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About me

PerH-KTH2019croppedWelcome to my English-language blog and homepage! I’m a professor at the Division of History at KTH Royal Institute of Technology. An historian of the material and the human world, I have a background as a student of astronomy, engineering physics, history, literature and languages – a diversity that is also reflected in the range of subjects that I have taught and researched over the past 10-15 years. Energy and minerals, forests and seas, railways and travel – always in relation to human destinies – belong to my favourite objects of inquiry, while in geographical terms I feel most at home in the Baltic Sea region, in Atlantic Europe, in Russia and the Caucasus, in Central Asia and China. At times I’ve been more oriented towards the deeper past, at other times more towards the burning issues of our own era.

My books, which appeared in Sweden, Germany, Britain and the United States, make use of multiple writing styles to explore the interconnections between the human, the technical and the natural worlds. Apart from university textbooks and hard-core academic works, I have written essays, travelogues and popular history books. My book Red Gas won the 2014 Marshall D. Shulman Book Prize, awarded by the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES). Europe’s Infrastructure Transition was one in a series of six books that collectively won the Chris Freeman Award. Östersjövägar, which combines travel-writing with popular transnational history, was labelled an “outstanding work” by Dagens Nyheter and “a must-read for anyone with an interest in the Baltc Sea region” by Svenska Dagbladet, while När folkhemselen blev internationell (which I co-authored with Arne Kaijser) has been called a “political thriller”.

As for my essays, check out my historical perspective on the European refugee crisis, my review of lighthouses in history as a love-affair between technological and literary symbolism, my approach to the mesmerizing histories of natural resources such as sand, wood, coal and ice, or why not my sympathy for the Italian nuclear engineer Felice Vinci, who is convinced that the Iliad and the Odyssey are set in the Baltic Sea – my latter essay inspired the Swedish novelist Malena Lagerhorn to write her book Ilion.

At KTH I am currently heading three major research projects: (1) Colonial Natural Resources and Swedish Foreign Policy (funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond); (2) Cold War Coasts: The Transnational Co-Production of Militarized Landscapes (funded by the Formas Research Council); and (3) NUCLEARWATERS: Putting Water at the Centre of Nuclear Energy History (funded by the European Research Council, ERC). The latter is linked to my recent ERC Consolidator Grant, awarded in 2017.  


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