Archives, Accounting, and Accountability: Cameral Bookkeeping in Mid-Sixteenth-Century Sweden and the Duchy of Johan (1556−1563)

Forskningsoutput: AvhandlingDoktorsavhandlingMonografi


This study examines cameral bookkeeping in Sweden in the mid-sixteenth century. At the time, the Swedish state was moving away from the medieval Union period towards a centrally led nation state. At the core of this process was the control of resources through improved bookkeeping practices. This study shows that the Swedish cameral administration adopted a version of bookkeeping known as charge and discharge, commonly used in certain contexts in medieval and early modern Europe. The system emphasized the accountability of bailiffs to the Crown and enabled the Crown to effectively gather information and extract resources from local communities. The study analyzes in detail the records produced by this system as well as the processes behind them. Additionally, the structure and content of the surviving archival collections is also examined.

The cameral records produced by the Swedish sixteenth-century tax administration are known as the bailiffs’ records (Fin. voudintilit, Swe. fogderäkenskaper), and they comprise the largest surviving literary material of their time. These sources have been widely employed by historians in a plethora of studies starting from the nineteenth century. However, the records themselves have been studied in only a limited capacity, leaving many open questions. The present study addresses the current status of research from two viewpoints. First, emphasis is placed on understanding the provenance of the existing records, that is, their origin and the process of composing them. The lack of knowledge concerning this issue has at times been raised in previous studies, with calls for more scholarly engagement. Second, this study views Swedish cameral bookkeeping in the wider context of European bookkeeping traditions, an approach in stark contrast with previous studies, which typically discuss the bailiffs’ records in isolation from the general history of bookkeeping.

Empirically, this study focuses on the duchy situated in south-western Finland in 1556−1563 and ruled by Gustav Vasa’s second son Johan (as King Johan III, 1569−1592). The duchy consisted of the provinces of Egentliga Finland, Satakunda, Åland, and Raseborg, providing this study with a clearly defined administrative context and source material. The cameral records of the duchy consist of more than a thousand bookkeeping records, adding up to approximately 27 000 folios. This material is first engaged by methods associated with manuscript studies, analyzing scribal hands, watermarks, and other codicological features of select sets of records to identify patterns and clues explaining the process of bookkeeping. All of the material is then analyzed quantitatively, to better understand how the bookkeeping records were produced as well as the structure of the current archival collections.

Structurally, the study consists of seven chapters. Following the introduction, chapter two discusses the history of the archival collections containing the bailiffs’ records. Chapter three provides the codicological analysis and focuses on the question of the origin of the records. In chapter four, the characteristics of the bookkeeping system are analyzed, and the system is placed within the context of broader European bookkeeping traditions. Finally, chapters five and six describe the variety of surviving bookkeeping records. A catalogue of the records deriving from the duchy of Johan, used as a basis for the quantitative approach, is presented at the end of the study.
Tilldelande institution
  • Helsingfors universitet
  • Lahtinen, Anu, Handledare
  • Heikkilä, Tuomas, Handledare
Tilldelningsdatum11 dec. 2020
Tryckta ISBN978-951-51-6871-9
Elektroniska ISBN978-951-51-6872-6
StatusPublicerad - 11 dec. 2020
MoE-publikationstypG4 Doktorsavhandling (monografi)


  • 615 Historia och arkeologi

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