History professor given prestigious assignment

22 January 2020

“It is an honour to have been given this position of trust,” says Professor Maria Ågren on her admission to the distinguished professor programme.

Maria Ågren, professor of history, has been awarded a distinguished professor grant of SEK 50 million over 10 years by the Swedish Research Council. The council awarded grants totalling some SEK 380 million to eight applicants.

In the words of the Swedish Research Council, the aim of the distinguished professor programme is “to create conditions for the most prominent researchers to conduct long-term, ground-breaking research with great potential for achieving scientific breakthroughs”.

Maria Ågren, professor at the Department of History, has been awarded SEK 50 million until 2029 in order to develop the research project Methodological and conceptual development for a history focused on everyday practices of work.

“It is both an honour and somewhat of a responsibility to have been given this position of trust.”

“Writing a better history”

The project will utilise modern techniques such as relational databases and handwritten text recognition (editor’s note: a digital method based on image analysis and linguistics). The project also aims to challenging existing explanatory models, which have largely emphasised developments in the Anglo-Saxon world and ignored the work done by women. Maria Ågren expands on the purpose of the project:

Methodological and conceptual development for a history focused on everyday practices of work may sound somewhat dry; however, it is a matter of writing a better history of the emergence of modern society. We go back to the eighteenth century and attempt to chart and understand how people made a living – that is, what they did – in order to explain societal development.

Time to develop ideas together

Maria Ågren believes that the greatest benefit of the grant is that she and her colleagues will have the opportunity to further develop their ideas and methods together, without the need to apply for new grants. They will have more time to concentrate on answering their research questions.

“I am a great believer in conducting humanistic research in groups, rather than sitting alone in one’s chamber. I am looking forward to working with my colleagues; not only those at the Department of History but also at other departments of the university, as well as elsewhere in the world.

According to the call guidelines, the grant, which is divided over a ten-year period, “shall also enable the establishment and build-up of a major research environment of the highest quality around a leading researcher”. In the judgement of the Swedish Research Council, the project will enrich the already existing eminent interdisciplinary research environment in the field of early modern history at Uppsala University.

“We must not rest on our laurels; rather, we should be looking to further improve the environment by inviting more visiting researchers and developing our database. I am looking forward to continued collaboration with the university’s accomplished language technicians, image analysts and archaeologists.”

Finally, what results to you hope to achieve with the project?
“I hope that we will achieve the objective of writing a ‘better history’; that is, a history that better explains how women and men have contributed to societal development through their work practices.”