Category Archives: Sweden

Dag Hammarskjöld: a defiant pioneer of global diplomacy who died in a mystery plane crash


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Binoy Kampmark, RMIT UniversityThis piece is part of a new series in collaboration with the ABC’s Saturday Extra program. Each week, the show will have a “who am I” quiz for listeners about influential figures who helped shape the 20th century, and we will publish profiles for each one. You can read the other pieces in the series here.


The idea of a global institution has captivated thinkers since Immanuel Kant in the 18th century. But a body set up to create and maintain world peace and security needs the right people to make it work.

When the United Nations was created in 1945, old sentiments — seen in the disbanded League of Nations — threatened to prevail. Would the UN and its leadership simply comply with the great powers of the day?

Dag Hammarskjöld was the UN’s second secretary-general from 1953 to 1961. He showed that defiant independence in this role was possible.

Political upbringing

Hammarskjöld was born in Jönköping in south-central Sweden in 1905, the fourth son of Sweden’s first world war prime minister Hjalmar Hammarskjöld.

In 1953, he reflected on his family’s influence on his career.

From generations of soldiers and government officials on my father’s side I inherited a belief that no life was more satisfactory than one of selfless service to your country — or humanity.

After doing degrees covering literature, linguistics, history, economics and law, he entered the Swedish civil service in 1930, ending up in Ministry for Foreign Affairs. In the late 1940s he represented Sweden at the newly formed United Nations.

A new secretary-general

In 1953, he succeeded Norway’s Trgve Lie as UN secretary-general — easily securing enough votes for the job. At this point, the international state system was in crisis. The Cold War and the Iron Curtain threatened the paralyse the entire organisation.

Hammarskjöld’s approach and lasting legacy was to develop the secretary-general’s political role. He took executive action, which filled power vacuums as the colonial system broke apart after the second world war.

Two concepts underpinned this approach. The first was intervention to maintain international order — thereby transforming the UN from a static international body to a more engaged one.

These interventions including “preventative diplomacy” – trying to stem conflict from developing and spreading — fact-finding missions, peacekeeping forces and operations, technical assistance and international administration.

Former UN secretary-general Dag Hammarskjold
Hammarskjöld was heavily influenced by his family’s background in public service and politics.
AP/AAP

Fledgling states could rely on UN assistance till they were self-functioning. Doing so would preserve the independence of decolonised countries and forge an international system with “equal economic opportunities for all individuals and nations”.

As Hammarskjöld explained in 1960, the UN was ideal for this task.

a universal organisation neutral in the big power struggles over ideology and influence in the world, subordinated to the common will of the Member Governments and free from any aspirations of its own power and influence over any group or nation.

Indeed, the second key concept was a firm commitment to neutrality when maintaining international order. This was considered a vital element for an international organisation dedicated to global governance.

In practice, Hammarskjöld negotiated the release of United States soldiers captured by the Chinese volunteer army during the Korean War and attempted to resolve the Suez Canal Crisis of 1956. He was also instrumental to facilitating the withdrawal of US and British troops from Lebanon and Jordan in 1958. In such conduct, he defined the secretary-general’s office in international diplomacy and conflict management and ensured the lingering role of peacekeeping operations.

Making waves — and enemies

But the expansion of this type of intervention by the UN was not welcomed by the traditional powers. Reflecting on the role played by Hammarskjöld during the Suez Crisis, Sir Pierson Dixon, British Ambassador to the UN, observed the secretary-general could no longer be considered a “a symbol or even an executive: he has become a force”.

As historian Susan Williams writes,

Hammarskjöld sought to shield the newly-independent nations from the predatory aims of the Great Powers. His enemies included colonialists and settlers in Africa who were determined to maintain white minority rule.

In September 1961, Hammarskjöld was on a peace mission in the newly independent Congo. But while flying from Leopoldville, former capital of the Belgian Congo, to Ndola in Northern Rhodesia (present day Zambia),
his plane crashed. Everyone on board, including the secretary-general, was killed.

Unsolved mystery

The crash has never officially been recognised as a political assassination. But there have always been deep suspicions, making it one of the great unresolved mysteries of the 20th century.

As former US president Harry Truman told reporters immediately after the crash, Hammarskjöld

was on the point of getting something done when they killed him. Notice that I said ‘when they killed him.’

Hammarskjöld’s legacy was so profound as to encourage a range of theories as to why he died. In 1992, Australian diplomat George Ivan Smith and Irish author Conor Cruise O’Brien, both UN officials in 1961 in Congo, opined the secretary-general had been shot down by mercenaries in the pay of European industrialists.

In her 2011 book, Who Killed Hammarskjöld? Williams examined the possibility of an assassination or a botched hijacking. Noting details were still murky, she concluded:

his death was almost certainly the result of a sinister intervention.

Peacekeeping, neutrality, independence

To this day, Hammarskjöld’s legacy endures through the continued deployment of UN peace keeping operations with the aim of promoting “stability, security and peace processes”.




Read more:
‘Our own 1945 moment’. What do rising China-US tensions mean for the UN?


His shaping of the general-secretary position is also marked: an international, neutral figure tasked, however successful, with using preventative diplomacy, promoting peace and securing an environment where states can develop on their own terms.


