Sexual Customs in Rural Norway: A Nineteenth-Century Study


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Ilert Sundt (1817-1875), a Lutheran minister and extraordinary self-taught sociologist, spent twenty years trekking across his country to study social conditions in nineteenth-century Norway. His work took him to growing cities, small farms, and rural villages, where he questioned both the wealthy and the working classes about their lives. He published eleven volumes of his empirical research findings on such wide-ranging subjects as marriage, Gypsy life, alcoholism, mortality, and - in volume 4, the work translated here - illegitimacy.
Sundt was one of the world's first field-workers in social studies and one of the first to use the social survey as a tool of investigation. To gather data to support his observations, he sent detailed questionnaires to Lutheran pastors. He relied also on church records and the census for statistical information. His work had a degree of methodological sophistication unrivaled in its day, and his studies are still considered classics by sociologists. His purpose, as he stated repeatedly, was social reform, that "statesmen and legislators should . . . make use of this knowledge in their struggle to govern and administer for the good of all." He saw his work as "a small contribution to enlightenment into conditions today [that] can lead to better insight tomorrow."
Until now, this volume of Sundt's truly remarkable work has not been available in English. Students of sociology, cultural history, and Scandinavian studies will find Sexual Customs in Rural Norway an important contribution to the body of literature on nineteenth-century Norway and rural life in general, as well as a pioneering example of descriptive sociological thought and practice.