Linné´s Scanian Journey 1749
A vicar´s son from Småland, well under way with a unusual scientific career in Uppsala, came to Scania in t1749. This Carl Linnaeus (ennobled to von Linné) had gone to Scania on a national economic assignment; sent out by the Swedish parliament. The goal was to map the resources of the province and suggest changes.
|The botanist Linné, the world-famous Swedish scientist, travelled through Scania in the 18th century. He reported to the Swedish government about the neglected state of the region and gave detailed suggestions for change of the miserable conditions. The report was an excellent first-hand and primary source of Scania´s landscape conditions and popular traditions. But also to the way of thinking of scientists in the Age of Enlightenment.
Linné was empirical and made, like Tycho Brahe, careful observations, but he was also very systematic and he wanted to arrange reality in a well-ordered system. He was a scientist in the spirit of the Enlightened Age.
Scania – an Isolated Region
Linné was to describe the natural resources of Scania and recommend steps, which could strengthen the economy of the province. Naturally Linné could not let go of botany, so he arranged and described the growth of plants in different places, but he was also interested in other things in the Scanian landscape.
Scania was still marked by the devastation and death, which had been caused by war and the plague. The province was far from the centre of the kingdom and was completely cut off from Denmark. It was an isolated region with too little contact to the outside world to grow and develop. Linné also thought that the Scanian farmers held on too stubbornly to old habits and were afraid of changes. The conservative peasants needed knowledge and modern agricultural methods.
Linné - a famous botanist
Linné´s Birthplace in Råshult
The Fertility of Scania
Still Linné had many good things to say about Scania, which he considered Sweden´s, perhaps Europe´s, best cultivation area. On the climate in Malmo Linné wrote: “This is not any worse than in Holland. All the colour herbs and pharmaceutical herbs, which are planted and sold from Holland, could just as well grow here...” In Skanør too, he emphasized the advantages of the climate:
“I know of no country, which looks more like Zeeland in Holland in climate and soil, and I
cannot see why what grows in Holland could not be planted here; therefore plantations of colouring herbs and other economical herbs should be planted here.”
Thus Linné emphasized that the mild climate of Scania ought to be utilized better through the introduction of new financially beneficial plants, so they could avoid importing these plants from for instance Holland. Furthermore he could compare the herring to the Dutch. “The herring, which is caught at Kullen is hardly inferior to the Dutch herring as to size and fatness.”
Linné often compared with Holland. He had spent time in Holland for several years in the course of the 1730´s and had taken his doctor´s degree in medicine there as well as published a number of scientific writings.
Humidity, Shifting Sand and Mould Drift
Linné did not thrive on Scania´s damp autumn and the lack of firewood, something that he was not accustomed to in Småland and Uppsala.
“Here in Scania one notices that the clay walls spread a mouldy, damp and unpleasant smell, especially for one, which is not used to it and this vapour becomes more strong when it rains. In this plain landscape it is evident that we have an advantage in the north with lovely fireplaces, where wee dry our bodies in cold and damp weather.” At a visit in Herrestad Linné stated: “In this place the peasants´ houses, and often the squires´ too, mostly damp and filled with an infrequent nausea.”
The open plain landscape also held other problems: “Kämpinge Town in the south-western corner of Scania was plagued by shifting sand, which blew into town like big snowdrifts and ruined the farmers´ fields.” The problem existed in many places, and Linné took it very seriously. He mentioned the importance of the planting in order to dampen the shifting sand:
“The Dutch have employed this on their sand dunes. For this purpose they use a grass kind that they call crest. Around Ängelholm many and sparse plantations been laid out and these have, for a great part, had a
Mould drift and drying up made up other problems in the Scanian plain, especially in high-situated fields. The solution for this was, according to Linné, to increase the planting of willows and other trees. This would dampen erosion, maintain moisture and additionally provide firewood for the heating of damp houses:
“Most important for the Scanian plain it that all dikes are planted with willows and other hardwood trees along the inner sides of the banks of earth. They will then gain a considerable strength and every third year branches can be cut and weaved into small fences, which can be set up on the banks. When these have worked for two years and become dilapidated, they can be used for firewood the third year, when the fields are laid out. Besides this such trees embellish the landscape, affords shelter form the wind, which dries up the soil and in an invisible dust takes away the finest mould and thus daily impoverishes the soil.”
“Willow planting is a necessity for Scania, without it the country will hardly be able to obtain its future livelihood.”
The Popular Traditions of Scania
In addition to all his records of how Scanian agriculture and economic life could be improved, Linné was also interested in the popular traditions of Scania. Here he describes the celebration of Midsummer Eve on the square in Skanør in 1749:
“The young farmhands and servant girls had gathered in the square. The boys had provided poles and the girls had provided flowers. The poles were chained together to a high mast with cross spears and in a couple of minutes the whole pole was covered with flowers and wreaths, which hung down from the end of the spears. The finished maypole, which was beautiful and magnificent, was put up with cries of joy and the youth danced around it all night, in spite of the rain.”
In Linné´s description of Midsummer in Skanør and Falsterbo, it is evident that the contact with Denmark had not been broken all together: People came from distant places, and formerly many came from Denmark.”
Linné – Also a Man of Trifles
Nothing was too small or too trivial for Linné. He writes from his stay in Malmo:
“Pencils from England of an unusual sort can be obtained at Mayor Borg. They could not be sharpened with a knife, only with the help of heat or light could you press them together with your fingers, and they smelled of sealing wax. This meant that they were made of graphite with very little resin. It would be useful for us, who are so well-supplied with lead ore, but still so little of graphite, which can be made into pencils.”
Linné had many great and small thoughts of Scania´s development.