URBAN DIASPORA – Diaspora Communities and Materiality in Early Modern Urban Centers.

The multicultural nature of Danish cities is debated every day, but that is nothing new. This research project aims to redress the balance by providing an insight into the relationship between Danes and the foreigners who came to our cities in the Early Modern period, c. 1450-1650. Written sources tell us that up to one third of the inhabitants of Danish cities were of foreign descent at this time. However, these diaspora communities have not yet been the subject of systematic archaeological research. Our aim is to shed light on how immigrant groups interacted with each other, with their new society and with the societies, they left behind. The project takes as its starting point a study of diaspora communities in Aalborg, Aarhus, Elsinore and Nya Lödöse near Gothenburg. It encompasses studies of the materiality of diaspora communities, conflicts between them and their new host societies, their local and international networks and their links with their homelands: Ground-breaking research that aims to address the roles of diaspora communities in the formation of Early Modern Denmark.

The case studies focus on very different cities spread in time and space from the early 15th to the late 17th century, from Denmark and Sweden. Each of the cities were among the largest, wealthiest and most powerful towns, and each of them housed diaspora communities with different roots, scopes and agendas. Aalborg was the center of the important export of agricultural products, and a large numbers of wealthy merchants with their roots in Germany settled in town. Elsinore was the seat of the Sound toll and home of large and influential communities of Scots, Germans and Dutchmen, many of them economic or political refugees. Nya Lödöse was a new town, founded as Sweden’s gate towards the west, housing groups of inhabitants from near and far; merchants and artisans among them. The project takes its starting point in integrated interdisciplinary research within the fields of archaeology, science and history, and each of the disciplines contributes significantly to the project, conduction focused research in order to facilitate comparisons and research across present borders. The archaeologists in the project create a synthesis of the excavations in each of the cities, and excavations in areas with clusters of immigrants are selected for in-depth studies. The archaeologists analyze the traces of occupation and their spatial layout and construction. They also analyze the material culture with special regards to materials and origins in order to shed light on trade contacts, consumption and the material traces of immigrant networks. In this process, the scientists in the project shed further light on the food and food culture of people who lived on the plots. The historians in the project direct their research towards the origin and networks of the immigrants, their interactions in the towns and their relations to the host- and home communities. The outcome of the project is comparative study of the integration, segregation and assimilation of immigrants  into the ever-changing Early Modern world. 

Funded by the Council for Independent Research