Urban Encounters: Mobility, Migration and Networks in Premodern Scandinavia

The research and public outreach project Urban Encounters – Mobility, Migration and Networks in Premodern Scandinavia explores new perspectives of research into premodern urbanism in northern Europe (1000-1700 AD). Urban Encounters is funded by the Velux Foundation and is a collaborative project between Museum of Copenhagen, Odense City Museums, The Nya Lödöse project in Gothenburg (The National Historical Museums (SHMM) and their collaborators Bohusläns Museum, Museum of Gothenburg and RIO Gothenburg) and Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet) at Aarhus University. The project runs over a period of 4 years starting 1 January 2016.

Urban Encounters investigates the establishment and development of towns trough the vast material brought to light in the large excavations conducted in Odense, Copenhagen and Nya Lödöse in the recent years. The size of the projects and the new scientific methods used during the excavations provide a unique opportunity for comparative and contextualised analysis of the premodern urbanisation. Through a broad understanding of the concepts “migration”, “mobility” and “networks”, Urban Encounters aims to explore ways of studying urbanism through tracing different types of actors, meetings, practices and networks in the material culture and seeing how these affected the urban places.

The multitude of encounters taking place in the towns is part of what makes towns and town life different from life in other places. To see the town as an instrument or catalyst for meetings between people gives a perspective which puts people, their motivations and experiences in focus. This is an aspect of the study of premodern urbanism which holds great potential but is in need of further attention.

The following research questions are central to the project:

  • How can urbanisation be seen in the material culture of the three towns?
  • Is it possible to trace urban identities and life forms in the archeological record?
  • How is the town as a meeting place expressed in the archaeological record?
  • How has migration and peopling of the town contributed to the shaping of an urban identity and way of life?

The first three questions relate to the extensive archeological material from the three excavations, while the fourth puts the results into perspective according to recent research on migration and identity.

Concrete output:

  • 2 PhD projects by Museum of Copenhagen and Odense City Museums, both hosted by Centre for Urban Network Evolutions. o Towards the making of a town and its inhabitants – a study of urbanity seen as practice and life form in early and high medieval Copenhagen By Hanna Dahlström o An Urban way of Life – Urban practices, networks and identities in Odense from AD 1100-1500. By Kirstine Haase.
  • Two international conferences with the central themes of the project as focal points. The first conference Towns as Meeting Places will be held 13-14 October 2016.
  • Four peer-reviewed articles written in collaboration between participants of the project.
  • Dissemination of the research results through videnskab.dk.
  • Teaching materials and courses.
  • Development of a mobile museum with place specific, digital and artefact based dissemination elements.

Investigators: Professor MSO Søren M. Sindbæk, PhD student Kirstine Haase, PhD student Hanna Dahlström