Brusewitz, Axel

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Brusewitz, Axel



Axel Karl Adolf Brusewitz (1881–1950), Swedish political scientist, was born in Vichtis, Finland, of Swedish parents who later resettled in Sweden. After his matriculation examination in 1900 he studied at the University of Uppsala and became decent in political science there in 1913. From 1906 to 1920 he was an assistant at the provincial archives at Uppsala; and from 1919 to 1923, he was lecturer at the elementary school teachers college at Uppsala. In 1923, with the support of many prominent men in the field, he became Skytteansk professor of rhetoric and political science at Uppsala. He held that position for 24 years, retiring in 1947 to become professor emeritus.

Brusewitz’ scholarly work began, in effect, with several studies on the origin of the 1809 constitution and related problems. The most important of these were his doctoral dissertation, Representationsfrågan vid 1809–10 års Riksdag (“The Question of Representation in the 1809–1810 Riksdag Session” 1913), and Studier öfver 1809 års författinngskris (“Studies on the Constitutional Crisis of 1809” 1917). These works contained some new and revolutionary perspectives on the constitution. Thus Brusewitz emphasized that foreign doctrines, especially those of Montesquieu, had had an important influence on the founders of the Swedish constitution; he also maintained that the constitution was a compromise between opposing parties rather than the product of national unity, as had previously been thought.

As a member of a government-appointed committee on the popular vote Brusewitz was assigned to report on Switzerland, and the result was his book Folkomröstningsinstitutet i den schweiziska demokratien (“The Institution of the Popular Vote and Swiss Democracy” 1923). This study, which has unfortunately not been translated into any major language, is superior to anything else that has been written on the subject; especially remarkable is its analysis of the relationships between politics and the history of ideas.

As a professor, Brusewitz did a great deal of research on the relative position of the government and the Riksdag in matters of foreign policy. He wrote on the secret consultative committee in the 1809 constitution, the Scandinavian foreign committee, and the handling of foreign affairs in the Swedish Riksdag (1933–1941).

Brusewitz was a specialist in English parliamentary history, but his only published work on the subject was a brilliant little article on Palmerston (1944). For many years he accumulated data on Swedish political history—entries in diaries, letters, and other documents on recent political history— materials that are invaluable for further research, but which Brusewitz himself never used for the full-length biographies he had planned.

Brusewitz was a notable teacher. His authoritative, lucid summaries of seminar discussions were masterly. Perhaps even more important was his role as inspirer and adviser in private conferences with his students. Few teachers can have given so much time and interest to this work of guidance, and few can so fully have won their friends’ and students’ gratitude and warm personal devotion. Brusewitz edited the journal of the Political Science Society of Uppsala (the Skrifter of the Statsvetenskapliga Föreningen i Uppsala); it is excellent proof of the way in which he stimulated and led his students. It contains a large part of recent Swedish political science.

It can truly be said that, as a result of Brusewitz’ work, Swedish political science is on a high level. The language barrier was the only thing that prevented his work as a scholar and teacher from achieving international importance.

Among the characteristics that gave Brusewitz stature as a man and as a scientist were his independence and self-reliance. When as a young man he did pioneering scientific work on the origin of the Swedish constitution and at the same time set parliamentary democracy in its historical context, he was also acting in terms of his intellectual and political radicalism and breaking with the conservative dogmas that had ruled the political science of the time. He was prominent as an enemy of traditional notions and was often regarded as something of a revolutionary and troublemaker, retaining this Jacobin trait all his life. Lacking respect for authority in all its forms, he invariably spoke his mind; no one found the doctrines of the modern dictators more reprehensible. But his seemingly strong and simple personality was not without complexities, and thoughts about transience, futility, and emptiness were always with him.

Herbert Tingsten


1913 Representationsfrågan vid 1809–10 ārs Riksdag. Uppsala: Berling.

1917 Studier öfver 1809 års författinngskris: Den idépolitiska motsättningen. Uppsala: Akademiska Bokhandeln.

1923 Folkomröstningsinstitutet i den schweiziska demokratien. Sweden, Statens offentliga utredningar 10. → The entire volume is devoted to Brusewitz’s work.

1933–1941 Studier över riksdagen ock utrikespolitiken. 3 vols. Uppsala and Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell. → Volume 1: Hemliga utskottet i 1809 års författinng, 1933. Volume 2: Nordiska utrikesnämnder i komparativ belysning, 1933. Volume 3: Utrikesfrågors behandling i den svenska riksdagen, 1941.

1944 Palmerston blir preiärminister (Palmerston Becomes Prime Minister). Pages 83–139 in Statsvetenskapliga Föreningen i Uppsala, Statsvetenskapliga studien. Skrifter No. 20. Uppsala and Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell.


Statsvetenskapliga Föreningen i Uppsala Skrifter. → Published since 1933.