Aednan and the Company: A Colonial Perspective on Mining in Sápmi in the Early Twentieth Century
Despite a growing international focus on indigenous people in colonial history in general, and an emerging field of Sámi-related history in Sweden in particular, the impact on the field of Swedish economic history is still very limited. This is problematic, given that the dominant narrative on the modernization of the Swedish economy during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries still rests heavily on the exploitation of natural resources located in Sápmi. In this article we pose the question: to what extent can a colonial perspective further our understanding of the exploitation of mineral deposits in the northern part of Sweden? To pursue such an analysis, we specifically address the development of the iron ore mine in Kiruna during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. We use a combination of sources (the press, government investigations and literature) to probe the relationships between the Sámi people and the private and public interests that were formed in the wake of the development of the mine, which in just a few years developed into the largest mine in Sweden and the dominating stock on the Stockholm Stock Exchange. We show that theoretical approaches developed in the tradition of critical colonial history can offer productive modes of analysis when it comes to furthering our understanding of the structural discrimination against the Sámi people. We argue that these theoretical approaches can open up important new avenues for scholars in economic history to search for new sources or revisit old ones with new questions about how the modernization of Sweden came about.