Workshop: Politics, trade, diplomacy and power in the Swedish empire during the seventeenth century

Kaarle Wirta
Tampere University

In late February, a group of scholars met at the faculty of Social Sciences at Tampere University. Trivium – Tampere Centre for Classical, Medieval and Early Modern Studies hosted a workshop on the topic of the early modern Swedish empire. This intense yet inspiring day was organized to discuss the development of the Swedish empire in an international framework of analysis. Collectively, the presenters of the workshop are conducting research on the following overlapping questions: what does an international perspective, including here the connections that Sweden maintained with other states, external actors, and commodity and capital chains during the seventeenth century tell us about the concept of empire?

The topic of Swedish power and its seventeenth century state has been researched in the past and therefore the purpose was not to reinvent the wheel all over again, but rather to build upon previous research, and to add new and fresh insights in order to come to novel conclusions. We aim to weave together the threads of previous research and our approach focused on international connections.

Based on the different presentations during the workshop, it was striking in how many different ways, yet with clear entanglements, it is possible to study the Swedish empire. The presentations covered, through various themes, the Swedish empire in an international context: e.g. how Sweden was supplying other empires with natural resources; how it benefitted from the expertise of various foreigners and foreign organizations; and how an empire was based on the notion of being internationally present and recognized. The various diplomatic envoys and trade negotiations presented during the workshop underline how connected and ambitious the empire was. The presentations also demonstrate that from an international perspective, the Swedish empire was perceived to be diverse and heterogenous. Many key merchants, officials and military leaders had foreign background and brought with them expertise previously unknown in Sweden. In Sweden, these international practices, processes and connections were adapted in a local context, and it is precisely these practices, processes and connections we are currently doing research on.

Insigne principale Regni Sueciæ [Jean Le Pautre]
Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket (CC0 1.0)

We concluded the workshop with a broad discussion on where our approach is heading (as is normally the case in such events). We are currently reformulating and exploring the different comments and feedback we received from colleagues who came to listen to our presentations. We are thankful and happy for their input. We are currently reworking the papers into article drafts. Stay tuned for the following contributions!

We are interested to see how the empire looked like when analyzed from an international perspective. We are less concerned with questions of internal Swedish state building, for which a long discussion already exists. Rather, we are looking at what the diplomatic envoys to the ottoman empire, arms trade with the Iberian kingdoms, trade in naval stores with Europe and legal transplants of foreign organizational models meant in the context of the Swedish empire internationally. As comparative research on the early modern European empires has again grown momentum, we aim to contribute to the field by offering a contribution for a wider international audience. Of course, there is a lot more to be analyzed and researched but we hope that our approach could become an opening towards a wider discussion on how early modern European empires operated internationally, and how the shift in perspective from national to international perspectives can help us explore new contingencies and overlaps with other contemporary powers. In similar fashion, at Leiden University (the Netherlands), current research for example regarding the Dutch empire is under way.

As a coordinator of the workshop, I am truly thankful for the opportunity to host such an inspiring day. Our presenters did a wonderful job and the discussions were indeed stimulating. The different approaches from military, diplomatic, economic, social, cultural and legal history amalgamated in a coherent and thought-provoking day. A special thanks to colleagues, amongst others, Ulla Ijäs, Tiina Miettinen, Jaakko Björklund and Adam Grimshaw who contributed to the discussions with great energy and depth. In my view, it is days like these that give research its true meaning. When you realize that the presentations and approaches of others overlap with your own ideas and experiences, it is incredible how much strength you find in collectives and the joint input fellow colleagues.

Overview on the past 1,5 years

With summer (hopefully) right behind the corner, we thought it would be nice to look back to the past 1,5 years or so and to what has been going on with Trivium. You may read the previous overview of this kind here. Back then, Trivium had just received the official status of a research centre at our university, and while this had not changed our principal working methods that much, it has brought along new structures and scopes for action.

Year 2016 was a fruitful and busy one in many respects, with events, new activities, and interesting new publications. To celebrate the 60th birthday of Professor Christian Krötzl, the head of Trivium, the centre organised a seminar in September 2016. The speakers were Professor Didier Lett (Université Paris Diderot), Professor Kurt Villads Jensen (Stockholms universitet), Dr Tapio Salminen (University of Tampere), and vice rector Katariina Mustakallio (University of Tampere). At the seminar, Christian’s Festschrift Church and Belief in the Middle Ages: Popes, Saints, and Crusaders, ed. Kirsi Salonen & Sari Katajala-Peltomaa (AUP 2016), was launched. On the previous day, Trivium organised a workshop for junior researchers, with Didier Lett and Kurt Villads Jensen as commentators.

Birthday celebrations. Photo: Didier Lett

Trivium was also involved in the NOS-HS-funded “The Hansa in the North” workshop series, a project led by Christian Krötzl. The first workshop was organised in Höör, Sweden, in June 2016. In March 2017, Tampere hosted a workshop titled “Social Networks, Cultural Communication, and Everyday Life: the Hansa and beyond” which gathered a large group of experts on the Hansa for interesting presentations and vivid discussion.

