SUMMARY: STOCKHOLM LIFE – DIET SOCIABILITY AND THE FORMATION OF IDENTITY IN THE AGE OF LIBERTY
Parliamentary sociability in Sweden in the eighteenth century is a curiously understudied area of political history. This is not for a lack of knowledge of social events in Stockholm during the diets. Rather, researchers have at best regarded diet sociability as a backdrop for party politics, at worst as a shameful episode in Swedish political history better left unmentioned. The purpose of this article is to underscore the significance of Stockholm in political life in the Age of Liberty and of sociability in the city during the meetings of the diet. A study of diet sociability in Stockholm can shed light upon the social boundaries of this sphere, its networks of information, its ideology, and the political opportunities sociability afforded.
The continuity in forms of sociability, manners, and sites offered in Stockholm meant that the mastery of political life could be learnt, even by members of the lower orders. Members of the diet met in coffeehouses, wine-shops and in members’ lodgings where political issues of national importance were prepared and discussed, irrespective of the company. Supporters for the parties or particular votes were mobilised and information on diet votes and policies were spread to anyone interested.
Sociability at the diet was unique in the social spectrum represented—social occasions with representatives from the nobility and the peasantry were not uncommon. Often social hierarchy was manifested in audience-like arrangements. Over the period studied it is clear, however, that a mastery of more informal salon manners was a road to inclusion into higher circles where social standing was less important. Another apparent change is the lower orders’ appropriation of elite manners. Even in social occasions exclusive to peasants, consumption and conduct took on the marks of elite sociability, drinking wine and wearing political signs on one’s clothing. Political loyalties became increasingly important in social life on the expense of social standing.
Diet sociability altered political identities, especially among the lower orders. When looking for the causes of the social upheaval in the later part of the Age of Liberty we should not only study parliamentary sessions or the press, but look closer at the informal meeting places where social division had been questioned long before.
2005. no 3, 399-420 p.