Tobias Karlsson

Tobias Karlsson

Senior lecturer, Associate professor

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Personal profile


My research concerns the history of labour markets, often with theoretical and methodological inspiration from modern labour economics but always with careful consideration of the historical context. Currently, I am working with a project on labour conflicts and the origins of the Swedish Model in the period 1859-1938. For this purpose we are employing a large database with geocoded information on individual conflicts. We are, among other things, interested to find out whether there were regional and local differences in the transition to more peaceful conditions in the labour market. Geographical patterns are also central themes in two newly started projects.

The first has the aim to construct historical gender gap indexes for Swedish cities in the 19th and 20th centuries (for example looking at gainful employment and education). The other looks into how workers in the same period organized collectively in trade unions and sickness funds in order to deal with risks that emerged in the industrial society.

Another on-going project concerns labour mobility in the city of Gothenburg 1915-1943. The latter project makes use of a unique database that traces individuals (and their families) over time, as they change jobs, occupations and residential addresses on a local labour market. I am also participating in a global-historical project on shipyard work and workers.

An upcoming project studies the dynamics of craft production and artisans in relation to the industrial, institutional and social development in late-ninteteenth century Sweden. To accomplish this, we use state-of-the-art technology for machine reading to build a database where individual craft producers are traced over time.

In previous projects I have addressed issues such as the gender gap in earnings, absenteeism and intergenerational transmission of occupations. My thesis was an in-depth study of mechanization and associated workforce reductions in the Swedish Tobacco Monopoly during the inter-war period. Among other things, the thesis demonstrated how principles for establishing the order of selection for layoffs were related to technological change.

I have also an interest in methodology, particularly in the boundaries between history, economic history and economics and how digitization may change these boundaries.


I currently teach on courses in general economic history, the history of labour markets and on the importance of human capital.

UKÄ subject classification

  • Economic History

Free keywords

  • industrial relations
  • labour history
  • labour economics
  • gender
  • databases


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