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The image of China presented in the political debates on freedom of the press in the Nordic countries in the 18th century
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Languages, Department of Linguistics and Philology.
2015 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Today we often talk about globalization as if it was a recent phenomenon, although this is a process that has been going on since ancient times. Few people today realize the significance of the political and cultural influence of China in the Nordic countries in the 18th century, and that the image of China was of crucial importance in the political debates on freedom of the press and of information in the Nordic countries, as has been discussed in several publications by Professor Marie-Christine Skuncke, Uppsala University. The French Jesuit Jean Baptiste Du Halde’s Description géographique et historique de l’empire del la Chine et del la Tartarie chinoise (1735) had created an image of China among Europeans as a rich, populous and peaceful country with a stable political system. Based on Du Halde’s descriptions of China, several politicians in the Nordic countries working against censorship, Anders Nordencrantz (Swedish politician and businessman), Anders Chydenius (Finnish priest, former student of Uppsala University) and Frederik Lütken (Danish navy officer, economist and politician), claimed that China’s prosperity and stability was caused by the existence of a freedom of writing and of information in China since ancient times. This image of China was used as an argument for a Freedom of the Press Act in Sweden. Largely through the work of Chydenius in the Swedish Diet, His majesty’s Gracious Ordinance Relating to Freedom of Writing and of the Press was passed in the Swedish Diet in 1766. It was the first Freedom of information act in the world. I will compare the arguments used in the political pamphlets written by Nordencrantz, Chydenius and Lütken, in relation to their source, Du Halde’s Description del la Chine, and in the context of the political climate and debates at the time.



Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
history, politics, media, freedom of the press, freedom of information
National Category
History and Archaeology
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-279476OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-279476DiVA: diva2:908199
The 12th biennial Conference of the Nordic Association for China Studies (NACS) “China in the World and the World in China”, in Uppsala, Sweden
Available from: 2016-03-01 Created: 2016-03-01 Last updated: 2016-04-22

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Rydholm, Lena
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Department of Linguistics and Philology
History and Archaeology

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