Converging World Views : The European Expansion and Early-Nineteenth-Century Anglo-Swedish Contacts

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: The nineteenth-century colonial project transformed conceptions of the globe in ways that reflect the increase in European power over the rest of the world. This study investigates a rather neglected aspect of this process: the development of new images of the world within Europe, and specifically in Britain and Sweden, during the first half of the century. Britain and Sweden had of course rather little in common at this time. Britain was an expanding empire that by the 1820s ruled a quarter of the world’s population. By contrast, Sweden’s colonial experience was limited to St. Barthélemy, a small island in the West Indies. Nonetheless, as this study reveals, groups in Britain and Sweden came to develop similar world views, bifurcating the world into two parts: a Protestant European self, and a non-European, heathen "other"—the former responsible for the salvation of the latter.This study aims to explain this process by investigating how persons and ideas moved from Britain to Sweden. In the first half I discuss why and how British Evangelical organisations concerned with mission, abolition, temperance, popular education and the distribution of Bibles and tracts came to promote their ideas in Sweden. I show how various Swedish groups were cast in roles both of objects of (direct and indirect) British missionary activity, and also of prospective allies—partners in a pan-Protestant European mission directed outward toward the non-European world. In the second half of the study I focus on the Swedish response. I explain how the British ideas were adopted by members of the ruling elite: conservative clergymen and officials. It was also among this group that the British evangelicals’ conceptions of the world took root, while in response, alternative world views evolved within the liberal opposition in Sweden. In sum, this study illuminates a significant respect in which the European expansion came to influence relations and processes far from the frontlines of colonial activity.

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