Domestic market and international integration: paths to industrialisation in the Nordic countries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article scrutinizes the role of structural change and foreign trade in the Nordic countries, except Iceland, in industrialization prior to 1914. Sector contribution to GDP as well as the role of the foreign trade is compared across the countries. The comparison uncovers different paths to industrialization that cannot be explained by reference to received views, such as the shock of free trade or open economy forces. Denmark was not only richer than the rest of the “Nordic Periphery” but also earlier in industrialization. Furthermore, agriculture had a much neglected role in Swedish catch-up, and despite its relatively large export sector, Norway lagged behind, as did Finland. Economic growth was characterized not only by rising exports but also by capital imports and increasing consumption, indicating wider economic and social change. Different sector structures in the Nordic countries largely explain why there was no clear pattern of catch-up or convergence, neither in the region nor in relation to the Western European leaders. We conclude that the social capability of the Nordic countries to integrate and respond to external influences 1850-1914 must be seen in the perspective of the evolving domestic markets and the prior establishment of market institutions.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Economic History


  • Convergence, industrialization, structural change, foreign trade
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-121
JournalScandinavian Economic History Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Publication categoryResearch