Equally, the Academy of Finland research project Segregated or Integrated? – Living and Dying in the Harbour City of Ostia, 300 BCE – 700 CE, led by Professor Arja Karivieri, organised two seminars in 2016. The first one was held at the University of Kent in May, and the second one at the Institutum Romanum Finlandiae & Istituto Svedese di Studi Classici a Roma in October.

During the past three semesters, Trivium has established a tradition of organising thematic seminars 3-4 times a year, focusing on topics studied within the centre. Our principal idea has been to encourage discussion between scholars of various time periods and themes, as well as of various disciplines. Therefore, we have often invited commentators that come from outside the main research areas of Trivium. The first seminars focusing on multilingualism were organised in spring 2016; in autumn 2016 and winter 2017 the seminars discussed mental illness, disability and healing. These seminars have proved to be a fruitful concept that has reached out to the wider academic community and, consequently, widened our own perspectives as well. The seminar series will continue in May 2017, with the theme “lived reformation”.

Trivium has also continued in making public history in the past year. This blog has been updated regularly. As a larger project, we made a programme series with Radio Moreeni in Finnish, titled “Ajasta ikuisuuteen – Tuhat totuutta historiasta”. In each episode, two researchers of Trivium specialising in different time period talked about their topic and its societal context. The episodes can be listened to at Radio Moreeni’s SoundCloud account:

In many of these activities, Trivium had help from our student trainee Minna Heinonen. Her special tasks during her two-month contract were working as a research assistant in various book projects, updating our website, helping to organise international seminars, and writing a text for our blog.

This year has, however, been a year of our basic function: research and writing. Two members of Trivium successfully defended their doctoral theses: Tapio Salminen’s thesis is titled Obscure Hands – Trusted Men. Textualization, the Office of the City Scribe and the Written Management of Information and Communication of the Council of Reval (Tallinn) before 1460, and Ella Viitaniemi’s Yksimielisyydestä yhteiseen sopimiseen Paikallisyhteisön poliittinen kulttuuri ja Kokemäen kivikirkon rakennusprosessi 1730-1786. Furthermore, the researchers of Trivium have published and edited a large number of monographs, article collections and scientific articles. For a list of the recent publications, see

And last but not least, we’d like to thank you all who have been participating in our activities and/or following us here or on social media. Big new events are already being planned: in November 2017 Trivium will organise, together with Glossa – Society for Medieval Studies the national Dies Mediaevales conference. Furthermore, the call for papers for the seventh international Passages from Antiquity to the Middle Ages conference has recently been published. See you soon!



Trade, Mobility, and Identity in Ostia

Ghislaine Van Der Ploeg
University of Tampere

Many people in the modern world are used to travelling great distances with an ease of movement which is facilitated by the invention of passports and ID cards. An excellent infrastructure enables us to move between countries in a matter of hours. It is not difficult to prove who we are, to show our identities, when we reach our destinations. In antiquity, movement and establishment of identity were not as simple as they are in our modern world. As part of my research for the Finnish Academy project ‘Segregated or Integrated? – Living and Dying in the Harbour City of Ostia, 300 BCE-700 CE’ I have examined how mobility affected the establishment of identities and trade relations between Roman North Africa and Ostia. This work was presented at a workshop on ‘Ethniticà, identità, integrazione – Ostia, Porto, Roma/Ethnicity, Identity, and Integration – Ostia, Portus, Rome’ held at the Institutum Romanum Finlandiae and the Istituto Svedese di studi classici a Roma in Rome 18-19 October 2019. The other papers presented at this workshop examined the relationship between the cities mentioned in the title of the conference as well as issues of movement of objects and peoples as well as the creation and maintenance social and religious identities.

Increased mobility was one of the characteristics of the Roman Empire and the resulting improvement in infrastructure and increase in trade links enabled people to move around the Mediterranean and settle in a new place. The harbour city of Ostia, with its vast movement of people and goods, was emblematic of this phenomenon. The city was thought to have been founded in the 7th century BC by the fourth king of Rome, Ancus Marcius, and it was at the height of its power and importance in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. At this time, Ostia was a melting-pot of cultures, with people from all over the Roman Empire living and working here. Some of these individuals would have only stayed in Ostia for a limited period of time, for example, seasonal labours who worked during the sailing season or soldiers, but there were also many people from across the empire who came to Ostia and settled, worked, and also died in this city. An example of such an economic migration from Roman North Africa to Ostia is clearly expressed in an inscription erected in Ostia by Lucius Caecilius Aemilianus. In this inscription Aemilianus describes both his past and present careers. He states that he was a veteran from the first praetorian cohort and he also mentions that he held two civic posts, namely that of decurio, and duovir in Aelia Uluzibbira in Africa. However, after his period in Africa he moved to Ostia and worked here as a wine trader, where he was a member of a collegium, namely the corpus splendidissimum importatorum et negotiantium vinariorum. The members of this guild were involved in the import and sale of wine, especially in bulk. The combination of these two, the expression of both a past military and present commercial identity seems to be quite rare and it has, in fact, been argued that this is the only known epigraphic record of an ex-military man, participating in economic activities after he returned to civilian life.

