Stockholms universitet

Mats WidgrenProfessor emeritus

Om mig

魏麥思 (Chinese name)



I urval från Stockholms universitets publikationsdatabas

  • Agricultural History

    2024. Mats Widgren. Oxford Bibliographies in African Studies


    This overview of literature on the agricultural history of sub-Saharan Africa focuses on works that contribute to our understanding of changes in farming systems, crops, and tools. The time period considered here is after the introduction of farming and before colonialism, thus roughly corresponding to 500 to 1900 CE. Agrarian change during this period remains very little studied in comparison with other continents. Many works on African history take their point of departure in a timeless description of precolonial agriculture. Agriculture is then often described on the basis of late 19th- and early-20th-century ethnographic observations, and it is common to assume that little had changed since the introduction of farming. The few works that carry the title “Agrarian history of” or “Agricultural history of” different regions in Africa are, in contrast to similar works covering countries and regions in, for example, Europe and Asia, mainly short papers or pamphlets that focus on either colonial development or sketch a program toward a precolonial agricultural history. The precolonial agricultural history of sub-Saharan Africa is a true interdisciplinary endeavor, and the ideal researcher would have to master Arabic and Portuguese texts, agronomy, palaeobotany, archaeology, linguistics, and oral history. It is to a large extent on the cutting edge between two or more of these specialties that interesting new results have emerged. Works that give a significant empirical contribution to the understanding of agriculture in the period and region under study are included in this article.

    Läs mer om Agricultural History
  • Moxomatsi: the organisation of space in a major Bokoni settlement

    2023. Tim Maggs, Mats Widgren. Southern African Humanities 36, 61-88


    In the archaeological quest towards better understanding the precolonial farming communities of South Africa, Bokoni settlements are doubly important. They represent the only ‘island’ of agricultural intensification in the region. They are also characterised by a wider use of stone in construction than any other such communities. This distinguishing attribute provides us with far greater potential for reconstructing the patterns according to which space was organised in Bokoni, than is possible with other precolonial farming societies. This applies particularly to the larger and more densely built settlements such as Moxomatsi, where intensive use was made of available space. Here we describe the various types of stone-built features and the spatial patterning we can derive from them. Networks of roads and footpaths, together with related features, give us insight into patterns of circulation by people and livestock within the settlement. Circulation routes together with walls, terraces and stone lines contribute to patterns on the ground, which indicate ways in which cultivated land was subdivided and allocated, both adjacent to homesteads and at some distance away. Ways in which groups of homesteads are linked seem to reflect clustering based on kinship, an organisational principle which resonates with ethnographic evidence. Local environmental issues of hydrology, topography, geology, and soils have also played a significant part in how the community used the landscape. 

    Läs mer om Moxomatsi
  • Teori, begrepp och empiri kringursprunglig kapitalackumulation: Replik till Hallberg och Nyström

    2022. Clas Tollin, Mats Widgren. Historisk Tidskrift 142 (2), 222-227


    I sitt inlägg i Historisk tidskrift 142:1 (2022) menar Erik Hallberg och LarsNyström att vår skiljaktiga syn skulle gå tillbaka på olika discipliner, med olika frågeställningar och ingångar. Men som en gren på historievetenskapens träd ställer historisk geografi samma krav på teori, begrepp och empiri som övrig historia. Det är också där bristerna finns i Hallbergs och Nyströms ursprungliga artikel.

    Läs mer om Teori, begrepp och empiri kringursprunglig kapitalackumulation
  • Utmarksskiften som ursprunglig kapitalackumulation?

    2021. Clas Tollin, Mats Widgren. Historisk Tidskrift (S) 141 (4), 712-722


    För historiska geografer är Erik Hallbergs och Lars Nyströms artikel ”Den ursprungliga kapitalackumulationen på svensk botten” i Historisk Tidskrift 141:1 både välkommen och problematisk. Den är välkommen därför att nya teoretiska perspektiv sätts i arbete i studiet av våra historiska lantmäteriakter och för sin strävan efter en nationell översikt över utmarkskiftena. Den är problematisk därför att författarna inte tagit till sig den tidigare historisk-geografiska forskningen på området och för att författarna inte klargör sin syn på begreppet primitiv ackumulation och hur utmarksskiftena i Sverige skulle kunna belysa den. 

    Läs mer om Utmarksskiften som ursprunglig kapitalackumulation?
  • Ulf Sporrong

    2021. Mats Widgren. Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademiens årsbok, 47-54

    Läs mer om Ulf Sporrong
  • Dataset of 1 km cropland cover from 1690 to 1999 in Scandinavia