Correction: an earlier version of this article incorrectly quoted Susan Williams to say Hammarskjöld’s death was “most certainly” the result of a sinister intervention. It has been amended to “almost certainly”. The piece has also been amended to correct Truman was the former US president at the time of the crash, not the current president.The Conversation

Binoy Kampmark, Senior Lecturer in Global Studies, Social Science & Planning, RMIT University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Viking Origins



Vikings Misconceptions



Swedish Viking hoard: how the discovery of single Norman coin expands our knowledge of French history



The Viking hoard being excavated.
Acta Konserveringscentrum

Jens Christian Moesgaard, Stockholm University

In the autumn of 2020, I was contacted by the field archaeology unit of the Swedish National Historical Museums, who are also known as the Archaeologists. They were excavating at a Viking-age settlement at Viggbyholm just north of Stockholm. During routine metal detecting of the site, they had located a very exciting find: eight silver necklaces and other silver jewellery along with 12 coins, everything delicately wrapped up in a cloth and deposited in a pot. In other words, a genuine Viking silver hoard.

As a professor in numismatics, the study of currency, I have spent my life becoming an expert in coins, so was called to help them learn more about this exciting discovery. It turned out to be a very interesting find. Most of the coins were the types that we usually see in Sweden: English, Bavarian, Bohemian (Czech) and Islamic coins as well as imitations of Islamic coins. But one of the coins was unusual.

A rare coin from Viking Normandy

Found within this hoard was a Norman coin from the late tenth century. It is only the second Norman coin found in Sweden, and they have rarely been found in the rest of Scandinavia. This is surprising because the duchy of Normandy was created when King Charles the Simple of West Francia (roughly modern-day France) gave a bit of land to the Viking chief Rolf (or Rollo) in 911.

You would have expected this affiliation to have led to an influx of Norman coins to Scandinavia, but this is clearly not the case. Maybe the reason is that the newly settled Vikings had learned from their Frankish neighbours to blend copper into the silver coins. And their Scandinavian cousins were only interested in high-quality silver coins, such as the English, German and Islamic ones.

A 4cm-wide worn silver coin.
A Norman coin dating to the tenth century.
Acta Konserveringscentrum

But this is not the only interesting feature about the newly discovered Norman coin. It turned out to be of a type that had not been seen since the 18th century. Several scholars had doubted the very existence of this type of coin, arguing that the 18th-century record was a misreading. But the Viggbyholm find proved that they were wrong. The type did exist. So this Swedish find contributes to our knowledge of French history.

Viking Coins in Sweden

At the moment, I’m working in close collaboration with the Archaeologists to interpret the hoard. The coin shows that it should be dated to the last years of the tenth century. All the coins were turned into jewellery, mounted as pendants. The hoard was very carefully deposited within a house. This shows that the Viggbyholm hoard belongs to a category of hoards deposited for special reasons, maybe a ritual of a kind that we do not know the exacts details of.

Indeed, the average Viking hoard in Sweden is quite different.

Like Viggbyholm, it consists of a mixture of coins and other silver artefacts, the coins being of various origins. But contrary to Viggbyholm, coins and artefacts are often present in hundreds or even thousands. What’s more, coins, jewellery and silver ingots were often cut into pieces. They were bent and pecked with knives to check their consistency – good silver is soft. This is because the Vikings did not use coins as coins, they used them as silver bullion based on their weight.

Most of the coins were from abroad. When the coins left their homelands, whether from England, Germany, the Middle East or central Asia, their fixed value was effectively no longer guaranteed. In Sweden, they were merely bits of silver along with other silver artefacts. This is why the Vikings accepted all kinds of coins regardless of origin and age – provided that they were of good silver.

As a result, the obligatory tools of Viking tradesman were foldable scales and weights that could be brought along on long journeys. These items are often found in archaeological excavations, witnessing the Viking trade habits. Contrary to popular belief, Vikings were not only bloodthirsty raiders.

These Swedish Viking-age silver finds are part of a series of discoveries that have helped create a broader picture of Viking Britain, Ireland, the North Atlantic, Scandinavia, the Baltic, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Almost 900,000 silver coins are on record from these areas, besides other silver artefacts. Russia, Poland and Sweden have the most finds, with about 250,000 coins each.

Two-thirds of the Swedish finds are from the Island of Gotland in the Baltic, making it the place with the highest find density of medieval silver discoveries in the world. Thanks to an antiquarian tradition going back to the 17th-century, the Swedish finds are exceptionally well documented.

Written sources from this period are rare, so silver finds are extremely important for our understanding of Viking history. And as the Viggbyholm find demonstrates, new finds turn up and add to our ever-changing understanding of past society. This is what makes archaeology so exciting to work with.The Conversation

Jens Christian Moesgaard, Professor of Numismatics, Stockholm University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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Today in History – 29 April 1672


Louis XIV: Franco-Dutch War – France Invades the Netherlands

The Franco-Dutch War was more than a war between France and the Netherlands, then known as the United Provinces. It involved a host of other nations including Sweden, Spain, England and other less known regions/countries. The war lasted from 1672 to 1678 and ended with the Treaty of Nijmegen.

This day in 1672 saw the beginning of the war with the French invasion of the United Provinces and they quickly made progress into the country. However, as the war continued it quickly became a stalemate-type situation, though the French did gain territory from the Treaty of Nijmegen.

For a more detailed treatment of the war, see the Wikipedia page at:
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco-Dutch_War

 


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