In the light of the present debate on how to define the concept of political culture, the project Rhetoric
and Political Culture aims at scrutinizing the importance and purpose of rhetoric in the early-modern
Sweden. Rhetoric was extremely important for the Swedish state and the study of it was encouraged by the Government. In the Swedish provinces around the Baltic Sea, different languages were spoken and therefore it was important to maintain an education that promoted linguistic and rhetorical abilities in order to keep the provinces culturally and politically together.
The project will study how this was accomplished. In this respect Johan Skytte was important. He
himself was a homo novus, a learned humanist and the teacher of the young crown prince Gustavus
Adolphus. When the prince became king, Johan Skytte was his adviser and trusted with a several public functions; he was e.g. the first Chancellor of the University. According to him it was impossible to separate rhetoric from politics. He donated a professorship that reflected the importance of encouraging not only noblemen to study rhetoric and politics in order to fulfil their public tasks but also young commoners to become a part of the political elite through studies. New universities were founded in Finland and in Livonia. The teaching stressed new aspects of rhetoric. To make patrons and obtain support from influential politicians the young students had to use ars epistolica and they had to be masters of another brand of rhetoric, consultatio, for being suitable as advisers and fellows of councils.
The aim of the project is to study how the instruction of rhetoric was performed and how the young
noblemen used it in their careers. Save Skytte the project will focus on Michael Gyldenstolpe and his
family. Gyldenstolpe like Skytte was a homo novus and started his own career as professor in Turku, he was raised to nobility and became first deputy judge and then judge. His ambition to encourage his sons to advance further on in their careers is demonstrated in his correspondence with them. We also have access to letters from one of his sons which will be more closely scrutinized and analysed. Connected to the project, a postgraduate student in Latin will study and comment on Michael Gyldenstolpe’s important work Epitome descriptionis Sueciae, which describes the Swedish domination around the Baltic, seen from different aspects. It will also be edited and translated.