At the heart of public debate
Bebyggelsehistorisk tidskrift was in many ways a pioneer when launched in 1981. The question of what research fields the history of the built environment should comprise was discussed in the very first issue. Göran Lindahl (1924–2015), who co-founded the journal and served for many years as editor, suggested the definition should be wide enough to include all forms of land use. Examples included the underlying mechanisms that modernized and industrialized society, the changing nature of work, demographic expansion, social planning, the law, regulation and reform. The older, much narrower, discipline of building history, it was argued, must be integrated within the history of the built environment – or as we might say today, be contextualized.
Göran Lindahl and his colleagues hoped that knowledge of the industrialization and urbanization processes that society had undergone could be studied in depth by gathering scholars from a variety of disciplines within the framework of the history of the built environment. The journal responded to a social need at the time, focusing on matters such as contemplating the whole rather than details, looking at environments rather than single buildings.
This was the decade that followed major landscape changes, such as the expansion of hydro-electric power plants in the Norrland region; the Million Programme, which saw the building of a million new homes in ten years; and major redevelopments in the country’s urban centres. Social planning became increasingly important via new laws and the State’s designation of buildings of national culture-historical interest. Starting with places, environments and contexts, rather than just academic disciplines, the journal emerged as an academic forum that found itself at the heart of contemporary public debate.
A broad approach and a willingness to connect
Since its inception, the journal has been a forum for scholars of cultural landscapes and settlement, with an emphasis on spatial change and causality between social development, individuals and environments. This broad approach has allowed the journal to keep abreast of current developments and reflect the very latest research. The history of the built environment has widened over the years to include many new theoretical perspectives. With digitization, technologies such as geographical information systems (GIS) have provided new opportunities to analyse the historical dimension of landscapes. The history of the built environment can be researched in new ways using the ever-increasing number of internet databases.
Public debate continues to be relevant for research. Today it often includes globalization, urbanization, sustainable development and gender. Issues current to the history of the built environment include the gentrification of the world’s cities, which elevates the status of central urban areas, and transforms former industrial and dock sites into attractive housing developments. One effect of ongoing urbanization is that cities are becoming densified and increasingly assuming a standardized grand scale, both in terms of buildings and traffic systems – a new global history of the built environment is emerging. Moreover, in Europe we have seen increased landscape zoning, dividing cities into areas of suburbs, communications, large-scale agriculture and commercial forestry. Landscapes are becoming increasingly utilized and planned, a process that lies at the heart of research into the history of the built environment. The articles in the journal greatly reflect current developments in society.
The form of the journal
Rich illustrations are central to the profile of Bebyggelsehistorisk tidskrift. The format, slightly larger than that of other journals, helps do justice to photographs, maps, plans and other illustrations, enabling the reader to understand and interpret them. Colour images were introduced in the first two years of the 21st century and soon the cover appeared in colour too. Today the entire journal is printed in colour.
Originally one issue would focus on a particular theme, whereas the next might present articles on current research themes on the history of the built environment. Gradually, themed issues became the norm, and unsolicited articles were published only when they conformed to a particular area of research.
In 2010 a change of course allowed authors to submit unsolicited manuscripts. Today the majority of issues do not cohere to a particular theme – providing space for as many authors as possible to publish their work in the journal. Thus scholars can publish relatively quickly and the periodical can reach out to new groups. Our aim is to be a key journal for scholars of the history of the built environment across the entire Nordic region. Therefore the journal appointed a Nordic advisory board in 2012.
We wish to preserve the traditions that Bebyggelsehistorisk tidskrift embodies, and which make it unique. At the same time we aim to develop the journal to meet new challenges facing research into the history of the built environment. We welcome old and new authors alike!
Editor, Föreningen Bebyggelsehistorisk tidskrift 2007–2013