Micro meets macro: Peasant diaries and the transformation of Sweden 1840-1920

Last changed: 04 April 2023
The main building of the farm Hyttbäcken. Photo.

The project studies a local rural context and its members over the agricultural and industrial revolutions using peasant diaries and other sources. It addresses our overall view of societal transformations generally, this period specifically, and the role of the people living their lives in the midst of change.

In the project, we use source material and methodologies on the micro level, following individuals, families and communities, and relate them to changes at the macro-level. Merging these levels on a number of different areas into a synthesis, we create a whole encompassing and holistic understanding of people and change during one of the most important societal transformation periods in Sweden.

Focus is on six peasant diary-writing farms situated within 10 km in the mining district of Bergslagen, their knowledge, network, subsistence, agriculture, economy and labour during c. 1840-1920. The uniqueness of the source material lies in both that it provides accounts from different actors with different socio-economic conditions all sharing the same community and outside context, and in that it provides perspectives lacking in any other source material.

One important contribution will be to discuss whether the rural society should be regarded as a traditional setting with a reluctance to change, only changing when exposed to external forces, or as a potentially dynamic side of the society responding and creating change supplementary to urban change and development abroad. Or perhaps both.

The work is structured into three interconnected sub-studies and one synthesis. The sub-studies are:

  1. Provision, work and natural resources 
  2. Living conditions and socio-economic relations 
  3. Networks and knowledge.



Project leader

Patrick Svensson, Professor, Division of Agrarian History, SLU

Project participants

Janken Myrdal, Professor Emeritus, Division of Agrarian History, SLU
Send an e-mail to: janken.myrdal@slu.se

Anna Westin, Researcher, SLU Biodiversity Centre
Read more on Anna Westin's CV page
Send an e-mail to: anna.westin@slu.se 

Sofia Carlfjord, Doctoral Student, Division of Agrarian History, SLU
Send an e-mail to: sofia.carlfjord@slu.se

Tommy Lennartsson, Researcher, SLU Swedish Biodiversity Centre
Read more on Tommy Lennartsson's CV page
Send an e-mail to: tommy.lennartsson@slu.se

Cristina Prytz, Researcher, Division of Agrarian History, SLU
Read more on Cristina Prytz's CV page
Send an e-mail to: cristina.prytz@slu.se

Project time


External funding

Swedish Research Council / Vetenskapsrådet