C – Mobilities, migrations, and transnational actors

Dubious cross-border activities? Mobile traders and the transfer of goods and ideas in the Nordic region in the 18th and 19th centuries

Event Details

  • Date

    Thursday, 25 June - 13:00 – 15:00

  • Venue
    tba
  • Theme
    C – Mobilities, migrations, and transnational actors
Convenor
  • Johanna Wassholm (Åbo Akademi University)
  • Anna Sundelin (Åbo Akademi University)
Chair
  • Laura Hollsten (Åbo Akademi University)
Commentator
  • Antje Dietze (Leipzig University)
Panelists
  • Anna Knutsson (European University Institute)
  • Pia Lundqvist (Gothenburg University)
  • Johanna Wassholm (Åbo Akademi University)
  • Anna Sundelin (Åbo Akademi University)

Papers

  • Anna Knutsson
    Smuggling minorities. Contraband trade in the Scandinavian borderlands at the turn of the 18th century

    Smuggling minorities. Contraband trade in the Scandinavian borderlands at the turn of the 18th century

    The circulation of global goods in 18th century Scandinavia was facilitated by transnational minority groups which through their trading activities connected the various national markets. This paper will pay particular attention to two such minority groups: Jewish traders, with transnational family networks, and Westgothian pedlars, with high levels of mobility and transport acumen. Both of these two trading groups were trading under specific regulations and restrictions, which affected how they conducted trade. Building on previous research on the porousness of the Nordic borders, this paper focuses on the mechanics of smuggling and considers how these groups and their networks enabled and profited from smuggling, but also how they could work together combining their strengths: trade networks and mobility to connect different Scandinavian economic spaces.
  • Pia Lundqvist
    Transnational connections and nationalistic discourse. Policy and debates on itinerant trade in 19th century Sweden

    Transnational connections and nationalistic discourse. Policy and debates on itinerant trade in 19th century Sweden

    There were several categories of pedlars in Sweden the 19th century, of which trading peasants from the province of Västergötland were the most important. They distributed textiles and other consumer goods to all of Sweden and to its neighbouring countries, not least Norway. Their most important article was cotton fabrics produced in their own region from imported yarn. The trade with illegally imported foreign goods can be seen as an additional form of their cross-border relations. Another category of pedlars were Jews, a group who increased from the 1860s due to immigration from Russia and Poland. Even if the legislation aimed at protecting Swedish trade and production, peddling was – in practice – a transnational activity, oriented towards the outside world in various ways. In the last decades of the century protectionism and nationalism grew stronger in Sweden. This shift can be observed in antisemitic campaigns against trading Jews and a discriminatory legislation against foreign pedlars, who were considered to threaten the nation. It is, however, interesting that similar criticism and arguments seem to have been used against the Westgothian pedlars in the early 19th century as against the Jewish pedlars in the 1880s and 1890s. This paper will investigate and compare these debates on itinerant trade in relation to the idea of national welfare.
  • Johanna Wassholm
    Cross-border trade and the transfer of dangerous ideas? Images of itinerant traders from Russia in the Finnish press in the “first period of Russification”, 1899–1905

    Cross-border trade and the transfer of dangerous ideas? Images of itinerant traders from Russia in the Finnish press in the “first period of Russification”, 1899–1905

    Itinerant peddlers from Russia – ethnic Russians, Karelians and Muslim Tatars – played an important role in petty trade in the late nineteenth century Finland, which since 1809 constituted an autonomous Grand Duchy within the multiethnic Russian Empire. Although Russian subjects like the Finns, the traders lacked citizenship rights in the Grand Duchy and were in practice treated as foreigners by Finnish law, forcing their trade into a grey-zone between legal and illegal. From the late 1860s, a political conflict developed between the Grand Duchy and the Russian central authorities, culminating with the proclamation of the February Manifesto in 1899. This formally abolished Finnish autonomy and set off the so-called “first period of Russification” (1899–1905). This paper explores the relations between the Finns and mobile traders from Russia within the framework of political conflict. Finnish press launched a campaign targeting the traders, depicting them as “agents” of the anti-Finnish Russian regime and accusing them of spreading false rumors about land division among the lower strata of Finnish society. Using primarily Finnish newspapers as sources, the paper asks which mechanisms the press used to create enemy images and which differences can be discerned between the images created of various trading groups, such as the Orthodox Karelians and Russians and the Muslim Tatars. Doing this, the paper exemplifies how seemingly peaceful border-crossing activities can easily become problematized in times of political conflict.
  • Anna Sundelin
    Luscious locks on the move: Finland as part of the late nineteenth century transnational human hair trade

