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Brott, synd och straff: tidelagsbrottet i Sverige under 1600- och 1700-talet
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts.
1992 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
Crime, Sin and Punishment : The Crime of Bestiality in 17th and18th Century Sweden (English)
Abstract [en]

Bestiality was one of the most severely-punished crimes in 17th and 18th century Sweden. More individuals have been executed for bestiality in Sweden than for witchcraft. The sentence for bestiality was decapitation and being burnt at the stake. Even the animals with which the sodomist had had intercourse were slaughtered and burned publicly at the place of execution. An even greater number of people were sentenced to corporal punishment and forced labour in iron collars for attempting to commit bestiality. Despite the severe penalty the number of trials increased dramatically during the first half of the 18th century, culminating sometime mid-century.

Bestiality, together with infanticide, stood out as the most serious of contemporary Swedish social problems. The numerous trials and executions for bestiality seem to have had few if any parallels in contemporary Europe!

The purpose of this dissertation is to reconstruct, with the aid of trial records, the various cultural and symbolic significations which acts of bestiality conjured up for the society of the day, as well as to provide an explanation for the increase in the number of trials and its geographic distribution. The first section of this research assignment is inspired by the research traditions which fall under the headings of historical anthropolgy and history of mentalities. The second section is of a more traditional social- historical nature. The conflict and interaction between an elite culture in the service of authority and a folk culture with its roots in traditional customs and ways of thinking comprise a unifying and comprehensive theme in the present dissertation.

The source material is composed of judgements and hearing reports from a total of 1,510 trials conducted during the period 1635- 1754, equivalent to the greater percentage of all the trials concerning bestiality dealt with by the district courts in Sweden at that time.

By the middle of the 18th century the population living within the area under investigation was something more than one and one-half million souls.

The present study shows that the bestiality trials in 17th and 18th century Sweden can be explained neither as the result of a one-sided campaign on behalf of the authorities, nor as a way in which local communities tried to get rid of inconvenient and marginalized individuals. Instead, the numerous denunciations and confessions must be seen as the result of an interaction between the desire of the authorities to exercise control and to legitimize its power, and a popular problemization of the act of bestiality itself. Three areas for problematizing have been pointed out, all of whom contributed to an increased willingness to accuse and confess: the merging of sin and crime within a framework of a justice system featuring public punishment and atonement rituals; transgression of the border between man and beast and conceptions of that which is physically impure; and a traditional job delegation between the sexes and between boys and men which led to different roles in relation to the animals. In a European perspective, the latter was perhaps the most specific to Sweden.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 1992. , 262 p.
Keyword [en]
crime, sin, capital punishment, bestiality, early modern, sexuality, masculinity
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-62940ISBN: 91-7174-693-5OAI: diva2:580279
Available from: 2012-12-21 Created: 2012-12-21 Last updated: 2012-12-21Bibliographically approved

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Liliequist, Jonas
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