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The Institute of Urban History

Stockholm, Sweden

The Institute of Urban History was founded in 1919 as a section of the Confederation of Swedish Towns. The initiative came from the confederation. Organizer and driving force was Yngve Larsson who in this project worked together with the historians Nils Herlitz and Nils Ahnlund. The contacts between the institute and the academic world were close from the very beginning and grew successively stronger. In 1953 a chair designed for urban history was established in Stockholm, and the Professor of urban history was also to hold the position as director of the institute.

The institute is today a part of the Swedish Association of Local Authorities but localized to the Department of History at Stockholm University. The association, the university and the City of Stockholm are each financing one third of the chair in urban history.

There are two permanent positions at the institute today: the director who also is Professor in Urban History and a full-time research assistent. Besides, a varying number of researchers and others are for special projects and purpuses engaged on a non-permanent basis. The institute has a board - Urban History Board - of seven members. Four of these members are appointed by the Swedish Association of Local Authorities. Stockholm university appoints one member and the other two are elected by the Urban History Association.

The Urban History Association is a meeting-place for professional historians and people outside the universities with interest for urban, municipal and local history. All members are elected by the board of the Swedish Association of Local Authorities after nomination by the institute or the Urban History Board. The Urban History association has about 200 members.

The main purpose of the institute is to promote research and stimulate interest in urban, municipal and local history. This goal is realized through a wide range of different measures.

* The institute has organized an Urban History Group including a network for local historians who meet once or twice a year to discuss joint research questions and other issues as well. The group consists of urban and local historians from Sweden and other Nordic countries.

* Since the mid-1950s the institute has been a member of the International Commission for the History of Towns (La Commision Internationale pour l`Historie des Villes). The institute is also a partner in the European Association for Urban Historians and collaborates with many departments and researchers all over Europe and beyond, among others the Center for Urban History at Leicester University.

* The institute cooperates regularly with urban historians and institutes for local history in Denmark, Finland and Norway. Since 1973 seminars on Nordic local history are arranged every third year.

* The institute tries to be a link between the academic world and local historians outside the universities. The Urban History Association is one of several channels for promoting cooperation between professional and non-professional historians.

* Close collaboration has developed with the Committee for Documentation on Stockholm (Kommittén för Stockholmsforskning). Together we produced and published a jubilee book in two columes when Stockholm celebrated its 750 years of existence in 2002. Future research is directed towards Migration to Stockholm throughout the years.

* The institute can give service and advice to towns as well as rural municipalities that are preparing or working whith their local history.

* The institute has arranged conferences, given series of lectures and in other ways cooperated with the National Association for the Preservation of Local Nature and Culture (Svenska Hembygdsförbundet) and the National Association`s regional section for Stockholm County (Stockholms läns hembygdsförbund).

* Ever since the start in 1919 the institute has organized, registered and published source material on the history of Swedish towns. One result is the six volume series Privileges, resolutions, statutes and by-laws for Swedish towns. The volumes have been published between 1923 and 1985. Together they cover the period from 1251 up to 1632.

* Another way to facilitate the use of source material has been to build up a register with references to medieval diploma, parliamentary documents, royal letters addressed to the towns, and correspondence between Central Authorities and the towns. The register covers the period 1561 to 1923 and is available at microfiche at the National Archives in Stockholm.

* The institute owns a large collection of abstracts from daily newspapers during the period 1910 to 1960. These abstracts give a lot of information about local politics in Swedish towns. Most of the material reflects the debates in the town councils.

* The institute has initiated the building of a database containing population figures for all Swedish towns and other urban localities. Part of the material is published in Urban Historical Statistics, volume 1-3.

* The institute presents information on Internet (CyberCity) for every Swedish town on their history, population development, economic structure, municipal elections and so on.

* The institute has regularly published bibliographies of Swedish urban, municpial and local history. This has been an on-going task since 1919. Review of Urban and Municipal History (Revy över stads- och kommunhistoria) is the bibliographical publication. Nowadays this information is given on the CyberCity-website. Besides the institute has published bibliographies on Swedish urban history in English.

* The director and the assistent conduct their own research in the field of comparative urban history. Research is also carried out by Ph.D. students and others as well for specific projects.

* The institute has three different series for the publication of research results: Studies in urban history (Studier i stads- och kommunhistoria), Local history (Lokalhistoria) and Urban Historical Statistics (Historisk tätortsstatistik).


Previous directors of the Institute

Professor Nils Herlitz 1919-1927
Professor Nils Ahnlund 1927-1936
Professor Folke Lindberg 1936-1970
Professor Ingrid Hammarström 1970-1989
Professor Christer Winberg 1989-1990


Actual Staff

Professor Heiko Droste

Research assistents:
PhD Mats Berglund
FM Nils Fabiansson

Affiliated professors:

Professor Lars Nilsson
Professor Sven Lilja

Institute of Urban History
Department of History
Stockholm University


The Institute of Urban History | Director: Heiko Droste | Last update: 19-aug-15