From Centre to Periphery


Hitherto, most ethnological and anthropological research on society and culture in the North Atlantic islands has assumed, explicitly or implicitly, a very long, almost unbroken continuity ("the traditional community" or "the old peasant culture") which was superseded in the nineteenth century by a period of transformation and modernization. This article argues that the history of the islands since their settlement in c. 700-900 has been marked by considerable changes in ecological and economic conditions, and that the small island communities cannot be studied as isolated entities, but should be analysed in terms of their shifting relationships with the rest of Europe. One main thesis is that their development can be described as a movement from an economically and culturally "central" position in the early middle ages through increasing marginalization to the "peripheral" status that was typical of these communities in the centuries of Absolutism. The article seeks to demonstrate that the changes in these centreperiphery relations have been of great significance for the society and culture of the islands.

How to Cite

Stoklund, B., (1992) “From Centre to Periphery”, Ethnologia Europaea 22(1), 51-65. doi:

Publisher Notes

  • This article was previously published by Museum Tusculanum Press.


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Bjarne Stoklund (University of Copenhagen)



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