Reading and writing from below

This project focuses on the roles played by the written word in the everyday lives of ordinary people during “the long nineteenth century” (roughly from the French Revolution to the First World War), not just the ability to read and write but rather the processes and practices involved in the production of texts, the ways they were distributed and read by others.

By building bridges between disciplines as diverse as history, folklore, ethnology, literature and language studies the project seeks to provide new insights into the way people with no or little access to formal education entered the world of writing.

Nordic societies underwent enormous changes in the 19th century, experiencing a rapid rise to welfare, and there is today a strong emphasis on education and respect for literary expression in Nordic culture. Research into these developments will enhance the understanding and appreciation of present-day people of the experiences of their forebears, and the writings – diaries, memoirs, letters, hand-written newspapers, song books and so on – which lie hidden in archives and private collections are a wonder in themselves.

The project webside