All about our “Freedom of Trade Day 2018”

On 18 June 1864, all Swedes were given the right to start their own businesses. Every year, we celebrate The Freedom of Trade Act. This year saw a packed program of entrepreneurial and company stories at the Museum of Photography in Stockholm. We filmed it all – and here are all the presentations. (In Swedish, some with English subtitles.)

Part 1: When freedom of trade came and business took off

Today, freedom of trade and enterprise is guaranteed in Sweden’s constitution (Regeringsformen, 2. kap, 17§) but it wasn’t until 1864 that “each and every man and woman in Sweden” were allowed to start any business they wanted. Together with several other social reforms of the time, this laid the ground for today’s Sweden. In this part, we journeyed through Swedish business history, and also looked at how business history can be described in classroom settings.

Anders Johnson: “Stubborn people. 400 years of Swedish entrepreneurs.”

Anders Johnson, writer and business historia, talks about Swedish entrepreneurs during 400 years. He shares stories about “stubborn people” from Louise De Geer and Marie Sophie de la Gardie in the 1600s to today’s modern entrepreneurs, such as Barbara Bergström and Jan Stenbeck.


Anahi Davila: “Hi teachers, all you need for your classroom about business history is available for free on företagskä”

Anahi Davila, responsible at the Centre for Business History for school activities, talked about the free school material that is available on our website Företagskä, reflecting Sweden’s full business history. Teachers Anna Lindgren and Liselotte Hemström from Påhlmans Gymnasium also took to the stage to explain how they use topics of entrepreneurship and business in their classrooms.

Part 2: The people behind the big companies

It can be hard to get a grip on large companies. They become more anonymous the larger they are. But they have all been built by people – and people are easier to understand.

Margarita Feldman: “Sofia Gumaelius created the Swedish ad industry – in the 1880s”

Rita Feldman, archivist at the Centre for Business History, shared the story about Sofia Gumaelius and how she, at the end of the 1880s, thought that an ad agency would be a good solution for both advertisers and news papers. Her company, Gumaelius Annonsbyå, became the foundation for today’s Swedish ad industry. (A history overview based on the Gumaelius corporate archives, preserved at the Centre for Business History.)

Lovisa Kragerud: “LO Smith, the man on the Absolut-bottle, entrepeneur and politician”

Lovisa Kragerud, archivist and chief storyteller at The Absolut Company, shared the history of LO Smith, the man who we today know best as the “man on the seal of the Absolut-bottle” – but who, at the end of the 1800s, was an entrepreneur, politician, social reformer as well as a “vodka king”.

Thomas Tydén: “Ludvig and Robert Nobel, so much bigger than their brother Alfred”

Thomas Tydén, professor and previous chair of the Nobel Family Foundation, talks about Alfred Nobel’s brothers Ludvig and Robert, who built an oil company in Azerbajdzjan in the early 1900s, a company that rivaled Rockerfeller and Standard Oil for the title of the world’s largest oil company. But then, of course, the Russian revolution happened…

Krister Hillerud: “Hilda and LM Ericsson: the married couple who built Ericsson”

Krister Hillerud, corporate historian at the Centre for Business History in Stockholm, shared the story of how themarried company Hilda and Lars Magnus Ericsson started a company that bore their name – and which we still today know as the global telecom company Ericsson. (Based on the Ericsson corporate archives, managed by the Centre for Business History in Stockholm.)

Part 3: The companies, a part of our social fabric

It is often said the prime minister Per-Albin Hansson built today’s Sweden in the 1950s. If he did, then Ingvar Kampard of IKEA furnished it, Erling Persson of H&M clothed it and Clas Ohlson filled it with gadgets. The history of these companies are a part of Sweden’s fabric, as much as path-breaking political decisions.

Tony Nilsson: “IKEA, Ingvar Kamprad and the Monopoly Study Bureau”

Tony Nilsson, archivist at IKEA, talks about how IKEA’s early days was marked by the fight against the oligopoly of the Swedish furniture business, building on archival documents from the IKEA corporate archives.

Gustav Svensson: “H&M, the retailer who became a fashion giant”

Gustav Svensson, archivist at the Centre for Business History, shares the history of H&M, the Swedish clothing retailer that became a global fashion giant. (Based on the H&M corporate files, managed by the Centre for Business History in Stockholm.)

Anders Landén: “Clas Ohlson’s beloved gadgets”

Anders Landén, editor at the Centre for Business History, shares the story of the man and the company he built, from the early mail-order days until today’s leading retailer. All based on the 100 years of mailorder catalogues that Clas Ohlson have issued – and which we have digitized and made publicly available at the Centre for Business History.