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Gendered routes and courses: The socio-spatial mobility of migrants in nineteenth-century Sundsvall, Sweden
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Historical Studies.
2003 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This dissertation examines migrants during a time of large-scale socio-economic transformations. These changes were particularly evident in the nineteenth-century town of Sundsvall, Sweden, to which thousands of men and women moved. The causes and consequences of their arrival are analyzed by considering migrants’ geographical backgrounds, socio-economic and demographic characteristics, and their life-courses in the town. The results are explained by employing a micro-perspective focusing on individual migrants and a macro-perspective that, in addition to acknowledging the importance of structural socio-economic changes, also takes into account the current gender regime. The paths and experiences of women during the period of industrialization are particularly emphasized.

Computerized parish registers enable this study to clarify gendered patterns of socio-spatial mobility. It finds differences and similarities between male and female migrants and illuminates their features in pre-industrial and urban-industrial Sundsvall. The influx increased remarkably over time but its even gender distribution and the characteristics of migrants remained fairly constant even though the town’s economic life was based on the surrounding sawmill industry that should have favored men’s arrival. Female migrants traveled shorter distances but they responded to business cycles in much the same way as men did and paralleled their length of residence in the town.

The routes migrants took to Sundsvall were largely gendered and so were the consequences of their arrival. Life-course analyses show that a high level of social stability characterized most migrants during their stay in the town, but men particularly benefited from the economic transformation that was underway. Women seldom experienced upward social mobility although the additional sources used here such as local newspapers reveal they were very active in the urban labor market.

In addition to gender several factors influenced patterns of migration such as socio-economic transformations, the availability of social networks, improving transportation, and a growing supply of information. Migrants’ multiple movements reveal that regional and larger migration systems brought people to Sundsvall but also encouraged them to leave. Their frequent travels illuminates the process of migration on individual and structural levels and shed light onto the slow process of urbanization in Sweden. Shifts in women’s migration patterns are viewed both as a protest against gendered constraints and as a result of the wider public space and labor opportunities they achieved through the introduction of legal and socio-economic reforms in the late nineteenth-century.

This thesis shows the necessity to employ both micro- and macro-perspectives inspired by approaches used in different disciplines to conceptualize migrants and their experience of socio-spatial mobility. The use of a variety of methods and diverse array of sources benefits such efforts and helps identify gendered patterns and women’s paths. These methodologies allow us to recognize migrants as agents of change who negotiated a turbulent time and setting that influenced their socio-spatial mobility.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 2003. , 327 p.
Report from the Demographic Data Base, ISSN 0349-5132 ; 21
Keyword [en]
emancipation, gender, geographical mobility, illegitimacy, industrialization, life-course, migration, nineteenth century, social mobility, women, Sundsvall, Sweden, urbanization
National Category
History International Migration and Ethnic Relations Gender Studies Social and Economic Geography
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-14689ISBN: 91-7305-431-3OAI: diva2:154361
Public defence
2003-05-09, Humanisthuset, Hörsal E, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:15
Available from: 2007-06-12 Created: 2007-06-12 Last updated: 2012-09-21Bibliographically approved

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