Making the People's landscape: Landscape ideals, collective labour, and the People's parks (Folkets Parker) movement in Sweden, 1891-present

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Beginning in the 1890s, workers’ associations and social-democratic activists in Sweden developed a series of People's Parks (Folkets parker) that extended across the length and breadth of the country. By the the mid-twentieth century, nearly every city, town, and village boasted its own People's Park. Built for relaxation and recreation, as well as for political agitation, Folkets parker also represented a significant expropriation and transformation of bourgeois landscape ideals and in the process became places where a new, working class-based folk, or people, could come to be. This paper traces the production of Folkets parker as landscape, focusing on the ways in which working people reworked landscape ideals in order to contest bourgeois constructions of Swedish national identity, while asserting their own power to shape that identity. We argue that working people traded in, and transformed, two landscape ideas – one rooted in bourgeois notions of the rural idyll and the other rooted in an older more specifically Scandinavian tradition of landscape as a shaped space belonging to those who shaped it. But we also show how, as the social-democratic state consolidated its hegemony in the middle-twentieth century, the underlying material basis for shaping the parks as landscape was transformed. Folkets parker became places primarily for recreation and entertainment and their status as shaped spaces that shaped identity faded.




Mitchell, D., Jönsson, E., & Pries, J. (2021). Making the People’s landscape: Landscape ideals, collective labour, and the People’s parks (Folkets Parker) movement in Sweden, 1891-present. Journal of Historical Geography, 72, 23–39.

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