Many people from Roman North Africa settled in Ostia and Russell Meiggs has argued that it was actually with Africa that Ostia had the closest connections, as a result of the grain imports.[1] A regular grain supply to Rome had been set up as early as 60 BC by Pompey and while at first this came mainly from Egypt, in the course of the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, Roman North Africa became the most importance source for grain. This period generally saw a boom in the production of agricultural goods in Africa, which were transported to Ostia. Despite being in different continents, the geographical distance between these places was but a short trip away by boat as Pliny in his Natural History (19.1.4) points out that it was possible for a ship to travel between Africa and Ostia in two days. The export of grain out of Africa from an early date ensured an excellent infrastructure was in place which could then serve to transport other products, such as olive oil, wild animals, and wine, out of Africa later on. There were twenty-nine ports between the provinces of Mauretania Tingitana and Cyrenaica which provided the infrastructure necessary for this trade. Africa Proconsularis was the best equipped province as it had twenty ports for ships to come and go from, most of which were probably built between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD.


Location of Africa Proconsularis Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Wine was a commonly produced product in the region of Aelia Uluzibbira, the city where Aemilianus was working as a civic official, as the soil and weather conditions were good for the cultivation of wine and most wines from the region were highly valued. Wine would, therefore, have been a logical choice as a product for Aemilianus to import into Ostia as he would have has access to this crop and would have already made connections with people from the region who could either act as his agents or from whom he could buy wine. Wine production in the pre-Augustan era had mainly been focused on Campania which produced some of the finest ancient wines, such as Falernian, but also cheap wine meant for mass consumption. However, this changed in the early imperial period, probably as a result of increased migration and mobility. Evidence from shipwrecks shows that Italian wines, especially from Campania, Latium, and Etruria dominated the market from the middle of the 2nd century BC to the Augustan period. At the end of the Republic, Italian wines were being exported to the Aegean, West Africa, Spain, and Gaul. 181 wine amphorae from the Augustan period were discovered close to Ostia in Longarina, fifty-eight of which came from Spain which indicates that wine was being exported into Rome at this point.[2] In the 1st century AD vineyards developed in Spain and Gaul to such an extent that people were no longer dependent on Italian wines and production became prolific enough to start exporting wines. North African viticulture only developed after the Roman expansion of the province in the 2nd century AD. Only one wine press in Proconsularis has been discovered but the evidence for viticulture in the province of Mauretania Caesariensis is plentiful. People in the former province could have perhaps fermented the wine in amphorae which were then also used to transport the wine in instead of using interred dolia.

There is plenty of evidence in Ostia suggesting a vivacious wine trade, for example amphorae stamps from the various provinces have been found here, amphorae sherds from Mauretania Caesariensis have been found in Ostian layers dating to the end of 2nd century AD. The trade and shipping connections with Africa shown in the Piazzale delle Corporazioni in Ostia are especially important. The piazzale was a square in the heart of Ostia, located near the temple, the function of which is not precisely known nowadays. It contains sixty-one stations around a central square which housed a temple. Each station included a mosaic and often also an identifying inscription. The likeliest explanation for this place was that the rooms here were used as commercial offices where transport of goods and people could be arranged. There are especially a great number of mosaics in these rooms depicting images of Africa, for example ships, palm trees, and African animals, often together with inscriptions indicating with which place in Africa a particular room was connected.


Mosaic from the Piazzale depicting ships from Carthage. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

It is likely that these mosaics were not all placed here at the same time but were done so over a period of time between AD 180 and 200, perhaps as a result of new traders coming to Ostia from further places in Africa.

The stations show where sailors and traders from various North African cities had their trading bases. However, they also formed a social network and bridge for people coming from Africa who wanted to live and work in Ostia. The main problem for people coming to Ostia from another place, like Aemilianus, was how they could establish their identity without an established network of friends or family. As mentioned above, there were no passports or ID cards in antiquity and without these means of identification, identity had to be established and verified via established social networks, especially those connected to the person’s place of origin. The stations in the Piazzale formed such as social network and these corporations formed institutions by which migration could be mediated and controlled. They could help an individual from a different province establish himself and making connections with local people.[3] Traders could come from their place of origin and reach out to others from that geographical area. Africans who were already established in Ostia could vouch for a newcomer who wanted to trade with Ostians but also be a way through which this newcomer could become a part of Ostian society by being introduced into society and the creation of these trade networks was then based primarily upon ethnicity and was the springboard from which other networks could be created.[4] This shared geographical and ethnic background provided the trust upon which future trade was based. Identity and trade were highly connected and without the former being established, the latter could not take place as people could only trust you with their funds if they knew who you were. Inscriptions, showing a past and present career, were a good way of displaying who you were and establishing identity and trust.

