Research at the Department of Finnish History

Researchers at the Department of Finnish History study phenomena that span from medieval and early modern times to the formation of modern society. 

Our other research themes include family and gender history, material culture, and urban communities. We also study the history of ideas and the history of health, and we combine historical research with archival science. Our research projects often employ a diverse set of methods and perspectives, and this is common practice in the tradition of the historical study of phenomena in a wider-ranging European context as well.

Reserach projects

Agents of Enlightenment: Changing the Minds in Eighteenth-Century Northern Europe

The “Agents of Enlightenment. Changing the Minds in Eighteenth-Century Northern Europe” project examines how evidence-based knowledge and radical philosophy affected identities, representations and practices at an individual and local level in the Baltic area between 1740 and 1810. By emphasising the individuals and practices behind intellectual change, the project goes beyond the traditional scholarly debates on the essence of the Northern European Enlightenment. The project combines the issues and methods of intellectual history with those of social and cultural history. The research is carried out in the form of three case studies that analyse the readings, personal writings, networks and intellectual activities of medical doctors, diplomats and government officials. The project is relevant not only to intellectual and cultural historians, but also in a larger perspective. It serves as a reminder of the immediate and concrete consequences of knowledge or its absence, and of its use or misuse.

Funding: Academy of Finland

Contact: PI Charlotta Wolff

Web page

Making and Interpreting Finnish National Past: The Role of Finnish Archives as Networks of Power and Sites of Memory

This research project focuses on the relationships between history and cultural heritage and the use of power and networks of the persons involved. The project’s key concepts networks of power, and sites of memory.

The objective of the project is to study the actors in the archiving sector, to look at their choices from the 19th century to the present. The major challenge that the project seeks to address is to explain the contradictions between different interpretations. The aims of the project can be crystallised with the following questions:

  • Whose history was and is worth recording?
  • How and with what criteria have the recorded materials been chosen then and now?
  • Whose materials or phenomena have been or will be ignored or forgotten?
  • How have the materials been made available to scholars and researchers?

Funding: The project is funded by the Academy of Finland. We work together with the Finnish Literature Society and the Society of Swedish Literature in Finland.

Contact person: Kirsi Vainio-Korhonen


Health, Knowledge and Expertise

This project analyses the criticism of biomedicine related to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and vaccine-criticism in Finland. We combine sociological and historical perspectives, responding to the social and political need to understand these phenomena and the criticism of biomedical expertise in general as processes that are deeply historical and cultural. The project is led by Dr.Soc.Sci. Johanna Nurmi and Dr.Soc.Sci. Pia Vuolanto. Project members are MA Suvi Rytty and M.HealthSc. Tiina Väänänen. The project is located at the Department of Social Research, University of Turku, and is funded by Emil Aaltonen Foundation (2018–2020).

Contact person: Johanna Nurmi


Finished research projects

The Department of Finnish history is well-versed in managing large grants, interdisciplinary research projects and collaborative research. Our previous research projects have focused on Finnish history from different perspectives, from the Middle Ages to the present. Our project funders include the Academy of Finland, Business Finland and various foundations, such as the Emil Aaltonen Foundation.

List of finished research projects

Futuristic History: User-Centric Mixed Reality Applications for Presenting, Recreating and Re-storing Historical Events and Places

Funded by TEKES (2013–2014)
PI: Senior Research Fellow Teijo Lehtonen (Department of Future Technologies, University of Turku)

Futuristic History was a two-year joint research project conducted by the Department of Future Technologies (University of Turku) and the Department of Finnish History (University of Turku). The goal of the project was to develop augmented reality-based solutions and business models for tourism and culture. The project resulted in several technological demonstrations that pre-sented historical locations and events in new and innovative ways.

The applications developed during the project:

  • Holy Ghost Church – A mobile application that allowed users to go on a virtual tour of an ancient church in Turku that was destroyed in a fire in 1593.
  • Luostarinmäki Adventure – A tablet application that used augmented reality to allow users to see what life was like in the 1850s.
  • Louhisaari Stories – An augmented real-ity application that allowed user to experience five virtual stories from the 19th century at Louhisaari Manor in Askainen.

Selected publications:

Miracle: Mixed Reality Applications for Culture and Learning Experiences

Funded by TEKES (2015–2016)
PI: Senior Research Fellow Teijo Lehtonen (Department of Future Technologies, University of Turku)

MIRACLE was a two-year joint research project that involved the Department of Future Tech-nologies (University of Turku), the Department of Finnish History (University of Turku), the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, ICT – Digital Systems and Services, School of Information Sciences (University of Tampere), and the Department of Teacher Education (University of Helsinki).  In addition, the project included a number of partners from public organisations and private enterprises.

The goal of the project was to combine multidisciplinary teams with local business partners to discover cost-efficient methods for creating mixed reality applications that could be used in museums, cultural tourism and out-of-classroom learning.


Selected publications:

  • Olli I. Heimo, Kai K. Kimppa, Laura Yli-Seppälä, Lauri Viinikkala, Timo Korkalainen, Tuomas Mäkilä and Teijo Lehtonen. Ethical Problems in Creating Historically Accurate Mixed Reality Make-beliefs, CEPE/ETHICOMP 2017 – Values in Emerging Science and Technology, 5–8 June 2017.
  • Lauri Viinikkala. Digital but Authentic? Defining the Authenticity of Two Church Interiors Reconstructed with Mixed Reality Technology. Finskt museum 12/2016.
  • Lauri Viinikkala. Yhdistetty todellisuus ja menneisyyden esittäminen. Narratiivin ja historiallisen tiedon suhde Louhisaaren tarinat -sovelluksessa. Teoksessa Digitaalinen humanismi ja historiatieteet. Kimmo Elo (Toim). Historia Mirabilis 12, Turun Historiallinen Yhdistys: Turku, 2016.
Gender and Family Relations. Medieval to Modern

Funded by the Emil Aaltonen Foundation (2013–2015)
PI: Docent Anu Lahtinen (Finnish history, University of Turku)

The project focused on gender and family relations in Finland from the Middle Ages to the modern period. The aim of the project was to study the changes and continuity in family relations from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century. Special attention was paid to the role of gender hierarchies in family relations.

