made control of these women more difficult.

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