[1] Meiggs (1973) 214.

[2] Tchernia (1986) 154; Unwin (2005) 123. Tchernia lists the distribution of amphorae as follows: 4 from Cos, 32 from Baetica, 26 from Tarragona, 42 from north Italy, 50 from Pompeii-Sorrento, 5 from Falernia, 8 Rhodian amphorae, and 14 unallocated Dressel 2-4 amphorae: Tchernia (1986) 154.

[3] Moatti (2006) 119.

[4] Terpstra (2014) 123, 124.


Meiggs, R. (1973) Roman Ostia. Clarendon Press: Oxford.

Moatti, C. (2006) ‘Translation, Migration and Communication in the Roman Empire: Three Aspects of Movement in History’ Classical Antiquity 25.1, 109-140.

Tchernia, A. (1986) Le vin de l’Italie romaine. Essai d’histoire économique d’après les amphores. École française de Rome: Rome.

Terpstra, T.T. (2014) ‘The « Piazzale delle Corporazioni » Reconsidered’, Mélanges de l’École française de Rome – Antiquité, 126.1, 119-130.

Unwin, T. (2005) Wine and the Vine: An Historical Geography of Viticulture and the Wine Trade. Routledge: London.


Legal Literacy and Popular Jurisprudence: do we need professional lawyers?

Kirjoittanut Marianna Muravyeva

We tend to think about pre-modern societies as illiterate both in terms of actual knowing how to read and write and in a more symbolic sense of being not aware of scientific explanations of the world around them. Same applies to the legal knowledge: although people did actively go to court and participated in proceedings, but they were not that literate as to knowing about laws and, more importantly, about legal concepts and theories. However, a closer look at the sources raises a number of challenging questions: would our, contemporary, understanding of legal literacy and its necessity apply to a different historical context? Was legal literacy connected with developed legal profession? What constituted legal profession at the time?

These were the questions asked and discussed during the conference ”Learning Law by Doing: Exploring Legal Literacy in Premodern Societies”, organised in Turku by Mia Korpiola on 14-16 January 2016. Professor Marianna Muravyeva visited the conference and coments it here.

Scholars from different European countries offered their insights into the varieties and forms of legal literacies that existed in Europe since the Middle ages. There were two general themes running through this discussion. The legal profession, its origins, structures and role in knowledge monopolisation and/or transfer received a fair attention from the group. The second theme focused on popular legal literacy and its role in everyday community life. The whole premise of the conference was to discuss ‘legal literates’—laypeople who possessed some legal knowledge and helped community members to access justice or through court proceedings. While professional legal help was often unavailable to the majority of people in the countryside and to many in the urban settings, those ‘paralegals’ provided all sorts of legal services to their fellow community members. The geographical scope of the conference was heavily focused on Northern Europe. Obviously, Sweden and Finland primarily figured in the majority of presentations. Other countries included England, Iceland, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, France and Russia. These are all difference geographical locations with quite visible differences in the development of the legal profession and legal knowledge, but discussing legal literacy in a comparative perspective opened up a possibility to go beyond standard treatment of legal knowledge as a natural possession of lawyers and see it as a part of people’s worldview and everyday practices.

The ongoing research in legal history reveals more and more that law was a substantial part of everyday life of the past societies notwithstanding how developed or complex the legal system or written laws operated at the time. Applying certain norms and using certain mechanisms to settle disputes pushed for commonly accepted procedures to allow communities functioning properly and maintaining stability and order. As with other social institutions, the more complex these procedures became the need for specialized professionals appeared to support them. Therefore, legal profession emerged as a part of institutionalizing process for law and the state’s centralizing and monopolising control and application of violence via unified laws and legal procedures in a given territory. At the same time, these processes did not go simultaneously in European countries and the level of centralization and control varied from place to place. The question is: how necessary it was for an ordinary person to encounter law in early modern and modern Europe or if it was their choice to use the legal system to settle disputes? Or in other words, could ordinary people survive without ever dealing with local authorities? The answer is probably no. By the late Middle ages, the state (and the church in those countries where the church continued to be separated from the state) was firmly heading to establish control and regulation over all possible spheres of life, including the private life. The civil life of a person started with baptism for which there should have been an entry in the metric books and continued with legitimatization of every other rite of passage (confirmation, marriage, divorce, death). In addition, any property transaction, inheritance, wills and movement from place to place required legal intervention. At the same time, committing a crime necessarily invoked the prosecution machinery at work. Quarrels and personal/collective disputes pushed people to choose ways for conflict resolution: if to go to court or to mediate differently. In this situation, such a choice meant either using the state law or applying customary norms to settle. In any case, ordinary people were enmeshed in a variety of legal and customary networks as a part of their everyday lives. Often, it was not their choice to participate in legal proceedings, for example, in cases of policing women’s behaviour when those women who got pregnant outside of wedlock were brought to ‘justice’ to be punished for their lewdness and had to strategize how to use the situation to their advantage to diminish the negative consequences of such participation. They would sue alleged fathers of their babies for alimony or blackmail them into marrying (or paying) by, for example, giving babies their fathers’ names if they could not announce them in the open. That what happened in eighteenth-century Leiden, according to Griet Vermeesch research. Single low class women possessed enough legal knowledge to use the civil suit to their advantage trying to overcome social and economic difficulties brought by emerging modernity.

