The Legacy of Peter Forsskål

250 Years of Freedom of Expression

Ulla Carlsson
David Goldberg
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In 2016, the world commemorated the sestercentennial adoption of His Majesty’s Gracious Ordinance Relating to Freedom of Writing and of the Press. The passage of the Ordinance in 1766 in Sweden – which at the time comprised today’s Sweden and Finland – was preceded by intense political and scholarly debate. Peter Forsskål put himself at the centre of that debate, when he in 1759 published the pamphlet Thoughts on Civil Liberty, consisting of 21 paragraphs setting out his thoughts advocating against oppression and tyranny and championing civil rights for everyone.

Historical perspectives are fruitful in many respects, and this is why Forsskål’s words still resonate. But we must be careful not to use the tracks of history to create myths about today – instead anniversaries like the one concerning the Ordinance can be used as a starting point for debate – to discuss our history and where we stand now in terms of freedom of expression, the right to information and freedom of the press.

It was against such a backdrop that a seminar was organized as a side event, part of UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day in Helsinki, 3 May 2016, and co-organized by the National Archives of Finland, Project Forsskal and the UNESCO Chair on Freedom of Expression, Media Development and Global Policy at the University of Gothenburg. This publication is based on that seminar.


  • Foreword 
    Ulla Carlsson, David Goldberg
  • Introduction
    • Who Was Peter Forsskål? 
      David Goldberg
  • The history 1766-2016 
    • World’s First Freedom of Writing and of the Press Ordinance as History of Political Thought 
      Ere Nokkala
    • Freedom of Speech, Expression and Information in Sweden. A Legacy from 1766 
      Johan Hirschfeldt
    • Freedom of Speech in Finland 1766-2016. A Byproduct of Political Struggles 
      Kaarle Nordenstreng
  • Today… Global, European and National Perspectives
  • Peter Forsskål – A Forefather of Freedom of Expression 
    Frank La Rue
  • Public Access to Information in Today’s Europe. nWhat Would Peter Forsskål Say? 
    Helena Jäderblom
  • Freedom of Speech is under Threat. Internationally, Nationally and Locally 
    Stefan Eklund
  • Nordic Overview: Rules
    • Public Access or Secrecy. Comparison between the Rules in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland as well as International Rules 
      Oluf Jørgensen
  • The Authors
  • APPENDIX Peter Forsskål: Tankar om borgerliga friheten
Cover: The Legacy of Peter Forsskål


Pages: 149
ISBN print
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