Historical Development of Welfare States

History matters!
The historical development of welfare states is a shared interest among both historians and social scientists at DaWS.

Hence, we are engaged in a multitude of more specialized projects to study welfare state history including both in-depth national cases as well as comparative projects. At present, our activities in the field of welfare state history can be grouped into four major topics.


The War Project
First, several members of DaWS are interested in the relationship between war and social reform. The ambition is to investigate the classical question if and how war experiences can influence social policies in a systematic way employing both quantitative comparative studies and historical case studies. This in being developed by Klaus Petersen and Peter Starke in close cooperation with professor Herbert Obinger from Zentrum für Sozialpolitik (Center for Social Policy) in Bremen.

The findings of this project are available as a book published by Oxford University Press.

Read also Peter Starke's piece on war and welfare on The Conversation.

For further information contact Klaus Petersen or Peter Starke.

The Family Project
Second, several members of DaWS are interested in the history of family policy.

This includes studies of the longer historical development of policies and questions on women’s agency as well as the role of non-state agents, the influence of experts and the relation to the labour market. It includes both studies of individual countries and more comparative studies covering Central Europe or the Nordic countries.

Finally members of the centre are working of a number of individual historically oriented projects mostly but not exclusively focusing on the Danish context. PhD- and post.doc. projects include Copenhagen as a social political laboratory before 1900, poor houses in Denmark, Danish immigration and integration policy 1967-2010, Incest legislation and practices in Denmark 1933-1967, and welfare state criticism.

History of the Danish Welfare State
Third, Jørn Henrik Petersen and Klaus Petersen have been engaged in the project Danish Welfare State History 1536-2013 (financed by the Carlsberg Foundation 2008-2014).

Based on research within the project a 6-volume Danish Welfare State History has been published. The volumes covers the periods 1536-1898, 1898-1933, 1933-1956, 1956-1973, 1973-1993 and 1993-2014.

This is the first comprehensive history of Danish social policy covering both the broad social political context and key policy areas such as social assistance, family policy, unemployment policy, old age pension and sickness insurance.

"It is so far the most detailed survey of the relationship between the political, economic and social development in 20th century Denmark. I would describe it as a research leapfrog," historian Steffen Heiberg has written about the work.

Read more about the Carlsberg Project here.

The Danish ATP Pension scheme Project
Jørn Henrik Petersen and Klaus Petersen are also responsible for a research project concerned with the history of the supplementary labor market pension (ATP) in Denmark.

In 2014, ATP was celebrating its 50th anniversary, and a monograph on the history of the ATP-scheme was published. Jørn Henrik Petersen and Klaus Petersen are running projects on the conceptual history of the welfare state as well as an in depth study of the relation between Christianity/Church and the welfare state with a particular emphasis attributed to Christian philanthropy.

For further information contact Klaus Petersen.

Earlier projects

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