Access to justice or legal profession was especially difficult in the countryside. In Finland, this led to communities producing self-educated ‘paralegals’ such as Gabriel Abrahamsson, a former soldier and a civil servant, who represented people’s interests in court, acted as advocates or helped with other civil matters. As Petteri Impola showed, Abrahamsson’s name appeared almost 200 times in the records of the lower courts of Helsinki and nearby between 1656 and 1678 ( People who educated themselves in law could also come from the staff supporting justice and legal system such as scribes or court clerks. Although they were not judges, but they acted as a gateway for people to access courts, because they were the ones responsible to correct way of composing complaints and other legal documents. In England and Russia, scribes and court clerks provided their services for money thus facilitating communication between the community and the authorities. However, with court clerks and scribes the problem of definition arises: they were not officially a part of the legal profession, but legal profession at the time, before at least the nineteenth century, existed in those locations where it was a requirement for judges or other participants of the justice system to have an official legal degree. In countries, such as Russia, there was no such requirement simply because the educational system differed from, for example, Italy, Germany or France, and the majority of educated people received their degrees in ecclesiastical schools and academies or in professional training schools affiliated with administrative bodies of the Muscovite State called chancelleries. Their education was not specifically in law, but to become a low level assistant clerk in any judicial body they had to go through a licensing process, that gave them the right to practice and allowed to advance further in the system.

With professionalization and closing down the ranks to those who received formal training in law in universities in the nineteenth century, legal knowledge faced a challenge from popular jurisprudence or popular legal manuals and books, composed by people who had some experience or exposure to law. Those manuals existed in almost every European country (Annamaria Monti, Laetitia Guerlain, Nader Hakim and Jussi Sallila spoke about Italy, France and Finland respectively). The scholars argue that it was these books that provided primary knowledge of law to the people, who’d rather read Every man his own lawyer (see, for example, the 1768 edition by Giles Jacob at GoogleBooks) than master Coke’s Institutions or, indeed, try to deal with numerous and confusing statues, laws and codes. These manuals gradually became popular in the seventeenth century and accounted for thousands of titles in all European languages in the nineteenth century. They, indeed, educated the laity in everyday matters of law and provided an initial understanding of both the contents and the form of law. Scolded by legal professionals, who naturally protected their monopoly over legal knowledge, these books provided integration mechanism for wider legal literacy and access to law.

Heikki Pihlajamäki expressed his frustration over contemporary’s attempts to remove non-professional advocates from legal procedure in Finland. It has been a tradition in Finnish society to use help of such ‘learnt’ people as their community representatives. This made access to justice seem more ‘democratic’ in a sense that people could afford it and felt more comfortable with. Legal profession as a corporation has very high barriers of access meaning that to protect one’s interests or to resolve disputes in court becomes very expensive and non-affordable, but also less controllable: using a community representative meant to co-operate with them to receive justice while handing the case to a professional attorney leads to the exclusion from the process, which now involves lawyers dealing with each other inside the corporation. Taking this into account, we might start looking at pre-modern societies as at venues for cooperative models of acquiring justice to re-think present-day access to justice as ‘democratic’.

Wrapping up 2015

Now when the new year has fully began and everybody is back to work – hopefully feeling energetic and relaxed after the holidays – it’s time to look back to what happened in 2015. It was, in many respects, a pivotal and inspiring year for Trivium.

Perhaps the most important event of the year was that in the beginning of 2015 Trivium got the official status of a research centre at the University of Tampere and the School of Social Sciences and Humanities. Although our principles and interests remain the same as before, this enables more organised ways of acting and also makes it easier to plan and actualise new kinds of activities. To celebrate this milestone, Trivium organised an opening event and party in May, where we heard speeches, Pecha Kucha presentations by junior researchers, and were introduced to medieval and renaissance dances by members of Humalasalo. Trivium’s achievements were also recognised by the School of Social Sciences and Humanities, which granted the centre an award for the societal impact for the collaboration with museum centre Vapriikki in organising an exhibition on Fiinnish pilgrimages in the Middle Ages (’YKY yhteiskunnassa’ -palkinto).