    Luscious locks on the move: Finland as part of the late nineteenth century transnational human hair trade

    This paper examines the trade in human hair in Finland, which from 1809 was an autonomous Grand Duchy within the multinational Russian Empire. In similarity to other regions in Europe and North America, the demand for human hair as an impersonal commodity increased in Finland around the year 1870. The Finnish newspapers report that itinerant peddlers from Russian Karelia (so called “Rucksack Russians”) female hair artists from the region of Dalarna in Sweden (hårkullor) and peddling Finnish and Swedish Jews, among others, roamed the countryside and town fairs in search for human hair. Based on theories on trading practices, gender and transnational flows of goods, the main aim of this paper is to discuss how and why trade in human hair was carried out in Finland in the late nineteenth century. The paper examines the activities of the buyers and sellers, the various roles of hair in petty trade and the practices that surrounded the trade. By demonstrating how hair purchased in Finland was part of both national and transnational flows of goods, the paper also shows that hair traded in Finland in the end of the nineteenth century was part of a European fashion market.

Abstract

Modernization and globalization in the 18th and 19th centuries led to a growing demand on consumer goods, not least among the lower strata of society. This was also the case in the Nordic region, where the growing demand was met by a multitude of trading activities. Some groups of newcomers, e.g. Jews, were invited to the region in order to renew and develop trade, other groups turned up “uninvited”. Simultaneously, the growing trade offered new means of livelihood to people belonging to marginalized groups in society already residing in the region, among them ethnic minorities. With a multitude of mobile traders, goods and ideas active in society, the changing situation also caused frictions and conflicts of various sorts. This session explores various aspects of cross-border mobility and encounters in the Nordic region in the 18th and 19th centuries, the driving force behind of which was trade. The mobility led to transfers of people, goods and ideas across regions and states, affecting both material and social life. While some of the activities were within the borders of legality, the papers in this session focus on such aspects that were in some respect dubious from the perspective of the authorities (e.g. legally or morally) who strived at controlling society. The session assembles four papers that approach dubious cross-border trading activities. Anna Knutsson’s paper examines contraband trade in the Scandinavian borderlands at the turn of the 18th century. She focuses on two mobile minority groups, Jewish traders and Westgothian peddlers, both of which traded under specific regulations and restrictions. The paper asks which mechanisms affected smuggling, how the two groups and their networks enabled and profited from smuggling and how they could work together. Anna Sundelin  investigates the cross-border trade in human hair in Finland in the theoretical context of trading practices and gender. The demand for human hair increased globally from the 1860s and various groups of traders, e.g. peddlers from Russian Karelia, female hair artists from Dalarna in Sweden and Finnish and Swedish Jews, among others, were reported to roam Finland in search of human hair. The paper discusses how and why trade in human hair was carried out and the moral values associated with trade in hair as an impersonal commodity. Pia Lundqvist’s paper explores mobile trade within the framework of strengthening Swedish protectionism and nationalism in the late 19th century. Focusing on two groups of itinerant traders –peasants from the province of Västergötland and immigrant Jews from Russia and Poland – the paper examines the criticism and arguments directed towards the activities of the two groups and places these debates in relation to the idea of national welfare. Johanna Wassholm explores how itinerant traders from Russia were associated with the spreading of potentially dangerous rumors and ideas in Finland during the “first period of Russification” (1899–1905). During the political conflict, Finnish press launched a campaign targeting the traders who were depicted as “agents” of the anti-Finnish Russian regime. The paper discusses which mechanisms the press used to create an enemy image, illustrating how seemingly peaceful cross-border activities easily become problematized in times of political conflict.