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Colonial Natural Resources and Swedish Foreign Policy 1914-1989


The project explores, from a Swedish perspective, the interaction between two central features of what historians have called the "short twentieth century" (1914-1989): the unprecedented geopolitical turbulence during the period and the explosive growth of global natural resource extraction that supplied rapidly growing industrial economies. The project will contribute to new perspectives on Swedish foreign, security and industrial policy and to recent debates on the "colonialist history of non-colonialist countries."

We will test three hypotheses: (1) colonial natural resources became so important for Swedish industry that the government found it necessary to actively support Swedish involvement in what may be called "global resource colonialism"; (2) the government made active use of colonial natural resources as a foreign policy tool in its efforts to build stable political relations with resource-rich countries and regions in the (post)colonial world; and (3) Sweden's neutrality policy and official status as a non-aligned country proved instrumental in strengthening Swedish (post)colonial resource interests.

Using a theoretical framework built on the concepts of "strategic resources," "securitization," "economic vs. political levers," and "national styles," we explore the links between Swedish industrial and political actors in three resource-rich colonial regions: Africa, Siberia/Central Asia and the Arctic.

Funding agency: The Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences

Duration: 2015-2018