Year 2015 included organising and participating in various conferences. The biggest investment was the sixth Passages from Antiquity to the Middle Ages conference held at the University of Tampere in August, this time with the theme On the Road: Travels, Pilgrimages, and Social Interaction. Trivium also took part in organising the international workshop Violence Against Parents in the North of Europe at St Anne’s College, University of Oxford, in July. Furthermore, the researchers of Trivium organised two sessions at Historical Research Day Conference (Historiantutkimuksen päivät) at the Joensuu Campus of the University of Eastern Finland in October. The sessions were titled Perhepiiri ja valtasuhteet Rooman valtakunnassa (Family circle and Power Relations in Ancient Rome) and Miraculous Healing: Disorder, Disability and Death in Medieval Canonization Processes.


One of the important and very pleasant activities of Trivium, which has already become an established tradition, is the collaboration with Turku Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (TUCEMEMS). In February the researchers of TUCEMEMS visited Tampere for a joint seminar, and in November it was our turn to enjoy their hospitality. 

9781472414366In many of these activities Trivium had help from our student trainee Niko Nyqvist, whose special tasks during his two-month contract were assisting in organising the ”Passages” conference, helping with the updates of the Trivium website, and assisting in the editorial work of the book Lived Religion and the Long Reformation in Northern Europe c. 1300–1700 (eds Sari Katajala-Peltomaa & Raisa Maria Toivo, forthcoming from Brill).

piiatAs for research, the year has been productive in many respects. The researchers of Trivium have published several books and articles; a list of the publications by members of the research centre who work at the University of Tampere is downloadable at our website. Of these, two books – Tiina Miettinen’s Piikojen valtakunta. Nainen, työ ja perhe 1600-1700-luvuilla (Atena) and Kun maailma aukeni. Suomalaisten pyhiinvaellukset keskiajalla, ed. by Sari Katajala-Peltomaa, Christian Krötzl & Marjo Meriluoto-Jaakkola (SKS) – were shortlisted for the Tieto-Finlandia prize. Project fundings granted to the researchers at Tampere in 2015 are:

  • Karivieri, Arja & project members, Segregated or Integrated? – Living and Dying in the harbour city of Ostia, 300 BCE-700 CE. Academy of Finland project, 2015–2019
  • Kuuliala, Jenni, Disability, Illness and the Communal Dimensions of Healing in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe. Academy of Finland postdoctoral researcher, 2015–2018
  • Ojala, Maija & project members, Migration, Movement of Labour and Multi-ethnic Cities 1500–2000. Finnish Cultural Foundation, 2016–2017
  • Toivo, Raisa, Catholic reformation in Lutheran Finland 1550-1700. Academy of Finland research fellow, 2015–2020

sadonkorjuu1To introduce new publications and projects, to celebrate the achievements of the year and to gather together, Trivium organised a ’harvest event’ (sadonkorjuujuhla) in December. In addition to presenting new research, the evening included eating delicious medieval dishes, some sparkling wine, and enjoying a lovely evening with colleagues – some of us appropriately dressed of course! With this photo we wish you all a very happy New Year. Thank you for following us and our activities, and especially thank you to everyone, who has participated in our events, read our blog and followed us in social media! See you in 2016!

Professionalization and information management in Reval, 1257-1460

Tapio Salminen
University of Tampere

Management of information is essentially a modern concept meaning the organisation and control over the structure, processing and delivering of information for different uses in decision making. In my PhD thesis, I explore and discuss the possibilities of its use in the context of the administration and communication of the council of Reval (today Tallinn, capital of Estonia) from the earliest known use of the seal of the city in 1257 to the retirement of city scribe and notary public Joachim Muter from his office in 1456/60. My focus is on both the formation of the agency (office) of the city scribes as hired professionals in the written management of information of the civic authority and the process of textualization: that is, the application of the technology of writing in the management of information, communication, administration and textual manifestations of authority in the activity of the council. The study is based on the vast corpus of original material from the council activity still available in the Tallinn City Archives of with supplements from other archives and source editions.

The theoretical background of my study is set in the field of organisational, institutional and communicative studies, but firmly anchored to the nature and composition of the medieval textual products as manifested in the archives and researched in Medieval studies. The nature of different ‘actors’, such as the city scribes and councillors, and their ‘agencies’ (i.e. offices) in the administration of the civic authority, is seen through actor-network theories, where individual ‘actors’ not only brought substance, views and methods of conduct of their own to the issues they dealt with in the organisation, but also took part in the continuous reproduction of the organisation itself in the everyday manifestations of their ‘agencies’. Here, the of the agency of the city scribes was of special importance, not just because of its development into an office taking control of the production and surveillance of the various textual products in the administration and communication of the council, but also because of the schooling and professional qualifications of the scribes. As in our modern society, in late medieval Reval the dialectic process of the emergence of recognisable ‘professions’ in organisations was a self-feeding system based on qualifications and attributes required for the ‘task’ or ‘profession’ and the attributes and ethos created through it. As my study shows, permanently hired city scribes emerged as practical and intellectual carriers of the textualization of the written management of information of civic authority and introduced views and conventions of their own particular to their time, their various professional networks and themselves, all still identifiable from the sources.

