Shop our historical maps

Edward Blom on the history of square trading

Featured Video Play Icon
1891: The main square in Linköping on a square day in 1891. On the second Wednesday of each month, agricultural products were traded in the square. Photo: Didrik von Essen / Östergötland Museum. Photo of Edward Blom: Eva Hildén Smith/LaBelle Rockette

"Square trading is the oldest form of all trade. In all cultures, farmers have gone in with what they produced regularly [...] and sold their goods to the townspeople" - Edward Blom

Have you ever visited the "Farmer's Market"? Nowadays, it can pop up in some Swedish cities as a temporary and perhaps a bit exciting feature during the growing season, when you can buy locally produced food in the city's squares. But in the past, well, the farmers' market was pretty much the only market. In this video, Edward Blom takes you to Hötorget in Stockholm, in the late 19th century, and tells you about the square trade in the old farming community.
The history of the marketplace
1891: The main square in Linköping on a square day in 1891. On the second Wednesday of each month, agricultural products were traded in the square. Photo: Didrik von Essen / Östergötland Museum. Photo of Edward Blom: Eva Hildén Smith/LaBelle Rockette
It was in the late 19th century that the marketplace had its last heyday. As Edward told us in the last clip about the rural trade, Swedish commoners had long been forbidden by the state to trade with each other in the countryside because the state would find it difficult to take "its" share of the pie, so it was to the town squares that the farmers were forced to go to sell their goods. But into the 20th century, the state also took aim at the marketplace trade, as Edward explains:

Some time into the 20th century, the authorities begin to try to ban the marketplace. Milk and meat sales are banned. They want to bring the trade into the market halls and shops, which are more hygienic and much more orderly.

Edward Blom
Fisktorget in Örebro
Unknown year: garden square, fish market, square trade. Örebro Castle and Central Palace in the background. Photo: Örebro County Museum (CC BY-NC)
If you haven't visited the "Farmer's Market" before, I recommend you do! It may be a bit more expensive than the food at ICA or COOP that has travelled hundreds of miles in boats and trucks, but when you buy locally produced food you are supporting your local farmers and helping to strengthen Sweden's food self-sufficiency. Just one of those things! Then I'm also a strong advocate that everyone who has the opportunity should try planting their own small vegetable patch and potato patch. You can start small and maybe you, like me, will find that interest grows. Maybe you'll end up standing in the square yourself in a few years' time, selling your crops to the townspeople! Not only is it rewarding and satisfying to harvest and eat your home-grown food, it's also a nice reminder for me and a lesson for the children about how our ancestors have survived for thousands of years, ever since they settled and became resident farmers in the North some 5000 years ago. Last but not least, growing your own food is actually also economically beneficial with today's high taxes. Tax-free potatoes are the best potatoes.

Subscribe to YouTube:


If you appreciate Allmogens independent work to portray our fine Swedish history and Nordic culture, you are welcome to buy something nice in the shop or support us with a voluntary donation. Thank you in advance!

Support Allmogens via Swish: 123 258 97 29
Support Allmogens by becoming a member
Support Allmogens in your will

Popular

Shall we be heard on Sunday?

Get the newsletter every Sunday morning with the week's articles on Swedish history and Nordic culture. Free of charge!

Perfect! Check your inbox and confirm your registration and you're all set!