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Project: Huseby in the World

Joseph Stephens was one of many young Scandianvian men in the 1860s who chose to make a career in colonial India. The British Empire’s large work market, characterized by mobility and entrepreneurship, made it possible for him to make a fortune as a contractor in railway construction.

Project information

Project manager
Professor Gunnel Cederlöf
Other project members
Sofie Magnusson, project management, CEO Huseby Bruk, Professor Margareta Petersson, Dr Henrik Chetan Aspengren, Dr Arun Kumar, Dr Kawal Deep Kour, Dr Eleonor Marcussen, Associate Professor Malin Lennartsson, Linnaeus University, Marcus Brunskog (project manager for the project "Mot nya höjder"), Lars Pålsson (Tekniska muséet), Marie Mårtensson (Naturrum), Anette Färdig, Huseby Bruk.
Participating organizations
Linnaeus University, Huseby Bruk AB
Financier
The Kamprad Family Foundation for Entrepreneurship, Research & Charity
Timetable
1 Jan 2016–31 Dec 2019
Subject
History (Department of Cultural Sciences and Centre for Concurrences in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies, Faculty of Arts and Humanities).

More about the project

Joseph Stephens was one of many young Scandianvian men in the 1860s who chose to make a career in colonial India. The British Empire's large work market, characterized by mobility and entrepreneurship, made it possible for him to make a fortune as a contractor in railway construction.

Stephens was also one of many Europeans – Danes and Germans – who purchased agrarian lands in the south Sweden county of Småland, marked by poverty and emigration. The fortune made in India paid for the iron estate Huseby Bruk outside the town Växjö. When Stephens finally left India, he collected all his documents from the railway business and put them into a small chest which, until some years ago, has remained undiscovered in the estate's attic. The documents are now a source of historical information which can contribute to rewrite our knowledge about Småland's and southern Scandinavia's path into a modern society.

The project "Huseby in the World" shows both the inflow of knowledge and capital to Småland from the British Empire and India, and a continued exchange between entrepreneurs in global networks where Joseph Stephens played an active part. We also receive knowledge of colonial India from a perspective at the lower levels of social hierarchies, of subcontractors and landless workers.

"Huseby in the World" is an integrated research and pedagogical project carried out in collaboration between the Linnaeus University and Huseby Bruk AB. Today, the estate is a cultural centre. Historical research is formed into pedagogical programmes for the public and, specifically, for school children. The project also lays a good foundation for an integrated research and educational environment at the Linnaeus University.

In the Linnaeus University Library Archives is a large collection of documents that show the history of the iron estate Huseby Bruk across many hundred years. It comprises Huseby Estate Archives and a number of more limited archives of persons with close attachment to the estate during the 19th and 20th centuries. The university archive received an important addition when a new collection of documents was found at the Huseby estates attic and was transferred to the Linnaeus University in 2008. A small chest was then found, which the owner of the estate, Joseph Stephens, had put away about 130 years before. Stephens was the owner who infused new life into Huseby's economy and business during the very deep economic crisis that hit Småland in the 19th century. The purchase was made possible by the fortune that Stephens made in colonial India, where he worked as a subcontractor at a large railway construction project during the 1860s. When he left India, he collected all his documents into the small chest that, until some year ago, has remained undiscovered.

Joseph Stephens was one of many young Scandinavian men in the 1860s who chose to make a career in colonial India. The British Empire's large work market, characterized by mobility and entrepreneurship, made it possible for him to make a fortune as a contractor in railway construction. Stephens was also one of many Europeans – Danes and Germans – who purchased agrarian lands in the south Sweden country of Småland that was marked by poverty and emigration. The documents in the little chest are now a source of historical information which can contribute to rewrite our knowledge about Småland's and southern Scandinavia's path into a modern society.

Research in the project "Huseby in the World" shows how this history is tied to India and the British Empire. It shows both the inflow of knowledge and capital to Småland from colonial India, and a continued exchange between entrepreneurs in global networks where Joseph Stephens played an active part. We also receive knowledge of colonial India from a perspective at the lower levels of social hierarchies, of subcontractors and landless workers.

Today, the estate is a cultural centre. "Huseby in the World" is an integrated research and pedagogical project carried out in collaboration between the Linnaeus University and Huseby Bruk AB. Historical research is formed into pedagogical programmes for the public and, specifically, for school children. The project also lays a good foundation for an integrated research and educational environment at the Linnaeus University. The project collaborates with researchers at the School of Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India, and the Centre for Modern Indian Studies, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen in Germany.

Publications

  • Bubb, Alexander, 'An Element of Risk: the Corrupt Contractor in Indian Fiction and Film, 1886-1983', Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry, 4: 1 (2017)
  • Bubb, Alexander, 'Class, Cotton and "Woddaries": a Scandinavian Railway Contractor in Western India, 1860-69', Modern Asian Studies, 51: 5 (2017), pp. 1369-1393.
  • Bubb, Alexander, 'Reading by Chance in a World of Wandering Texts', in Elleke Boehmer, Rouven Kunstmann, Priyasha Mukhopadhyay and Asha Rogers (eds.), The Global Histories of Books: Methods and Practices (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2017).
  • Krishnan, Radhika, 'Contracting and Sub-contracting in British India: Exploring the Dynamics of Railway Building through Joseph Stephens', in Kristina Myrvold and Soniya Billore, Eds., India: Research on Cultural Encounters and Representations at Linnaeus University, (Halmstad: Makadam förlag, 2017).
  • Nite, Dhiraj, 'A Fortune Maker: The Life and Business of JSF Stephens in India and Scandinavia, 1860-1869', English language article, translated into 'En lycksökare: Joseph Stephens liv och affärer i Indien och Skandinavien', in Margareta Petersson, Ed. Huseby i världen. Arkiv förlag.
  • Nite, Dhiraj, 'Labor, Wages, and Living Standards of Working People: Early Modern and Colonial India, 1600-1870', in Kristina Myrvold and Soniya Billore, Eds., India: Research on Cultural Encounters and Representations at Linnaeus University, (Halmstad: Makadam förlag, 2017).
  • Petersson, Margareta, 'A Danish Family in India: Gendered Colonial Upbringing, Everyday Life, and Cultural Encounters', in Kristina Myrvold and Soniya Billore, Eds., India: Research on Cultural Encounters and Representations at Linnaeus University, (Halmstad: Makadam förlag, 2017).