In the study the typology of the produced texts and textual artefacts is grounded in the role of text types and text permanences characteristic to the textual rendition of acts of authority, the observed chain of events, or the particular type of information required for contemporary recording, managing, controlling and securing them. Based on cognitive and pragmatic models of thinking, I have understood the medieval text types and permanences, as conceptual categories of experienced reality rendered by means of textual technologies arising from the material itself. As my analysis of the civic memoranda of Reval shows, the employed text types and permanences corresponded to contemporary cognitional modes of thinking, and were deeply rooted in a chronological, cyclic and seasonal perception of time. Because of this, most of the surviving Revalian books of memoranda manifest themselves as ‘textual chronicles’ of past events designed for memorizing and documenting the chronological flow of transactions, administrative decisions and corroborations in the particular sphere of activity and administration. As my study shows, this makes them fundamentally different from cognitional models based on the concept of ‘available resources’ or ‘planning’ characteristic of their modern equivalents, a distinction that provides further tools for understanding the nature of written management of information in the administration of medieval civic authorities such as those of Reval.

In the study, the process of textualization of the management of information and written manifestations of authority in the Baltic Sea area from the 12th century to the mid-15th is divided into three phases, all three being evident in the 13th- to 14th-century Revalian civic administration. Here the study throws light especially on the development of the use of the seal and the secretum as the sign of civic authority, as well as the introduction of paper and vernacular into the management of information and communication of the city in the third quarter of the 14th century. Especially the two last phenomena tell us of an early willingness of the city scribes to experiment with new innovations in their field of expertise: a willingness also exhibited in the early use of indoarabic numerals by some of the city scribes in the first third of the 15th century. With the help of palaeographic analysis of hands and codicological-diplomatic evaluation of the material I have been able to establish not only a secure lineage of Revalian city scribes and their most important substitutes active before 1456/60, but also an understanding of the various lines of civic memoranda and production of documents in the management of information of the council.

In the area of civic memoranda my most important findings establish the category of ’red books’ as a special line of prestige among the memoranda of the city, the crucial role of the books of resignations/recognitions and annuities for establishing the main hands active in the written management of the civic administration, and the developments in the size and portability of the codices as an indication of a shift from an itinerant office of the city scribes to permanent storing of codices, a process parallel to the stabilisation of the management of information of the council to the City Scriptorium and Town Hall in the 1370’s. From the second quarter of the 14th century, the central task of the scribes was the control of the registers of basic information about the walled area of the city, whence this pattern of control spread to areas of fiscal administration previously in the custody of the councillor-wardens. In these fields the work of the scribe varied in scale from full production of finished accounts and text artefacts to annual checking, controlling and/or partial management and archiving of the material produced by the councilors.

As regards the identification, identity and professionalisation of the city scribes, my study clearly shows that no assumptions about the identity or status of the scribes engaged in writing for medieval civic authority should ever be made on the basis of supposed organisation of the civic administration and the suggested structure of agencies in it. Instead, any analysis of an individual piece of memoranda or document should always be grounded on a wider knowledge of contemporary hands active in the main corpus of the memoranda of the time. From as early as the 1280’s the hands responsible for the production of sealed charters for the joint corroboration of multiple agents of the area were officials and clergy of the church of Reval, and contacts between the scribes active in the diocesan management of information appear to have continued to the beginning of the second quarter of the 14th century. Since all the textual artefacts produced in the name of the council or in its management of information before the 1350’s were written in Latin, it is natural that the hands active in the office of the city scribes were people with ecclesiastical schooling, even if most of the city scribes invested with the vicaries and rents of the altar foundations under the patronage of the council appear not to have been priests, but possibly clerics of minor orders. In Canon Law a legal way for the placing of altar vicaries under the supervision of the scribes without the duty of performing the liturgical ministries involved in them was provided by the constitution of ‘Cum ex eo’ of 1298, where an episcopal dispensation from the duty lasting seven years could be given for ‘projected’ university studies. In the case of Reval, there is evidence that arrangements based on such a dispensation may have been made in the context of the salary and upkeep of city scribes through vicaries as early as the 1310’s or 1320’s.

Despite the early connections to the diocesan clergy, all the known city scribes and their most important substitutes were hired professionals at the service of the council from the beginning of the 14th century onwards. Since none of them can be identified beyond doubt in the extant registers of the universities, I have evaluated their schooling and intellectual status with the help of the material they have left behind. Of special interest are their pen trials in Latin, which, together with the medieval florilegia they contain, hint at a university schooling for some of the hands active before 1460. Considering the professional capacities of the scribes, the only person securely invested with the status of a notary public was Joachim Muter active in 1429–1456/60. Before him, there is no evidence of notaries public as city scribes, and his introduction to the office of the city scribein 1429 presents a clear recognition of a need of a person of legal credibility at the service of the council after their dispute with the diocesan church in the 1420’s.

