Curriculum Vitae Survey Scientific Team Bibliography Links

 

                           

Michael Harbsmeier

Denmark

Contact

 


 

 I. Autobiographies and memoirs

Two recent publications about Danish autobiographies include a bibliography of more than five hundred published memoirs and autobiographies by people born before 1790: Ilsøe, Harald:  555 danske selvbiografier og erindringer: En kronologisk fører med referater til trykte selvbiografier forfattet af personer født før 1790. Copenhagen 1987. 

And a collection of articles about the literary history of not only, baut mainly Danish autobiographical writing:

- Halse, Sven Erik (ed.): Livet som indsats: livshistoriske satsninger og iscenesættelser. Om 12 selvbiografiske projekter, som hver især på forskellig vis repræsenterer et spil med og en iscenesættelse af livserindringen. Samt et essay om livsfortællingens vigtige rolle i forbindelse med vores identitetsdannelse. Syddansk Universitetsforlag. (=University of Southern Denmark studies in literature, vol. 42). Odense 2004.

Contents of this volume: Marianne Horsdal: Livsløbets sprogspil: fortælling som erkendelsesform og konstruktion. Martin Rheinheimer: fra Amrum til Algier tur-retur: en renegats selvbiografi fra det 18. århundrede. Johan de Mylius: Mit liv som romanfigur: om tvetydigheden som vilkår i Johannes Ewalds "Levnet og Meeninger". Sven Halse: At ville noget andet: to håndværkeres satsninger i 1790'erne. Bo Kampmann Walther: Søren Kierkegaards elsker: en læsning af "Synspunktet for min Forfatter-virksomhed". Dag Heede: Dødebøger: homoseksuelle selvbiografier af Herman Bang, Karl Larsen og Christian Houmark. Christian Benne: Breve fra Sortehavet: Fallada, Benjamin og Borchardt eller barndomserindringernes fremtid. Christen Kold: Selvbiografi og genre: Kenneth Rexroths "ydre" og "indre" selv. Clara Juncker: Marilyn og Miller. Claus Schatz-Jacobsen: Portræt af litteraturkritikeren som ungt menneske: om Geoffrey Hartmann. Gitte Braut Rose: Sproget som facade - fortællingen som forløsning: Alice Kaplans "French lessons": en autobiografisk rejse i sprog og følelser. Marianne Børch: Den polyfone identitet i Jeanette Wintersons selvbiografiske romaner "Der er andre frugter end appelsiner" og "Art & lies". 

II. Peasant diaries 

Due perhaps to the central role of the peasantry in Danish history and historiography there has been a considerable interest among historians and ethnologists for a kind of documents called ”peasant diaries”. As a result of a series of conferences held  in Cloppenburg in 1983, in  Kiel 1989, in Julita, Sweden, 1992, and finally in Copenhagen in 1998, four volumes have come out dealing with peasant diaries as sources for the history of everyday life, economic history, the history of mentalities and finally literacy:

- Alte Tagebücher und Anschreibebücher. Quellen zum Alltag der ländlichen Bevölkerung in Nordwesteuopa. ed. Helmut Ottenjann & Günter Wiegelmann. Münster 1982.

- Bäuerliche Anschreibebücher als Quellen zur Wirtschftsgeschichte. ed. Klaus-Joachim Lorenzen-Schmidt & Bjørn Poulsen. Neumünster 1992.

- Peasant Diaries as a Source for the history of Mentality. ed. Bo Larsson & Janken Myrdal. Stockholm 1995.

- Writing Peasants. Studies on Peasant Literacy in Early Modern Northern Europe. Ed. Klaus-Joachim Lorenzen-Schmidt & Bjørn Poulsen. S. l. 2002. 

