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Drömmen om svenskt silke

silkesodlingens historia i Sverige 1735-1920

Johansson Åbonde, Anders (2010). Drömmen om svenskt silke. Alnarp : Sveriges lantbruksuniv.
ISBN 978-91-86197-67-4
[Licentiate thesis]

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The grandiose, but failed, attempts to produce silk in Sweden in the past have been largely ignored by historians. This thesis describes the history of sericulture in Sweden, including three periods of practical trials in 1735-1765, 1830-1898 and 1913-1918. For a long time, the secrets of sericulture were closely guarded in China but by the beginning of the 16th century, knowledge of silk cultivation techniques had reached a number of European countries. The pursuit of domestic silk production was often a costly undertaking instigated by royalty. Since conditions in Sweden and Denmark were partly similar, there was some degree of influence and cooperation between these neighbouring countries. The chapters dealing with attempts at silk production during the 18th century and the history of sericulture in northern Europe are primarily based on printed sources and literature. Several of the 18th century silk farmers documented their experiments, allowing us to follow their efforts and ideas on the feasibility of silk farming in Sweden. The descriptions of the two latter sets of Swedish silk production trials presented in the thesis are primarily based on archive materials, mainly consisting of minutes and annual reports. The history of sericulture in Sweden began in the mid-1730s, when Mårten Triewald conducted experiments and exhaustively described and published these. Carl Linnaeus was a significant influence in Swedish sericulture during this early period. Naturalists were hired as plantation managers and were tasked with supplying the silk industry in Sweden with home-produced raw material. The work was prompted by the desire to find an alternative for the huge Swedish imports of raw silk from China and Southern Europe. However, silk farming never became particularly common, despite the financial incentives available for producing silk and planting mulberry trees during the 1750s in the belief that some ‘extravagance’ was beneficial for society as a whole. When the ‘Hats’ position of power ended, so did the financial support for manufacturing luxury goods. Founded in 1830, the Swedish Association for Domestic Sericulture was active for nearly 70 years thanks to foreign influences and the notion that silk farming could be a popular livelihood. Members of the Swedish Royal Family served as patrons and several well-known scientists participated in the projects. The Association furnished mulberry plants and seeds, together with silkworm eggs, most of which were distributed to plantations controlled by the Association or county agricultural societies. However, the Association’s annual reports show that many private individuals also planted mulberry trees and some pursued silk farming. Sericulture growing trials were carried out at a number of sites across Sweden, on the initiative of Jacob Berzelius, among others. These trials were mainly funded by Government grants, but numerous wealthy individuals also made contributions to the sericulture venture. Some income was generated by the silk products produced, which were almost solely bought by the Swedish Royal Family. The Swedish Sericulture Association was founded in southern Sweden in 1913 but this third brief foray into sericulture produced few results. All three periods of sericulture trials were initiated by enthusiasts with a firm belief that some silkworm host plants would survive the Nordic climate. There were a number of claims that the white mulberry tree had become acclimatised, but an equal number of cold winters and springs proved the opposite. Ultimately, Swedish sericulture was never economically feasible, since the natural conditions were unfavourable and the output from Swedish silk production was modest, and the cost high, in relation to imported silk. The almost 200-year history of sericulture in Sweden provides an important glimpse into the obsessions and culture of the age, but there were far too many obstacles for the dream of Swedish silk ever to become a reality.

Authors/Creators:Johansson Åbonde, Anders
Title:Drömmen om svenskt silke
Subtitle:silkesodlingens historia i Sverige 1735-1920
Year of publishing :2010
Number of Pages:181
Place of Publication:Alnarp
Publisher:Dept. of Landscape Architecture, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
ISBN for printed version:978-91-86197-67-4
Publication Type:Licentiate thesis
Full Text Status:Public
Agris subject categories.:Q Food science > Q60 Processing of non-food or non-feed agricultural products
F Plant production > F01 Crop husbandry
L Animal production > L01 Animal husbandry
Subjects:Not in use, please see Agris categories
Agrovoc terms:sericulture, silkworms, morus, history, sweden
Keywords:silkesodling, silkesmaskodling, historia, silkesproduktion, råsilke, silkesmask, vitt mullbärsträd
Permanent URL:
ID Code:2258
Department:(LTJ, LTV) > Landscape Architecture (until 121231)
Deposited By: Anders Johansson Åbonde
Deposited On:23 Mar 2010 00:00
Metadata Last Modified:02 Dec 2014 10:17

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