One of the starting points of the project was to analyse the slowly changing legal, social, and cultural conditions that had an influence on the economic, social, and emotional interdependency between family members. The project also strived to highlight the various forms that family life could take at any given time period, and the project aimed to challenge the simplistic ideas of the “traditional” Finnish family.

Comparing the conditions between townships and the countryside was an important focus area for the project. In Finland, life in towns differed from life in the countryside when it came to gen-dered divisions in work, inheritance, marriage patterns, and the transference of wealth from one generation to the next. In their upcoming articles, the members of the project will discuss the con-sequences of this legal and economic framework for family relations.

For more information, please see the project’s website.

Gender and Growth in Family Firms from 1750 to the Present

Funded by the Academy of Finland (2011–2014)
PI: Professor Jarna Heinonen (Turku School Economics, University of Turku)

Gender and Growth in Family Firms was an international research project that took a multidisci-plinary approach to analysing gender and growth in a family business context. The uniqueness of the project was in its focus on the elements of time and place in understanding gender and growth.

The project’s main objective was to construct contemporary and historical life stories for the family firms that were selected and to analyse and compare these with one another to gain new in-sights on growth and gender in family firms. By combining historical and contemporary perspec-tives, the project created a new understanding of today’s topical social phenomena.

The leader of the project was Professor of Entrepreneurship Jarna Heinonen (Turku School of Economics, University of Turku). The other members of the project were researchers Ulla Hytti (Turku School of Economics ) and Pekka Stenholm (Turku School of Economics ), Professor of Finnish History Kirsi Vainio-Korhonen (University of Turku), and doctoral candidates Ulla Ijäs and Jarkko Keskinen from the Department of Finnish History.

Selected publications

Empowerment and Disempowerment in Finland 1550–1980

Funded by the Academy of Finland (?)
PI: Professor Kirsi Vainio-Korhonen (Finnish history, University of Turku)

This four-year research project examined everyday power relations that often remain unheeded in historical research. The goal of the project was to analyse power and different power-wielding processes and relationships from a new historical perspective. Instead of focusing on official power structures and organisations, the project’s main goal was to study unofficial and invisible power – the choices that people make in everyday life.

Selected publications:

The Triumph of Competition. Deregulation and Institutional Change in the Finnish Economy, 1960–2005

Funded by the Academy of Finland (2008–2010)
PI: Docent Tapani Paavonen (contemporary history, University of Turku)

This four-year research project was part of “Power in Finland”, a national research programme that was funded by the Academy of Finland. The project dealt with the relationship between com-petition and regulation in different time periods. The project approached the concept of “power” through the impact that the exercise of power had on the realisation of divergent social interests between the interwar period and the 1950s and in the establishment of the characteristics of the Finnish welfare state.

The project’s research results emphasise the great change in principle that was included in the policy of removing the barriers to competition, introduced in the late 1950s in the wake of other Western countries, even though this principle was not fully materialised until Finland’s EU mem-bership. The studies within the project confirmed and complemented earlier historical studies that have found that the Finnish economy was traditionally characterised by its high rate of monopo-lism, particularly by cartels, while a study of the 1940s and 1950s revealed that, during the same time period, the leaders of the Finnish economy maintained a discourse on competition that was in flagrant contradiction with established practices.

Project members: Mika Kallioinen, Jarkko Keskinen, Liisa Lähteenmäki and Kari Teräs.

Selected publications:

  • Petteri Pietikäinen (ed.). Valta Suomessa. Gaudeamus: Helsinki, 2010.
  • Kallioinen M, Keskinen J, Lähteenmäki L, Paavonen T, Teräs K. Kilpailun kieli - Suomalaiset kartellit sotien välisenä aikana. Ojala, Jari ; Eloranta, Jari ; Roiko-Jokela, Heikki (Toim.): Monelta kantilta : Ilkka Nummelalle omistettu juhlakirja. Jyväskylän yliopisto, historian ja etnologian laitos 2010.
  • Kari Teräs. Yritys ja yhteiskunta. Heikki Huhtamäen verkosto- ja sidosryhmäsuhteet. SKS: Helsinki, 2009.
Competition, Cooperation and Social Capital: Structure and Change in Business 1800–2000

Funded by the Academy of Finland and Business Finland (2004–2007)
PI: Professor Kirsi Vainio-Korhonen (Department of Finnish, University of Turku)

This four-year research project was part of a national research programme that examined the role that social capital played in the creation of cooperation and regulation of competition. The project examined how companies and entrepreneurs both limited and controlled mutual and external competition and shared markets by forming informal and formal cooperative networks and cooperative network organisations.

Selected publications

  • Jarkko Keskinen & Kari Teräs (toim.). Luottamus, sosiaalinen pääoma, historia. Historia Mirabilis 5. Turun Historiallinen Yhdistys: Turku, 2008.
  • Martti Vihanto (toim.) Instituutiotaloustieteen nykyisiä suuntia. Turun korkeakoulujen yhteiskunnallis-taloudellinen tutkimusyhdistys ry: Turku, 2005.