The emergence and development of parliamentary political culture in Scandinavia in the 19th Century - A pathway to sustainable democracy?

Name of applicant

Jesper Lundsby Skov


University of Oslo


DKK 1,409,603



Type of grant

Reintegration Fellowships


The project investigates the emergence and development of a democratic political culture in the Scandinavian parliaments in the 19th century. The Scandinavian democracies showed remarkable resilience against the extreme challenges to democracy in the 1930s. This distinctiveness points to the experiences of the 19th century as the formative period when a parliamentary political culture evolved that was constitutive to democratic development. The central hypothesis is that this democratic political culture in Scandinavia evolved as an unintended result of the political responses to significant political crises during the 19th century. In other words, the project will explain how democratic sustainability in Scandinavia was a contingent phenomenon embedded in a democratic political culture.


Exactly why the Scandinavian democracies developed into stable and viable democracies is not well understood. The traditional themes in political history have focused on the expansion of the electorate, the democratization of the constitution, and the extreme groupings on both the left and the right that were explicitly hostile to democracy. However, the importance of political norms and behavior in creating a democratic political culture has been overlooked. It is only by revisiting the deep and significant political conflicts in Scandinavian parliaments in the 19th century that it is possible to discern important patterns in how political norms helped create sustainable democracies in Scandinavia.


The project applies methods from both conceptual and cultural history to make an innovative approach to studying political culture as an integral part of democratic history. By using conceptual history, the project examines how important politicians interpreted the concept of "politics" in different parliamentarian crises and settings. It is, however, also crucial to study how politicians actually behaved. The project explores how politicians in Scandinavian parliaments treated their political opponents during political crises, heated debates, and fierce opposition. In these moments of contestation, political norms and concepts are challenged and sometimes altered, creating a new political culture.

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