Pia Lundqvist

Senior Lecturer

Department of Historical
Visiting address
Renströmsgatan 6
41255 Göteborg
Room number
Postal address
Box 200
40530 Göteborg

About Pia Lundqvist

I have a PhD in history and my doctoral thesis from 2008 (“Marknad på väg”) contains a study on peddling in Sweden in the 18th and 19th centuries.

My main research interests lie in the areas of the history of consumption, retailing, and trade, with a particular focus on textiles and material culture, migration, and cultural encounters. Apart from the research projects presented below, I have taken part in an interdisciplinary book project on technical innovations and fashion in the textile industry in the 19th century (“Dolda innovationer”, 2013). In another project, I study how different aspects related to the consumption of goods are reflected in 19th century Swedish novels.

Equals or subordinates? Male and female Swedish missionaries in the Congo Free State, 1886–1908

Protestant missions were a significant transnational movement and an early venue between “the West and the Rest”. The project’s starting point is the encounter between Swedish missionaries and the people in the Congo Free State, when The Mission Covenant Church of Sweden (SMF) was established in the country in the 1880s. Even though the missionaries had been raised in a popular movement with strong emancipatory features, they were influenced by the more or less clearly expressed racist ideas of the time. In the Congo, the missionaries inevitably became part of the white supremacy sphere. My study takes its point of departure in the contradicting roles of the missionaries and aims to examine their views of their assignment and how their self-understanding corresponded with their everyday work. This approach also involves analysing the missionaries’ attitudes towards those in power and the Congolese population. Recent research on the function and ideology of the Christian mission to the Congo has highlighted its complexity and ambivalence. My contribution to this field of research is to present new perspectives based in gender and post-colonial history. I also want to contrast the emancipatory tradition of popular movements against colonial ideology, and draw attention to the complexity of different missionary identities and power hierarchies of gender, race, and class within the mission. The project is financed by the Swedish Research Council and started in 2014.

A Jewish web of textiles and trade, Gothenburg 1782–1850

The project’s primary aim is to investigate the Jewish minority in Gothenburg in the early 19th century, focusing on its role in textile production and trade. The first wave of Jewish immigration to Sweden coincided with a dynamic period in Swedish history. Although Gothenburg was only a small town on the European periphery, it was already a multicultural city in the early nineteenth century with a great deal of international contacts and several ethnic minorities. Local industry increased in the city, and was mainly responsible for the production of consumer goods in the food and textile industries. Several of the Jewish entrepreneurs were engaged in textile production and many more had established themselves in commerce.

The dominance of the Jewish community coincides well with the strong expansion of the Swedish consumer market. Jewish merchants had an essential impact on the textile industry as pioneers in the development of calico printing in Gothenburg and also when it came to the use of machine looms from the 1830s and onwards. However, these first groups lost their significance in relation to other producers after the 1820s and 1830s. However, even during this period, Jewish tradesmen sold attractive modern textiles and other consumer goods in Gothenburg and contributed to the distribution of these goods in the countryside through their connections with Swedish peddlers. International connections, such as intertwined ethnic, religious, economic and family relations in Germany, Denmark, and England, supported the Jewish entrepreneurs with access to capital, transfer of commercial competence, and industrial knowledge. The local Jewish community was an arena for reciprocal relationships and functioned as a financial network with a relatively small elite at its core. These features are also identifiable in the international research on 'Port Jews'.

Internal factors, related to the history of the Jewish diaspora and a long Jewish textile tradition, interplayed with external influence, such as legal conditions in Sweden and the relevant geographic, economic and social context. Even if the law excluded them in many ways, it was possible for Jews to trade and invest in industries. It appears that the port city Gothenburg was a favourable place for Jewish entrepreneurs, considering the city’s vibrant economy and, presumably, a high degree of openness and tolerance towards foreigners. Jews had rather good opportunities to run businesses, even if there was some hostility from other retailers in the city on a few occasions. The Jewish financial elite soon became an integral part of the emerging bourgeoisie. This research project was carried out together with the economic historian Anna Brismark, PhD, and financed by the Swedish Research Council.