The contents of the last of these volumes:

Kirsten Sundberg: Some Reflections on the Peasant’s Relationship to Written Documents in Agrarian Society; Klaus-Joachim Lorenzen-Schmidt: Early Literality in Rural Communication in the Late Middle Ages and Early Modern Period. The Example of Schleswig-Holstein; Detlev Kraack: The Memorial und Journal of Peter Hansen Hajstrup (1624-1672). Literacy as a Precondition for Leaving the Peasant’s World; Margit Mogens: A 17th Century Zealand Parish Clerk and his Diary; Bjarne Stoklund: Danish Peasants in the Process of Modernization. Some Notebooks and Diaries from the Period of Land Reform in the 18th and Early 19th Century; Tine Damsholt: Peasant, Soldier and Subject: Military Service and Patritotic Discourse in Danish Peasant Writing; Bjørn Poulsen: A Thirst for Knowledge and Religion. A late 18th Century Schleswig Rural Writing Book; Michael Kopsidis: Peasants’ Accounting Books in the Context of a Market-Oriented Agricultural Development. The Case of Westphalia 1750-1880; Karl-Heinz Ziessow: Information Management and Education in the Age of the Handwritten Letter: An ’Open University Course’ in the Early 19th Century; Sigurdur Gylfi Magnússon & David Òlafsson: ’Barefoot Historians’: Education in Iceland in the Modern Period; Britt Liljewall: ’Self-written Lives’ or Why did Peasants Write Autobiographies? Janken Myrdal: Erik Axel Karlfeldt – the Farmer’s Son who kept a Diary and Won the Nobel Price. Peter Meurkens: A Personal Document from the Southern Provinces of the Netherlands: Naissance and ’Double Character’ of the Panken Diaries; Liv Egholm: Peasant Diaries as a Microhistorical Investigation. 

Establishing bibliographies has been integral part of the study of peasant diaries. 

For Denmark see:

Schousboe, Karen, Bondedagbøger - kilder til dagliglivets historie. Introduktion og registrant. Brede 1980. 

For Sweden:

Lilewall, Britt, Bondevardag och samhällsförändring. Studier i och kring västsvenska bondedagböcker från 1800-talet. Göteborg 1995.

Larsson, Bo, Svenska Bondedagböcker. Ett nationalregister. Stockholm 1992. 

And for Iceland:

Ólafsson, David, An annotated bibliography of all Diaries in the manuscript Department of the National Library of Iceland. Reykjavik n. d. 

More than twenty years of international research and cooperation in the study of peasant diaries also have led to a more sceptical attitude towards the potential of this particual kind of ego-documents., which was most clearly expressed in the editors' introduction to the fourth and last of the  anthologies. At the conference in Copenhagen the question of whether the study of 'peasant diaries' was going though (sic!) a crisis was discussed. In some respects, the answer is in the affirmative, since some of the most ambitious collection campaigns have now been completed and since the study of the 'diaries' in some respects seems to have run out of steam. On the other hand, however, the general opinion was that this was not the case. It now seems that the study of the whole mass of writing material, diaries as well as other sorts of material, will give us an understanding of rural man that can be gained in no other way. (Klaus Joachim Lorenzen-Schmidt & Bjørn Poulsen 2002: 2). 

III. Other perspectives 

Many different kinds of ego-documents qualifiying as Danish in one way or the other have of course for a long time already been intensely studied and explored for many different purposes by many different historians in many different ways. Trying to explore the possibilities for a more systematic study of particulary early modern Danish Ego-documents probably would do well by paying more substantial attention to:

 - the religious context, pietism and the still unexplord Moravian Lebensläufe and Leichenpredigten to be found in Danish archives;

 - absolutism and the bureaucratic state as a machine for the mass production of Ego-documents in the shape of applications, petitions and lots of other potentially autobiographical pieces of writing;

 - empire and the conglomerate state as a hothouse for the production of not least travel accounts as a kind a kind of adminstratively generated or spontaneous autobiographical writing.  

With respect to this last point, I would like to refer you to:

- Harbsmeier, Michael 2008  Subaltern Travellers in a Conglomerate World. In: Knud Haakonssen & Henrik Horstbøll, (red.), Northern Antiquities and National Identities: Perceptions of Denmark and the North in the Eighteenth Century. København: Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab.