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The usefulness of English agricultural knowledge in Swedish books of husbandry and agriculture

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Did Serenius and Broocman manage to convey useful information, or, to put it differently, could England just as well have been located on the moon? The answer is somewhat complex. Both Serenius and Broocman wanted to improve Swedish agriculture, and the books do contain practical agricultural information. However, the England described by Serenius and Broocman is often not the England of those actually fanning the land, but the learned men’s perception of it, with a great focus on systematisation, ‘who said what’, and a decreasing link to reality with every new step of the knowledge circulation. This amounts to usefulness in theory rather than practice, usefulness connected to status, not agriculture per se. To Serenius and Broocman, this was not necessarily a bad thing. To them, the books held an additional purpose, as a way to show themselves and their books to be part of a learned discussion, thereby helping their own private ambitions. Both purposes influenced the way they translated and selected English agricultural knowledge. Additionally, the books offer interesting possibilities to explore knowledge circulation, translation, and appropriation, as well as their consequences. Herein lies another usefulness of the books: not for the authors or the intended audience, but indeed, to us.


Jacob Serenius did not get the promotion he sought when in Sweden to publish his book. However, in the years to come, he would rise to the rank of the bishop of Strangnàs, getting very close to becoming archbishop. From 1738 and on until a few years before his death in 1776, he was an outspoken and prominent member of the Estate of the Clergy during the Diets of the Estates. During his political career, he was regarded as knowledgeable in both English and general economic circumstances.63 His greatest scientific honour was undoubtedly the appointment to fellow of the Royal Society in 1732. In his letter of recommendation to the Society, it is mentioned that he published ‘in the year 1727 a System of Agriculture in Swedish from the best English Writers’.64

Reinerus Broocman died within two years of publishing the first part of his book, leaving the second part to be finished by his son Carl Fredric. However, the publishing house would live on, first under his son, then under his son’s son-in-law. In 1758, it started Norrköpings Weko-Tidningar, a local newspaper. It is still being published, although now under the shortened name Norrköpings Tidningar. Every year since 1958, the newspaper has awarded a prize in Broocman’s name to people and institutions of importance for or connected to the region’s cultural sector.


  • 1 The history of books of husbandry and agriculture has been investigated by a number of authors, for example Ambrosoli, Mauro. The Wild and the Sown: Botany and Agriculture in Western Europe 1350-1850, 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009; Fisher, James. ‘Rethinking Agricultural Books, Knowledge and Labour in Britain C.1660-C.1800’. PhD thesis, King’s College London, United Kingdom, 2018; Fussell, George Edwin. The Old English Farming Books, Vol. I: From Fitzherbert to Tull 1523 to 1730. London: Pindar Press, 1947; Myrdal, Janken. ‘Lantbrukslitteraturen under 1700-talet som indikator pä djupgäende mentalitetsforändringar i samhället’. In Hebbe, Pehr Magnus. Den svenska lantbrukslitteraturen frdn äldsta tid t.o.m. dr 1850s: bibliografisk fbrteckning, edited by Olof Kährström. Stockholm: Kungl. Skogs- och Lantbruksakademien, 2014, 15-42.
  • 2 Brasch, Erik. ‘Ekonomikommissionen 1725-1731: Sveriges första jordbruksutredning och preludium till den agrara revolutionen’. Licentiate thesis, Lund University, Sweden, 2016,11-3,29-40.
  • 3 Runefelt, Leif. ‘Hushällningens dygder: affektlära, hushällningslära och ekonomiskt tänkande under svensk stormaktstid’. PhD thesis, Stockholm University, Sweden, 2001, 95—96; see also Myrdal, ‘Lantbrukslitteraturen under 1700-talet', 15.
  • 4 Knowledge is a somewhat elusive concept, and the literature discussing it is vast. In this study, knowledge is seen as not equal to truth but situated and legitimised through the norms of a specific society. Information is seen as non-processed, ‘raw’ knowledge. However, texts can contain both, depending on the perspective of the reader or author: I therefore use them interchangeably. Knowledge circulation is defined as movement and transformation of knowledge between and in different contexts through and by actors, influenced by the actors’ own experience and motivations. Burke, Peter. What is the History of Knowledge? Cambridge: Polity Press, 2016, 6-7, 35-7; Lässig, Simone. ‘The History of Knowledge and the Expansion of the Historical Research Agenda’. Bulletin of the German Historical Institute 59 (2016): 29-58, at 38—40; Meusburger, Peter. ‘Spatial Mobility of Knowledge: Communicating Different Categories of Knowledge’. In Mobilities of Knowledge, edited by Heike Jöns, Peter Meusburger, and Michael Heffernan. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2017, 23-50, at 32-4; Secord, James A. ‘Knowledge in Transit’. Isis 95, no. 4 (2004): 654-72, at 657-8. For circulation and translation, see Burke, Martin J. and Melvin Richter, eds. Why Concepts Matter: Translating Social and Political Thought. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2012; Burke, History of Knowledge, 41-3, 88-9; Gamsa, Mark. ‘Cultural Translation and the Transnational Circulation of Books’. Journal of World History 22, no. 3 (2011): 553-75, at 557-61; Lässig, ‘History of Knowledge’, 43; Östling, Johan and David Larsson Heidenblad. ‘Cirkulation - ett kunskapshistoriskt nyckelbegrepp’. Historisk tidskrift 137, no. 2 (2017): 269-84, at 283.

Ambrosoli, The Wild and the Sown, 19-20, 105-6, 172-3, 179, 213.

Fisher, ‘Rethinking Agricultural Books’, 252-7; Ortje, Jacob. ‘Mechanicus: Performing an Early Modern Persona’. PhD thesis, Uppsala University, Sweden, 2015, 72-6.

Fisher, ‘Rethinking Agricultural Books’, 50-1, 110-65, 225.

Runefelt, Leif. Dygden som valstdndets grund: dygd, nytta och egennytta i frihetstidens eko-nomiska tankande. Stockholm: Stockholm University, 2005, 19-20, 44.

Hagberg, Lars. Jacob Serenius’ kyrkliga insats: kyrkopolitik, kristendomsjorsvar, under-visningsfrdgor. Stockholm: Svenska kyrkans diakonistyrelses bokfbrlag, 1952, 22-3, 54—69. Hagberg, Jacob Serenius’ kyrkliga insats, 6-10.

Serenius, Jacob. Engelska Aker-Mannen Och Fara-Herden, Eller: Aker-Bruks-Konsten Och Far-Skibtslen. Stockholm: Horrn, 1727, preface, unnumbered 8, *[...] sasom det fbrsta och fomamsta wark, hwarpa et Rikes styrka och walmago sig grundar’. For an English example, see Nourse, Timothy. Campania Foelix. Or, a Discourse of the Benefits and Improvements of Husbandry. London: Bennet, 1700, 11-2.

Hagberg, Jacob Serenius’ kyrkliga insats, 42, 90-1.

Brasch. ‘Ekonomikommissionen’, 11-3.

Cederbom, Lars August. ‘Jacob Serenius i opposition mot hattpartiet 1738-66’. PhD thesis, Lund University, Sweden, 1904, 13.

Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, preface, unnumbered 7: ‘At England icke ar et Rike belagit uti Manen, utan pa samma Jord-Klot med oss; ej eller langre aflagse, an at Sweriges Sbdra och Englands Norra delar ligga med hwar andra under en Hdgd 1st ed. 1707, but Serenius used the 1721 London revised edition: Mortimer, John. The Whole Art of Husbandry: Or, The Way of Managing and Improving of Land, Vol. I, 5th rev. ed. London: Robinson/Mortlock, 1721.

Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, preface, unnumbered 8: ‘|...| hade warit at gidra hela Werket obehageligt med anfbrande af mycket sadant, som ingen annorstiides an i England ar brukligit, eller kan lata sig gidra

Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, 300.

Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, 12: 'Furze, (en buske lik entra)’; Mortimer, Husbandry, 7.

For an example of mere description, see Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, 68; Mortimer, Husbandry, 42; Examples of unaltered instances: Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, 35, 63, 241; Mortimer, Husbandry, 23, 39, 178.

For example, Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, 7, 16, 63; Mortimer, Husbandry, 4, 10, 39. Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, 83; Mortimer, Husbandry, 51. See also e.g. Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, 16, 234; Mortimer, Husbandry, 10, 173.

See e.g. Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, 31, 35, 64, 74, 76; Mortimer, Husbandry, 20, 25, 40, 45, 47.

See e.g. Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, 85-6, 241, 243; Mortimer, Husbandry, 52-3, 178-9; Sometimes adjustments were made, see e.g. Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, 160; Mortimer, Husbandry, 109.

Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, preface, unnumbered 8: *[...] och uti dfwersatningen, sa wida nagonsin mogligit warit, lampat ord til sak’.

Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, 301-2. For examples in the text, see Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, 60, Mortimer, Husbandry, 36.

Jansson, Sam Owen. Mattordboken, 2nd ed. rev. Dan Waldetoft. Stockholm: Nordiska museet, 1995, 180-1. Although many local variants of the mil existed, Serenius seems to have had a similar ratio in mind: Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, 302.

Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, 156 (in footnote), 158.

For example, Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, 104; Cf. Markham, Gervase. The English Husbandman, 2nd rev. ed. London: Taunton, 1635, book I, Part 1, 100.

Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, 301, ‘Forliknings Tafla [...] utraknad efter Engelska Fotens proportion emot den Swenska, som ar 1027:1000, samt Engelska Tumens proportion emot den Swenska, som ar 85:100’.

Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, 301. It also matches the information given on page 302.

Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, 301. The ratio of 100:88.5 also matches the information given regarding bushel, peck, and gallon.

For example, Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, 104.

Jansson, Mâttordboken, 18-9, 60-1, 268—9.

Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, unnumbered preface, and 300.

For example, Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, 11, 66, 102; Mortimer, Husbandry, 6-7, 41, 62.

Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, 176; Mortimer, Husbandry, 118; Evelyn, John. Sylva, Or a Discourse of Forest-Trees and the Propagation of Timber In His Majesties dominions, 3rd rev. ed. London: Martyn, 1679, 317. Swedish text: 'Mr. Mortimer säger, at Windrufwor skola wäxa öfwermättan wäl efter derma giödsel, men man wil helre med Evelyn äta mâtteligen stora windrufwor efter fägärds-giödsel, än med Mortimer de som smaka af Man-gärden; ty war ofta nämde berömlige Evelyn säger at det satter en sa obotelig osmak pâ dem, at ingen ting wil hielpat’.

For example, Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, 67, 84, 106-7, 253.

For example, Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, 12-3, 36-7, 168.

For example, Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, 42; Mortimer, Husbandry, 28. Serenius also mentions them in the subheading of his book.

The second part was published posthumously three years later, and will not be discussed here because the question of authorship of that part is somewhat complex. I have previously written on Broocman in Bring Larsson, Linnea. ‘Lantbrukets nytta і Reinerus Broocmans En fulständig swensk hus-hâlds-bok 1736: en mikrohistorisk diskussion kring statsbyggnadsforskningens informationsöverfbrings- och aktörsbegrepp’. Master thesis, Stockholm University, Sweden, 2015; Bring Larsson, Linnea. ‘Kommentera, kom-plettera, kritisera: Broocmans användning av referenser och egna erfarenheter і Hushâllsboken’. In Broocman, Reinerus. En fulständig swensk hus-hâlds-bok: en handbok і gârds- och hushâllsskôtsel i vid meningfràn 1700-talets forsta hälft samt Broocmans värld och hushâllsbok belyst і âtta artiklar av ñutida forskare, Vol. 2, edited by Hâkan Timón. Stockholm: Kungl. Skogs- och Lantbruksakademien, 2016, 977-1013; Bring Larsson, Linnea. ‘Makromodeller, informationshantering och aktörskap - en vag framât for mikrohistoria?: Reinerus Broocmans Hushâllsbok (1736-1739)’. Historisk tidskrift 137, no. 3 (2017): 411-36. However, none of these texts focuses on the Swedish-English connections: the main examples, when at all mentioned in the previous works, have here been greatly expanded on.

Raag, Raimo. ‘Reinerus Reineri Broocman: ett liv i nordiska krigets skugga’. In Broocman, En fulständig swensk hus-hâlds-bok, ed. Timón, Vol. 2, 871—908, at 871-87. Backman, Helena. ‘Broocman som bokforläggare: en kyrkoherde som bokentreprenbr’. In Broocman, En fulständig swensk hus-hâlds-bok, ed. Timón, Vol. 2, 909-40; Raag, ‘Ett liv і nordiska krigets skugga’, 892-5.

Backman, ‘Broocman som bokforläggare’, 920-2; Raag, ‘Ett liv і nordiska krigets skugga’, 897.

Raag, Raimo. ‘Reinerus Reineri Broocman junior: en baltisk flykting і Sverige’. In Bröd och salt: svenska kulturkontakter med öst: en vänbok till Sven Gustavsson, edited by Roger Gyllin, Ingvar Svanberg, and Ingmar Sbhrman. Uppsala: Swedish Science Press, 1998, 58-73, at 68.

Broocman, Reinerus. En Fulständig Swensk Hus-Hâlds-Bok От Swenska Land-Hushâldningen i gemen och і synnerhet, Vol. I. Norrköping: Broocman, 1736, part 2, chapter 13, 137. Broocman, Hus-Hälds-Bok, ‘Günstige lasare’. [To the reader], unnumbered.

Broocman, Hus-Hälds-Bok, ‘Günstige lasare’. [To the reader], unnumbered: ‘[...] at utur bâde gamla och nya, Swenska och Tyska Hushaldsböcker thet nyttigaste och nbdigaste utleta och anfbra, [...]’.

