Black Markets and Desertion: Soldiers' Criminality in Helsinki 1748-1757

Petri Talvitie

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7557/4.3083

Keywords

History of criminality; garrison towns; soldiers; black markets; desertion; eighteenth century; Helsinki

Abstract

By combining source material from both the military and civilian courts, this article seeks to broaden our view of soldiers’ criminality during the early modern period, especially in garrison towns. Earlier research has stressed soldiers’ propensity to violence and rowdiness. This article, however, highlights soldiers’activity in the urban black markets. The research focuses on mid- eighteenth century Helsinki, which became an important garrison town and naval base after the Russo-Swedish war (1741–1743), which had unfortunate consequences for Sweden. Thousands of soldiers from nearly all corners of Sweden were transported to the town to construct a new sea fortress, Sveaborg. Soldiers were paid badly and, consequently, they had to resort to illegal means, such as stealing and selling stolen goods, to support themselves and their families. Desertion was especially high among enlisted soldiers.

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License URL: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/