30th Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval Studies
Fordham University, Lincoln Center, New York City: March 27-28, 2010

Erika Harlitz, "The Influence of Nationalism on the Interpretative Frameworks of the Medieval Scandinavian State and Urbanization Processes. Case Study: The Town of Lödöse"

The proposal for the Fordham University conference New Directions in Medieval Scandinavian Studies addresses the influence of the paradigm of the national state on the interpretation of the medieval Scandinavian processes of state formation and urbanization. It is based on my dissertation, which reinterprets the development of the Swedish town of Lödöse.

The town of Lödöse existed from the middle of the 11th century to 1646, when its town charter was revoked. During its entire existence, Lödöse was located in a disputed border area between the emerging kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. After the peace of Roskilde in 1658, this border area has been a part of west Sweden. The paradigm of the national state has weighed heavily on the interpretation of the region. In historical research, Danish as well as Norwegian historians have disregarded it due to the fact that it belongs to Sweden. Swedish historical research regards it as a backwater to the core region of modern Sweden – Lake Mälaren and Stockholm.

Previously, medieval Lödöse has been interpreted as a power manifestation of the Swedish kings against their Norwegian counterparts. The distinguishing features of the town – f.ex. its early foundation and evidence of minting – has been classified as anomalies within the interpretative framework of the national state. However, when the boundaries of the national state are disregarded and the border region viewed as a common arena for medieval Scandinavian politics, economic activities and culture, a different pattern emerges, from which Lödöse no longer deviates. By using archaeological research results as well as medieval diplomæ and Norse sagas, it is possible to conclude that Lödöse originally was founded within the urbanization process of east Norway and only gradually came under Swedish sovereignty as the Swedish kingdom expanded its territories.

The disregard of the paradigm of the national state and the use of multidisciplinary sources enable shedding new light on the process of Scandinavian state formation as well as urbanization, providing new answers to the question of the medieval origins of the modern states of Denmark, Norway and Sweden.


Last modified: Oct. 13, 2009
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