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Nordic National Histories in Comparative European Perspective

b. 1964, D. Phil 1990, Professor of Social History at Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany, and director of the Institute for Social Movements, Ruhr-Universität Bochum.

In this article, some tentative conclusions are drawn on the relationship between history writing and national identity formation in the Scandinavian countries in the period from the eighteenth century to the present day. It is based on the results of a European Science Foundation programme on the writing of national histories in Europe and of accompanying publications, in particular the eight-volume book series ‘Writing the Nation’ published by Palgrave Macmillan between 2008 and 2015.

Nordic National Histories in Comparative European Perspective

In this article, some tentative conclusions are drawn on the relationship between history writing and national identity formation in the Scandinavian countries in the period from the eighteenth century to the present day. It is based on the results of a European Science Foundation programme on the writing of national histories in Europe and of accompanying publications, in particular the eight-volume book series ‘Writing the Nation’ published by Palgrave Macmillan between 2008 and 2015. While not an expert on Scandinavian history, the author relates his view of developments in Scandinavia to more general developments in Europe, in so doing emphasising both differences and similarities with the Scandinavian countries. Moving from a discussion of Enlightenment historiography to Romanticism and increasing professionalisation of the historical sciences in the second half of the nineteenth century, the impact of two world wars and the crisis of liberalism in interwar Europe are discussed in connection with the historiographical position of Scandinavian countries during the Cold War and post-Cold War period. The article looks in particular at the question of borderlands and the issue of Scandinavianism. With due attention given to both institutionalisation and professionalisation of the historical sciences, the article deals with the diverse ways in which historical writing underpinned the development of national identity in Scandinavian countries.

Keywords: nationalism, historiography, Scandinavianism, Europe.
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