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A history of forbidden relations

This study brings out the norms and culturally dependent values that formed the basis of the theoretical regulation and the practical handling of incest cases in Sweden 1680–1940, situating this development in a wider European context. It discusses a broad variety of general human subjects that are as important today as they were hundreds of years ago, such as love, death, family relations, religion, crimes, and punishments.

By analysing criminal-case material and applications for dispensation, as well as political and legislative sources, the incest phenomenon is explored from different perspectives over a long time period. It turns out that although the incest debate has been dominated by religious, moral, and later medical beliefs, ideas about love, age, and family hierarchies often influenced the assessment of individual incest cases. These unspoken values could be decisive – sometimes life-determining – for the outcome of various incest cases.

The book will interest scholars from several different fields of historical research, such as cultural history, the history of crime and of sexuality, family history, history of kinship, and historical marriage patterns. The long time period also broadens the number of potential readers. Since the subject concerns general human issues that are as current today as they were three centuries ago, the topic will also appeal to a non-academic audience.

Bonnie Clementsson

discipline and govern his stepson, who were one and the same person. His duties quite simply became incompatible, which is why these marriage constellations were expressly forbidden. The same section of the law established that marriage between two brothers from one family and two sisters from another was entirely acceptable. But nothing was said about whether a father and a son from one family could marry two sisters from another. At the end of the eighteenth century, a few marriage applications of this kind were submitted to the Skara Cathedral

in Incest in Sweden, 1680–1940
Bonnie Clementsson

, marriage applications from several couples who were cousins, and who had violated the norms in precisely this manner, were, in practice, approved. However, both the normative ideal and the contradictory practical procedure aimed to promote and defend the institution of marriage. In this context, the family relationship was felt to be less significant than the unchaste behaviour. Balancing between the legal and the illegal Even though the cousin relationships dominated as separate categories among all the applications for

in Incest in Sweden, 1680–1940
Open Access (free)
Bonnie Clementsson

The introduction outlines the aim of the study, the source material is described, and previous research on the subject is presented. The source material consists of judgement-book material on the court-of-appeal and hundred-court levels as well as of marriage applications and political and legislative material. The author also discusses the theory of symbolic interaction, explaining what guided her choices of source materials as well as their limitations. The origins of incest taboos are discussed from the standpoint of scientific research. Furthermore, the complicated subdivisions of the different incest prohibitions are carefully presented with regard to both consanguinity and affinity relationships.

in Incest in Sweden, 1680–1940
A summary discussion
Bonnie Clementsson

This summary is divided into thematic subsections that define the results of the study. A brief review of the outlines of the study is supplied, as well as an overview of the European context. The long timeline has proved vital to the ability to perceive cultural changes, which are often subtle and slow. It is clear that criminal cases and marriage applications involving incest have been assessed not only according to the official laws but also in accordance with cultural values. The view of incestuous relations at any one time has, for instance, been affected by economic conditions at a structural as well as an individual level. Furthermore, notions regarding marriage, sexuality, love, and passion have influenced the assessments of different cases in various ways. The prevailing view regarding the relevant persons’ respective ages has also been important to assessments of incestuous relationships at different points in time.

in Incest in Sweden, 1680–1940