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Historisk tidskrift 126:2 • 2006

Innehåll (Contents) 2006:2

Uppsatser (Articles)

Den internationella historiens uppgång och fall Trender inom svensk internationell historieforskning 1950–2005

Stefan Eklöf Amirell

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The Rise and Decline of International History: Trends in Swedish International Historical Research, 1950–2005

This article investigates how Swedish historical research on international subjects has fluctuated since the mid-twentieth century. It does so by looking at the share of doctoral theses on international topics as well as the share of essays dealing with international subjects in Historisk tidskrift and the research interests of Sweden’s 46 current professors in history. The interest in international history expanded in the 1960s and, especially, in the 1970s, when more than a quarter of all doctoral theses and more than a third of the essays in Historisk tidskrift were concerned with international subject matters. The expansion in the 1970s was mainly due to a rising interest in non-European history, influenced by contemporary international developments in the post-war era. This interest declined in the following decade, but was partly offset by a rising interest in European history, especially at Lund University.

In contrast to non-European history, European history managed to establish itself within the history discipline towards the end of the twentieth century and is relatively well represented among the country s professors in history today. No professor, however, has a primary or even secondary interest in non-European history. The failure of non-European history to consolidate its position can be explained by a combination of structural factors, including the allocation of research funding in the 1990s and the system for evaluating academic qualifications, as well as alienation on the part of Swedish historians interested in non- European history.

In the first years of the twenty-first century, the share of doctoral theses on international (both European and non-European) topics declined even further. The intense debates about, and criticism against, the history discipline in Sweden in the 1990s led to an increased focus on popular publications about Swedish history, and, moreover, the 1997 reform of the Swedish post-graduate education system caused some history departments to become more restrictive in admitting post-graduate candidates interested in subjects outside the departments main research areas. The rising interest in globalisation studies in the social sciences in the past decades, on the other hand, has tended to regard longer historical perspectives as irrelevant, thereby marginalising the history discipline. Despite the increasing importance of global processes and transnational phenomena, therefore, Swedish historians have a stronger focus on national history today than at any point in time since the middle of the last century.


historiography, history of education