Böcker, bildning, makt : Arbetare, borgare och bildningens roll i klassformeringen i Lund och Helsingborg 1860-1901

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


This dissertation deals with the question of why and how the issue of workers' education came to be part of both bourgeois and working class formation during the second half of the 19th century and how it contributed to the shaping of new social relations. The theoretical perspective is based on the concept of hegemony indicating that a leading class has to establish and maintain its leadership by gaining consensus from the ruled classes. The concept of class is viewed as both objective and subjective reality. Attention is, however, paid mainly to the subjective formation of class. Therefore, the experiences and actions of men and women "making" their class, creating class identity, are at the focus of the study. All during the second half of the 19th century, workers' education was debated and educational institutions were founded. This study analyses debate and practice in the cities of Lund and Helsingborg, where public libraries were founded during the 1860s in order to provide the "working classes" with educational opportunities. When workers began to gather in the labour movement during the 1880s and 1890s, they, too, founded libraries. The study shows that practice in the public libraries did not conform at all with the notions and intentions expressed in local discussions. Promoters of workers' education intended for the libraries to contain mainly non-fictional literature, and especially books on natural sciences and society. They recommended fiction only in very small proportions or not at all. Once founded, both libraries contained novels to an extent far exceeding these recommendations, and in increasing numbers. Furthermore, novels were by far the preferred literature of library visitors. This result is interpreted as a conflict between an older, established popular reading culture and a new bourgeois reading culture and its implications are discussed. The practice of public libraries is interpreted as part of the emerging bourgeois culture and class identity. Library visitors are analysed with regard to their social background, gender and reading preferences, and differences between male and female book loans are discussed. The workers' libraries did not differ as much from the public libraries as has been maintained in previous research but can nevertheless be considered to have been a part of working class formation and class consciousness. They did not, however, integrate women, other than indirectly, into this part of working class culture. Whereas bourgeois women were able to actively participate in shaping bourgeois reading culture, working class women were almost all excluded from the workers' libraries, since they rarely could fulfil membership conditions, namely to be a member of a union. The above mentioned results are interpreted and discussed against the background of social change in the two cities.


  • Marion Leffler
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • History


  • literature, hegemony, gender, Class, culture, Modern historia (ca. 1800-1914), public libraries, Contemporary history (circa 1800 to 1914), workers' education, workers' libraries
Translated title of the contributionBooks, education, hegemony : Workers, the bourgeois and the role of education in class formation in Lund and Helsingborg 1860-1901
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date1999 Mar 20
  • Lund University Press
Print ISBNs91-7966-557-8
Publication statusPublished - 1999
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 1999-03-20 Time: 10:15 Place: Department of History, room 3 External reviewer(s) Name: Nordahl, Per Title: [unknown] Affiliation: University of Umeå, Department of History ---