    2021. Xueqiong Wei (et al.). Earth System Science Data 13, 3035-3056


    Spatially explicit historical land cover datasets are essential not only for simulations of climate and environmental dynamics but also for projections of future land use, food security, climate, and biodiversity. However, widely used global datasets are developed for continental- to global-scale analysis and simulations. Their accuracy depends on the verification of more regional reconstruction results. This study collects cropland area data of each administrative unit (parish/municipality/county) in Scandinavia from multiple sources. The cropland area data are validated, calibrated, interpolated, and allocated into 1 km×1 km grid cells. Then, we develop a dataset with spatially explicit cropland area from 1690 to 1999. Results indicate that the cropland area increased from 1.82×106 ha to 6.71×106 ha from 1690 to 1950 and then decreased to 5.90×106 ha in 1999. Before 1810, cropland cover expanded in southern Scandinavia and remained stable in northern Scandinavia. From 1810 to 1910, northern Scandinavia experienced slight cropland expansion. The cropland area increased rapidly in the southern part of the study area before changing slightly. After 1950, the cropland areas began to decrease in most regions, especially in eastern Scandinavia. When comparing global datasets with this study, although the total Scandinavia cropland area is in agreement among SAGE (Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment), HYDE (History Database of the Global Environment ) 3.2, PJ (Pongratz Julia), and this study, the spatial patterns show considerable differences, except for in Denmark between HYDE 3.2 and this study. The dataset can be downloaded from (Wei et al., 2021).

    Läs mer om Dataset of 1 km cropland cover from 1690 to 1999 in Scandinavia
  • Mapping Global Agricultural History

    2018. Mats Widgren. Plants and People in the African Past, 303-327


    Recent global historical cropland modelling grossly underestimates the pre-colonial development of agriculture in the Americas and many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Such models are usually developed by back casting from recent land cover, combined with environmentally deterministic algorithms. Historical geographers have been slow in responding to a new demand for a global synthesis. In this paper, a preliminary map of African agricultural systems dating to AD 1800 is presented. It forms a component of the project Mapping Global Agriculture and is based on the existing historical literature, observations by early travelers, archaeology and archaeobotany. It should be emphasized that the generated map should be considered preliminary.

    Läs mer om Mapping Global Agricultural History
  • Towards a global history of agricultural systems

    2018. Mats Widgren.


    Maps of past agricultural systems suggest two rapid changes: around 1500 CE, as European colonization led to demographic and agricultural collapse in South America, 1870 to 1920 CE, as industrialization and steam transport resulted in a global division of labor.

    Läs mer om Towards a global history of agricultural systems
  • Drivers and trajectories of land cover change in East Africa

    2018. Rob Marchant (et al.). Earth-Science Reviews 178, 322-378


    East African landscapes today are the result of the cumulative effects of climate and land-use change over millennial timescales. In this review, we compile archaeological and palaeoenvironmental data from East Africa to document land-cover change, and environmental, subsistence and land-use transitions, over the past 6000 years. Throughout East Africa there have been a series of relatively rapid and high-magnitude environmental shifts characterised by changing hydrological budgets during the mid- to late Holocene. For example, pronounced environmental shifts that manifested as a marked change in the rainfall amount or seasonality and subsequent hydrological budget throughout East Africa occurred around 4000, 800 and 300 radiocarbon years before present (yr BP). The past 6000 years have also seen numerous shifts in human interactions with East African ecologies. From the mid-Holocene, land use has both diversified and increased exponentially, this has been associated with the arrival of new subsistence systems, crops, migrants and technologies, all giving rise to a sequence of significant phases of land-cover change. The first large-scale human influences began to occur around 4000 yr BP, associated with the introduction of domesticated livestock and the expansion of pastoral communities. The first widespread and intensive forest clearances were associated with the arrival of iron-using early farming communities around 2500 yr BP, particularly in productive and easily-cleared mid-altitudinal areas. Extensive and pervasive land-cover change has been associated with population growth, immigration and movement of people. The expansion of trading routes between the interior and the coast, starting around 1300 years ago and intensifying in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries CE, was one such process. These caravan routes possibly acted as conduits for spreading New World crops such as maize (Zea mays), tobacco (Nicotiana spp.) and tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum), although the processes and timings of their introductions remains poorly documented. The introduction of southeast Asian domesticates, especially banana (Musa spp.), rice (Oryza spp.), taro (Colocasia esculenta), and chicken (Gallus gallus), via transoceanic biological transfers around and across the Indian Ocean, from at least around 1300 yr BP, and potentially significantly earlier, also had profound social and ecological consequences across parts of the region.

    Through an interdisciplinary synthesis of information and metadatasets, we explore the different drivers and directions of changes in land-cover, and the associated environmental histories and interactions with various cultures, technologies, and subsistence strategies through time and across space in East Africa. This review suggests topics for targeted future research that focus on areas and/or time periods where our understanding of the interactions between people, the environment and land-cover change are most contentious and/or poorly resolved. The review also offers a perspective on how knowledge of regional land-use change can be used to inform and provide perspectives on contemporary issues such as climate and ecosystem change models, conservation strategies, and the achievement of nature-based solutions for development purposes.

