In 1766, the Swedish Diet, which controlled the government’s finances, decided to implement a Freedom of the Press Act, which abolished pre-publication control of secular publications, as well as introduced the principle of open access to government documents. The principle of open access meant that most documents from the Diet, the Council, the civil service and the law courts became accessible to citizens who wished to publish them in print. These decisions were part of a process of dealing with the financial and political effects of Sweden’s participation in the Seven Years’ War. By contrast, the coup d’état in 1772 significantly strengthened the powers of the king. A more divided fiscal authority emerged, which led to struggles between the political elite and the king regarding the financial affairs of the state and the mechanisms of financial control. The king tried to protect his political autonomy, while the elite tried to reduce the king’s maneuverability.
This paper will examine Swedish developments from around 1750 to 1830 in relation to the struggles concerning financial control and transparency. The Swedish case is particularly interesting since it can problematize the process of transition from an absolutist financial regime to a more liberal constitutional one. Parliamentary control and financial openness could be revoked and there was no guarantee that a sovereign would not try to regain his autonomy in financial matters.
The excesses of the state. Administrative control or political transparency? 17th century–19th century Europe