Broocman, Hus-Hâlds-Bok, e.g. part 2, chapter 4, 28; part 2, chapter 13, 136, 143; part 2, chapter 25, 216.

Erixon, Sigurd. ‘Hushällsböcker och hushâllsjournaler i äldre tid i jordbruket’. In Offerkast och bjudhammare: uppsatser от folklig tro och sed, edited by Ake Hultkrantz and Bengt af Klintberg. Stockholm: Nordiska Museet, 1988, 128-47, at 141.

Bring Larsson, ‘Lantbrukets nytta’, 31-3; Bring Larsson, ‘Kommentera, komplettere, kriti-sera’, 982-4; Bring Larsson, ‘Makromodeller, informationshantering och aktörskap’, 422-3. Broocman, Hus-Hâlds-Bok, part 2, chapter 4, 23-35; Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, 1-22. Serenius in turn based his chapter on the first chapter of Mortimer, Husbandry, book 1, chapter 1, 1-14.

Broocman, Hus-Hälds-Bok, part 2, chap. 13, 143-4. Translation; V. Experiment. §. 7. Camdenus in his description of the county of Cornwall in England, says, that the inhabitants, especially the farmers there, use the seaweed and clay to fertilise their otherwise by nature infertile soil, and one assures, that they by this manner have succeed unbelievably well, and get to harvest an unimaginable amount of grain. VI. Experiment. §. 8. Mr Childrey, in his Historia natural! concerning England recounts, that the inhabitants of the county of Cornwall have observed, that nothing increases the fertility of their soil more, than the sea-sand, and the further out in the sea it is gathered, the better their harvest. These 4. Multiplications or ways to increase the harvest are taken from 112. Observation Journal - or Ephemerid. Curios. Natur. Germ, de Anno 1671. pag. 185. 186. 187.

Bilderbeck, Christoph Lorenz. Entdeckte Grüfft Natürlicher Geheimnüsse, 5th rev. ed. Leipzig: Martini, 1727, 33. Broocman mentions specifically that he has used the 1727 edition: Broocman, Hus-Hâlds-Bok, part 2, chap. 4, 36.

The first edition is from 1705. A German translation existed; however, Bilderbeck uses the French title when mentioning the work. Additionally, the page reference in Bilderbeck, Entdeckte Grüfft Natürlicher Geheimnüsse, 83, seems to match the 1708 edition (reprinted 1710) of Lorrain’s work. For the quotations, see Lorrain, Pierre le (abbé de Vallemont). Curiositez de la nature et de Г art sur la vegetation, 2nd ed. Paris/Brussels: Cellier/Leonard, 1708, 170-1.

Sachs von Löwenheim, Philipp Jakob. ‘Observatio CXII: Singularis Spica Hordei’. Miscellanea Curiosa Medico-Physica Academia’ Natura’ Curiosorum sive Ephemeridum Medico-Physicarum Germanicarum Curiosarum 2 (1671): 184—7, at 187.

Camden, William. Britannia; sive Florentissimorum regnorum, Anglia', Scotiœ, Hibemice, et insularum adiacentium, 3rd ed. Frankfurt: Wechel, 1590, 113. The 1659 edition has not been compared to.

Sachs von Löwenheim, ‘Observatio СХ1Г, 186.

Sachs von Löwenheim, ‘Observatio СХ1Г, 187.

Childrey, Joshua. Histoire des singularitez naturelles d’Angleterre, d’Escosse, et du Pays de Galles, 2nd ed. Paris: Robert de Ninville, 1667, 37.

Childrey, Joshua. Britannia Baconica: Or, The Natural Rarities of England, Scotland, & Wales. London: Printed for the author, 1660, 21.

Broocman might, for another part of the book, actually have read Sachs von Löwenheim’s article himself, see Broocman, Hus-Hâlds-Bok, part 2, chapter 8, 61. However, the example discussed here is clearly taken from Bilderbeck. Serenius actually mentions the Cornwall seaweed as well, albeit in less detail, Serenius, Engelska Aker-Mannen, 5 (footnote).

Hagberg, Jacob Serenius’ kyrkliga insats, 112, 137, 144—6, 183; Bergfeit, Böge, Jacob Serenius’. Svenskt biografiskt lexikon. URL:, accessed 1 July 2019.

Letter of Recommendation for Jacob Serenius 1731. Royal Society Archive, repository GB 117, ref. no. EC/1731/03, London. URL: exe?dsqIni=Dserve.ini&dsqApp=Archive&dsqCmd=Show.tcl&dsqDb=Catalog&dsqPos= 0&dsqSearch=%28%28text%29%3D%27serenius%27%29, accessed 1 July 2019.

Backman, ‘Broocman som bokfbrläggare’, 922-3.

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