Accepted Paper:

Health and illness in Western Sweden in the nineteenth century  

Author:

Anders Gustavsson (University of Oslo)

Paper short abstract:

Examining how state-employed district physicians and pharmacists became established in rural Sweden in the nineteenth century. A rural culture was confronted with a culture from the towns. Folk healing had earlier not had competition. The doctors and pharmacists had to bring about a cultural change.

Paper long abstract:

This study examines how state-employed district physicians and pharmacists became established in rural Sweden in the nineteenth century. A rural culture was confronted with a new culture arriving from the towns. The new professional groups had higher education and medical experience, than the folk healers in the countryside. Folk healing had earlier not had any competition from qualified people. The doctors and pharmacists had to bring about a cultural change. They had to gain the confidence of the rural population. This study concentrates on cultural adaptation in the encounters between qualified and unqualified healers. How did the peasantry handle these two potential sources of help in times of illness? One category consists of physicians and pharmacists, and a separate category comprises folk healers. Alongside the folk healers, some priests engaged in rational healing. The folk healers primarily belonged to the lower stratum of the population and then healing could be an important source of income, which they did not willingly give up.

For this study it is important that the doctors were tasked with declaring any occurrences of quackery and mention measures they had taken to prevent it. It was no easy matter for doctors to change old established patterns.

Panel Medi03
‘Healing’ as harmonization of ‘micro’ and ‘macro’ cosmos? Conceptualizations and practices of ‘health’ and ‘healing’ in Europe and beyond