COLONIES AND METROPOLE Michael Bregnsbo, Niels Brimnes, Anne Folke Henningsen, Poul Erik Olsen, Mikkel Venborg Pedersen og Uffe Østergård Danmark – En kolonimagt Gads Forlag, 2017, 480 pages Colonial history is a ?ield that has developed rapidly in the Nordic countries since the start of the new millennium.1 Old myths of the Nordic countries as the innocent bystanders of European colonialism have been comprehensively challenged, as have ideas of the Nordic countries as “good colonists”, pursuing a more benign form of overseas expansion compared to the major European powers like Britain, France and Germany.2 As Magdalena Naum and Jonas M. Nordin wrote in their introduction to an anthology published in 2013, “colonialism in its many forms was part of the very fabric of the North European societies”, driven by the same motives as those operating in other parts of Europe: the pursuit of pro?it and political power.3 That the colonial ambitions of the Danish and Swedish kingdoms were only ever partly realised does not diminish the importance of researching them, and historians have also studied Nordic participation in informal colonialism, including trade and missionary activities.4 The reasons for this interest are not hard to ?ind. The idea of Norden as a European periphery is no longer sustainable, if indeed it ever was. Almost half a century of mass immigration, including from non-European societies, and the debates about ethnic pluralism and cultural “otherness” that this has provoked, have focused attention on this further. Within history as an academic discipline, the rising interest in transnational and global history, with its emphasis on the importance of links, connections and interactions across national borders, has also had an in?luence.5 As Gunlög Fur has noted, however, where the Nordic countries 1 Also in ?ields other than history: see for example Larsen and Thisted, ‘Preface’, on postcolonial studies in Denmark. I would like to thank David Harvey, Hanna Hodacs, Magdalena Naum and Andrew Newby for their comments on an earlier draft. Any remaining mistakes and omissions are of course my own. 2 Ipsen and Fur: ‘Introduction’. 3 Naum and Nordin: ‘Introduction’, 5. On the scale of Danish colonial ambitions, see also Jónsson: ‘Denmark-Norway’. 4 See for example Rydén: ‘Från Gammelbo’. Rydén traces how iron exports connected Sweden to the Atlantic slave economy from the mid-seventeenth century. For some interesting re?lections on Nordic “colonial complicity”, see Vuorela: ‘Colonial Complicity’; Palmberg, ‘The Nordic Colonial Mind’. 5 See for example Müller, Rydén and Weiss: Global historia. The challenge of global history has been debated in the context of Swedish history. See Amirell: ’Den världshistoriska vändningen’, and subsequent debate articles in the same journal.
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