Exkludering, assimilering eller utrotning? "Tattarfrågan" i svensk politik 1880-1955

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


Since the 16th Century, there has been Travelling families in Sweden, earning their living by itinerant trades such as horse-trading, scrap-metal-dealing and tinplating. The authorities often labelled these families “tattare”. They suffered from severe discrimination, and authorities as well as scientists claimed that they were a threat against society. These claims were often made with a racialized rhetoric. In the period ca 1880-1955, there was a heated debate on what kind of political measures should be taken against these families. This debate, which is the subject of this thesis, was sometimes referred to as the ‘tattare question’.

Three main political strategies were proposed or adopted in the ‘tattare’ question. In the countryside, small rural districts invented a variety of techniques in order to exclude Travelling families, such as imposing fines on persons who accommodated them. Government authorities and philanthropist saw assimilation as a goal rather than exclusion. They proposed various types of programs, e.g. establishing orphanages in which children labelled as ‘tattare’ should be detained and transformed into “decent” and “hard-working” citizens. Especially in the 1930’s and 1940’s, there were also proposals for a policy of more or less complete extinction of the whole group. In these proposals, persons labelled as ‘tattare’ were to be systematically sterilized. Although none of these extreme proposals were carried out, the debate did without a doubt influence the implementation of the general sterilization and childcare acts. Many persons whom the authorities labelled as ‘tattare’ were sterilized or detained at closed institutions for children and juveniles in the 20th century.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • History


  • social politics, power, racialization, racism, Travellers
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
Award date2015 Mar 13
  • Lund University (Media-Tryck)
Print ISBNs978-91-87833-07-6, 978-91-87833-06-9
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2015-03-13 Time: 13:15 Place: Sal C121, LUX, Helgonavägen 3, Lund. External reviewer(s) Name: Kvist Geverts, Karin Title: [unknown] Affiliation: Uppsala universitet ---

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Related prizes

Martin Ericsson (Recipient), 2016

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