Remaining in the Northern ”Future Country”? Migration patterns among graduates from the technical secondary school in Härnösand, 1901-1971

Lilla salen Session 6: Historical Perspectives on Migration organized by Jonatan Andersson


Per-Olof Grönberg, Fay Lundh Nilsson


In this paper, we study the migration patterns to and from the technical secondary school in Hänösand and the subsequent technical high school from 1901 to 1971, when an educational reform included the school in the new upper secondary school system. The purpose is to understand how a peripheral technical educational institution functioned as a “magnet” of technical studies for the northern regional youth and a provider of educated technicians to a peripheral but developing labour market in the first half of the 20th century.

In light of emerging mid-19th-century industrialisation, Sweden established so-called technical secondary schools (tekniska elementarskolor) in four cities in the southern and central parts of the country. However, discussions about including the Swedish north in this net of intermediate-level technical educational institutions had already begun. Nevertheless, it was only in 1901 that the Parliament decided to establish a similar school in Härnösand. A technical high school (tekniskt gymnasium) replaced the technical secondary school in 1920. We interpret this establishment in the light of the contemporary view of northern Sweden as an industrial “Future Country”. The emerging industrial development in the north of Sweden implied that the Härnösand-based school’s primary purposes were to provide technical education for northern youngsters, who were to serve in northern Sweden upon graduation. Today, visions again point out the Swedish north as an industrial “Future Country” destined to take the lead in the so-called green transition. Sweden’s northernmost country, Norrbotten, envisions around 100.000 new inhabitants in the years to come, whereas Skellefteå municipality in neighbouring Västerbotten aims to increase its population by 25.000 by 2040. The present-day northern regions demand, foremost, educated people. In light of these visions, we consider it essential to study how investments in northern Sweden fell out during earlier periods and how the peripheral region managed to attract and retain an educated workforce


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