On the Frontiers of Power and Knowledge. The Exercise of Power by the Crown and the Stewards of Ostrobothnia in the Early 17th Century

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

University of Oulu, Linnanmaa, lecture hall L10

Topic of the dissertation

On the Frontiers of Power and Knowledge. The Exercise of Power by the Crown and the Stewards of Ostrobothnia in the Early 17th Century

Doctoral candidate

Master of Arts Maria Julku

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Humanities, History, Culture and Communications

Subject of study



Professor Petri Karonen, University of Jyväskylä


Adjunct Professor Matti Enbuske, University of Oulu

Visit thesis event

Add event to calendar

Stewards as representatives of the Crown in Ostrobothnia

The dissertation examined the ability of early modern central governments to exercise power in the periphery. The actions of the Swedish Crown (the king and his inner circle) and the stewards of Ostrobothnia as wielders of power in the early 17th century were studied in this thesis. Based on the results, the role of stewards in the centre–periphery relations were evaluated.

The source material consisted mainly of letters from the central government but also included letters from officeholders, as well as tax documents, court records and other writings. Some of the sources had not been used before. The perspective used was personal agency, that is, the focus was on looking at individual actors. The theoretical concepts of power, agency, and periphery were used as aids in interpreting the sources.

The study shed light on the previously neglected role of stewards, the turn of the century, and the administrative status of the northern periphery. The study was related to discussions about the role of the individual in governance, and the formation of the Swedish state as a process arising from both central and local interaction.

The study highlighted the Crown's dependence on stewards in achieving the northern goals. In the periphery, strengthening of territorial power played a key role. On the other hand, long distances meant that it was difficult for the Crown to control events. Lack of information about wilderness and peripheral conditions became crucial, and the entire Arctic Policy at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries can be said to have dissolved due to lack of information.

Stewards had independent power, especially as builders of the castles of Oulu and Kajaani, but this was limited by the relationship with the local community. Stewards acted as mediators between the interests of the local community and the goals of the Crown. The study showed that the remote location of Kajaani Castle made it possible for the officeholders to wield arbitrary power, which was not accepted by the surrounding community.

All in all, stewards can be viewed as significant players in the administrative development of Ostrobothnia. Through them, the Crown sought to implement in particular the Arctic Policy of Charles IX and the mercantilist trade policy of Gustav II Adolf. Through the stewards, a local central government was established in Ostrobothnia, and the area appears as more closely integrated into the kingdom by the 1620s.

The dissertation has been published in the Studia Historica Septentrionalia series of the Historical Society of Northern Finland.
Last updated: 23.1.2024