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The American Way? Swedish-American returnees in local Swedish politics during the 1920s

Publiceringsår: 2005
Språk: Engelska
Dokumenttyp: Konferensbidrag


Swedish emigration to America is a topic that does not hold a major position in Swedish historical research anymore. At one time, during the 1960s and 1970s, there were a major research project, Sweden and America after 1860, that focused primarily on the reasons of the migration, the demographics of the migration and to some extent what happened to the emigrants in America. The research project did however neglect a very important aspect of the migration, namely the return migration of over 200 000 Swedes to Sweden from America. In my ongoing dissertation I am investigating the lives and actions of over 1500 returnees to the Bjäre peninsula in Skåne in southern Sweden between 1860 and 1939.

The paper I am proposing deals with one aspect of the Swedish return migration, namely the political activities of the returnees at the local level. My paper focuses on two different kinds of political activities, both the participation in the local elections and the composition of the local government boards. I am comparing the political activities of the returnees with the non-migrant population in two rural districts and one township. My paper deals with the following questions and more. Does the returnees’ participation in the local elections differ from that of the non-emigrants? Does the returnees run for office more often than the non-migrant population, and if so, how does this affect the local politics? Is there a difference between the genders? Previous Swedish research indicates that there might be a connection between female migration to America and the emancipation of women. If this were the case, it would seem reasonable for the female returnees to be more politically active than the female non-migrants.

My paper focuses on the 1920s because of three things. The first two are based on the contents of the new local government laws that were passed on December 23rd 1918. The first is the voting regulations given by the new laws. The new laws gave every adult person age 23 and older that had paid their taxes and was not living on welfare equal voting rights in the local elections. Prior to that, every person, male or female, and every company that paid taxes got to vote in local elections. Each voter got a number of votes, between 1 and 40, dependant on how much taxes they paid. The second is the fact that the new laws dramatically increased the number of positions to be elected to, by stating that every rural district with more than 1500 inhabitants had to have a municipal council as well as the older local government committee. The last thing that has made me focus on the 1920s is the fact that the number of returnees were at it’s peak at this time, thus making this an excellent time period to study the effects of return migration on politics at a local level.


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