    Läs mer om Drivers and trajectories of land cover change in East Africa
  • Green economy, Scandinavian investments and agricultural modernization in Tanzania

    2017. Mikael Bergius, Tor A. Benjaminsen, Mats Widgren. The Journal of Peasant Studies


    ‘Green economy’ is a broad concept open to different interpretations, definitions and practices ranging from the greening of current neoliberal economies to radical transformations of these economies. In Africa, one emerging and powerful idea in the implementation of the green economy seems to be to use a green agenda to further strengthen development as modernization through capital-intensive land investments. This has again reinvigorated old debates about large-scale versus smallholder agriculture. Influential actors justify large-scale ‘green’ investments by the urgency for economic development as well as to offset carbon emissions and other environmental impacts. In this contribution, we discuss the case of the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) to give examples of how the green economy may materialize in Africa. SAGCOT is presented by the Tanzanian government as well as investors and donors as a leading African example of an ‘investment blueprint’ and as a laboratory to test green growth combining profitable farming with the safeguard of ecosystem services. In particular, we discuss three Scandinavian investments within SAGCOT, their social implications and their discursive representations through the public debates that these investments have generated in Scandinavia.

    Läs mer om Green economy, Scandinavian investments and agricultural modernization in Tanzania
  • Kan man leva på en ödegård? Huvudgårdar, landbotorp och odlingssystem under medeltid i Lägerbobygden, Östergötland

    2016. Hans Andersson, Mats Widgren.

    Bok (red)

    Is it possible to survive on a deserted farm: Manors, tenants and farming systems during the Middle Ages in the Lägerbo area, Östergötland. 

    This study approaches the late medieval farm desertion from a landscape perspective. It focuses on the area of a former medieval estate in southern Östergötland, Sweden. Based on a retrogressive analysis of cadastral maps and historical records the medieval settlement is reconstructed. In this process three formerly unknown deserted farms were identified, with abandoned field systems and building remains.  The volume provides the archaeological documentation of field systems and settlements at these sites. These data provide the background for investigating the shifting social and ecological circumstances that once made it possible for tenant families to survive on these farms. During the height of the manorial system the small farms were specialised units in a redistributive system. In the late 14th century the estate and all tenant farms were donated to the convents of Vadstena and Vreta.  Rents were no longer paid in labour but in butter.  In the fifteenth century several farms were abandoned and turned into meadows under the surviving farms. The new tenurial relations prevented the recolonization of the farms. The study is the result of an interdisciplinary project involving medieval archaeology, historical geography, palynology and medieval history.

    Läs mer om Kan man leva på en ödegård? Huvudgårdar, landbotorp och odlingssystem under medeltid i Lägerbobygden, Östergötland
  • Precolonial agricultural terracing in Bokoni, South Africa

    2016. Mats Widgren (et al.). Journal of African Archaeology 14 (1), 33-53


    Earlier work on the terraced settlements of the Bokoni area (16th to 19th century, Mpumalanga province, South Africa) focussed on the homesteads, their contents, layout and chronology. This paper suggests a terminology and typology of agrarian structures in Bokoni in order to improve comparative approaches in Africa and beyond. The typology and an excavation of the terracing have made possible preliminary conclusions relevant for the further analysis of the terracing and stone-walling in Bokoni. The terracing developed incrementally, whereby cultivation, stone-clearing and terracing were intermixed processes. This is supported both by the organic content in a section of a terrace and by a phytolith analysis. The phytolith analysis furthermore indicated that maize was cultivated on the terraces, but this should be seen as a pilot study only, and presence of maize in Bokoni must be tested with other archaeobotanical methods.

    Läs mer om Precolonial agricultural terracing in Bokoni, South Africa
  • Linking Nordic landscape geography and political ecology

    2015. Mats Widgren. Norsk Geografisk Tidsskrift 69 (4), 197-206


    Widgren, M. 2015. Linking Nordic landscape geography and political ecology. Norsk Geografisk Tidsskrift-Norwegian Journal of Geography Vol. 00, 00-00. ISSN 0029-1951. The article analyses and compares two schools of landscape research - post-war European landscape history and Nordic landscape geography - and compares them with political ecology. Each of them developed within a specific political, environmental, and intellectual context. European landscape history developed as curiosity-driven research, but in the shadow of previous ideological misuse of settlement history. Political ecology developed in the context of the Sahel crisis and provided a radical answer to Malthusian simplifications of the desertification and land degradation. In contrast to that, Nordic landscape geography grew as an intellectual critical reaction to a European situation in which post-productivist landscape policies were on the agenda. The article also speculates on challenges ahead and suggests that the epoch when we understand European landscapes mainly from a post-productivist standpoint may be over.

    Läs mer om Linking Nordic landscape geography and political ecology
  • Furrows in Africa — canals in the Americas?

    2014. Mats Widgren. Azania 49 (4), 524-529


    This brief comment argues that the use of the term furrow system for locally developed irrigation in Eastern Africa is misleading in an international comparative perspective. It is at odds with the terminology in irrigation engineering and also with the archaeological terminology used outside Eastern Africa. Internationally, the term canal is used for the artificial watercourses that bring water from the source to the field, while furrow irrigation refers to one specific way of applying water to the individual field.

    Läs mer om Furrows in Africa — canals in the Americas?

Visa alla publikationer av Mats Widgren vid Stockholms universitet