Becoming a reading nation? Children’s books and educational literature in Finland, 1790–1850

Books were an important media format in the beginning of the 19th century. The development of printing techniques and the increasing literacy created new markets for books. At the same time, the era of Enlightenment created new interest in pedagogical ideas which the transnational print culture promoted across Europe. By 1850, the spread of book markets and literary culture led to the expansion of Finnish-language children’s literature. In addition, children’s books from abroad, especially from Swedish and German speaking countries, were circulating in Finland.

This research project investigates how children’s literature and educational literature participated in the creation of shared identities in the early 19th century, contributing to the long project of nation-building. We approach children’s books as a medium that contained various built-in concepts and goals related to teaching shared emotional patterns, values and attitudes. The project produces new information on the thoughts, emotions, social manners and cultural values that were conveyed in children’s books at a time when books were believed to essentially shape both individuals as well as communities. Our research covers the period when Finland as an administrative and political entity began to take shape after the founding of the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland in 1809.

The project is funded by the Kone Foundation 2023-2026.