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The State of Publication on Early Modern Scandinavia

25 November 2012

Those who know me and/or my academic life well may know that my main backburner interest is in Scandinavia. It popped us relatively late in my working out my academic goals, as an interesting and often-overlooked corner of the early modern world that seems like it might bear a little scrutiny. Scandinavian history was always one of those casual interests of mine, a topic I would gladly read about but probably not study, though there was a time when I considered making the Christianisation of northern Europe (Iceland and the islands of the North Sea in particular) the  topic of my graduate study. Recently, with a mind to doing some reading that was still academic but not wholly focused on my dissertation, I began doing some off-time research into Scandinavian intellectual history.

To my considerable disappointment, if less considerable surprise, I have found it to be an utter lacuna, not only in English-language scholarship, but also French and (perhaps most surprisingly) German. I have located barely an article or book in any of the three dealing specifically with the topic and only a handful relating to it. I have tracked down a single scholar working on the topic and publishing in English, Thomas Munck, of the University of Glasgow. Unsurprisingly, there is a relative wealth of publication on the topic in the local languages but the availability of material in, say, Swedish is not especially helpful to me. I must admit myself confused at the presence of such a mighty lacuna in Early Modern intellectual scholarship. What little I have, over the years, gleaned from other sources about the Scandinavian intellectual landscape in the period suggests that much of interest was going on. Lutheran orthodoxy, the rise of the absolutist state, the interactions of traditional and Europeanised laws, the list of topics open to fruitful research is great. Why more scholars are not engaged by these questions is beyond me, especially given the great interest in earlier periods in the region (my own university has a sub-department and MLitt offered in ‘Scandinavian Studies’ that could readily be termed instead ‘Viking Studies’).

So, I suppose I looking to put the question out there: why such a dearth of publication on early modern Scandinavia?

Oh, and if you can direct me towards some good recent publication(s) on the topic, please don’t hesitate to do so.

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