Postdoctoral Researcher, Doctor of Social Sciences Forsberg Henrik

152300 €

Famines in Scales: Comparative perspectives on Northern European harvest failures in the 1860s

Tieteellinen tutkimus / siihen pohjautuva työ | Nelivuotinen

The 1860s is often characterised as a transformative period in terms of statebuilding, but for northern Europe this was also an era of hardship brought on by extreme weather conditions that caused crops to fail and, in some places, led to famine. The famine in northern Sweden’s Västerbotten county standout in terms of magnitude and intensity in a Swedish context, yet this famine dwarfs in comparison to the nation-wide famine in neighboring Finland. The aim of this research project is to understand the Swedish famine process, and how and why Sweden diverged from its closest neighbors. The aim is achieved by completing three mutually complementary objectives. The Swedish famine process will be investigated as a multicausal phenomenon on local and regional level, with a focus on differences in vulnerability, and short- and long-term demographic, economic, and institutional effects in its core famished region, ie Västerbotten county. In collaboration with researchers at Umeå Center for Demographic and Ageing Research I will use rich Swedish primary sources and the demographic database POPLINK, combining qualitative and quantitative methods. These results will then be contextualized through a comparison to other regions across the Baltic Sea, by applying Howe's famine magnitude and intensity scales. Consequently, the project advances several research frontiers. Primarily, it challenges the theoretical dichotomy of categorizing famine causation as either natural "Malthusian" -related or a man-made "Senian" political economy -related. Secondly, by focusing on peripheral regions, in contrast to nation-states core regions, new and hitherto unnoticed famine experiences, regional development trajectories and regionally distinctive resilience mechanisms will come to the fore. Finally, a better understanding of the famine process in the Swedish kingdom will improve the analysis of famine and relief policies in neighboring countries across the Baltic sea.