As the salary and position of Joachim Muter shows, the 15th-century role and status of the city scribes was comparable to that of a master artisan in the service of the council. Not only was the city scribe the head of a ‘shop’ responsible for the production of special artifacts for the council, but he received a similar salary: a combination of monetary payment and provisions in kind, including clothing appropriate to his status as a servant of the city. Unlike the master artisans, the salary of the city scribes was often built on several sources and forms, among which the earliest one was the rent from altar foundations under the patronage of the council. Later the basic remuneration in money was comprised a fixed annual fee paid in four or more installments supplemented by other annual or more casual forms of salary, including the rent from altar foundations. Like the master artisans, the city scribes also conducted business of their own. Employed to take care of the written management of information and communication of the civic authority, the range of activities in the agency of the city scribes extended far beyond the City Scriptorium and Town Hall; to delegations and negotiations of the council and its representatives with other agents of power, a practice seemingly established when the agency of the city scribes was first stabilised in the second quarter of the 14th century.

Tapio Salminen defended his dissertation “Obscure Hands, Trusted Men. Textualization, the Office of the City Scribe and the Written Management of Information and Communication of the Council of Reval (Tallinn) before 1460” on 8. January 2016.

Passages from Antiquity to the Middle Ages VI

This year’s ‘Passages from Antiquity to the Middle Ages’ conference was held at the University of Tampere on August 6–8. It was already the sixth one with the same idea; that is, connecting the historians, art historians, archaeologists, and philologists of Antiquity and the Middle Ages to present and discuss their research and the longue durée of pre-modern western societies. When the first ‘Passages’-conference was organized in January 2003, over twelve years ago, nobody actually expected it to become a conference series. But, fortunately, it quickly became quite popular and still remains so – the organisers were happy to point out that some people who participated the first ‘Passages’ conference also attended the sixth one! Perhaps that is one type of an indication of the need of the longue durée perspective, as well as of the spirit of the conferences.

The first conference, concentrating on Family, Marriage and Death in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, was the starting point of a three years research project funded by the Academy of Finland. Since then, the conference series has focused on friendship, religious participation, death and dying, and infirmity. Many of the conferences have also resulted in published proceedings of the papers presented (see the series website for more information. All these conferences have a tight link with the research at the University of Tampere, where the study of pre-modern social history, especially everyday life, lifespan, gender, lived religion, and social history of medicine are well established topics within the discipline of history.

The theme of the latest ‘Passages’ conference was ‘On the Road. Travels, Pilgrimages and Social Interaction’. During the three days the conference lasted, thirty-five speakers from twelve countries presented their research with varying topics. Keynote presentations were given by Ray Laurence (University of Kent), Cecilia Gaposchkin (Dartmouth College), and Klaus Herbers (University of Erlangen). Among the most visible themes during the conference were religious and liminal travels, imaginary travelling, the travels of different social groups (such as children and various professionals), and the ways how travelling was organised and how it shaped the social and geographical landscape. The vastly varying motivations for travel were perhaps the most visible theme of the whole weekend, showing how a profound theme travelling and mobility – or the lack of it – is for all human societies. As concluded in the ending discussion, there is of course much more to do on the topic. Important issues to address in the future are, for example, questions related to those not travelling, the restrictions to mobility, and other problems of travelling. Nevertheless, the conference presented a many-sided approach to the topic, showing its vast potential for the study of different kinds of aspects of pre-modern cultures.


Visiting Museum Centre Vapriikki. Photos: Katariina Mustakallio

The conference naturally included also a vivid social programme. Professor Pertti Haapala gave his traditional guided city walk around the centre of Tampere, and the guests and organisers visited the Plevna restaurant at Finlayson area, which has been a popular place for informal gatherings also during the earlier gatherings. On Friday there was a reception hosted by the School of Social Sciences and Humanities, and the conference ended with a conference dinner and before it a visit to the pilgrimage exhibition at Museum Centre Vapriikki. There we had the privilege of a guided tour given by Marjo Meriluoto-Jaakkola, a curator of the museum and the person behind the exhibition. The evenings with their lively discussions have always been one of the best parts of the ‘Passages’ conferences. To be able to meet scholars from all around the world willing to participate in creating a warm atmosphere and lively exchange of ideas is one of the biggest privileges of the whole organising committee. Thank you everyone involved – and perhaps we meet again in Tampere in three years time!

Tervetuloa / Welcome

Tervertuloa seuraamaan Triviumin blogia. Keskustelemme ajankohtaisista tai muuten vaan mielenkiintoisista teemoista vanhempien aikojen tutkimuksen näkökulmista. Ajallinen ero tuo perspektiiviä nykyilmiöihin mutta näyttää myös yllättäviä yhtymäkohtia ja samankaltaisuuksia – onko auringon alla mitään uutta?

Welcome to follow the blog of Trivium! We will discuss topics that are current or otherwise interesting from the point of view of pre-modern studies. Timely changes will bring perspective to many modern phenomena while also showing intriguing confluences and similarities – is there anything new under the sun?