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Gifts and Society in Fourteenth Century Sweden

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Chapter Summary

Gifts to churches and religious houses were one of the clearest manifestations of the relationship between the individual and God in the Middle Ages. All over Europe, gifts and donations were a natural part of how faith was expressed. This chapter analyzes some aspects of Scandinavian culture of gift-giving. In Scandinavia religious gifts were part of a wider social system. Using the example of Sweden, author's intention is to show how religious gifts can be interpreted as an important way of creating personal networks with other secular aristocrats, as well as being understandable in terms of strengthening a person's symbolic capital. Gifts could also be part of the reconciliation process in conflicts between different kin-groups, disputes about inheritance, and other, less severe conflicts. The chapter addresses a perspective which hitherto has attracted relatively little attention from scholars who study gift-giving, namely the practice of giving children to monasteries or convents.

Keywords: donations; gift-giving; inheritance disputes; kin-groups; monasteries; religious gifts; Scandinavian culture; secular aristocrats; Sweden



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