‘We are a small association that works as a meeting place for interested parties,’ says Elias Sonnek, Chair of the Society for University and Student History. ‘We listen and have discussions with the experts, in pleasant and relaxed settings.’

The Society’s statutes state that their purpose is to promote interest in the history of Uppsala University and its students and that one of the ways this purpose should be achieved is by bringing together people with an interest in this subject.

Elias Sonnek emphasises the importance of just this relaxed conversation between interested parties.

‘We are not an association for historians,’ he says, ‘but rather an association for people who are interested and curious. We invite people to speak who know about an issue, often in an environment connected with that issue, listen, and have fun. It’s usually a good atmosphere, with discussions and encounters between our older and younger members.’

History is central in Uppsala

To the question of why people are interested in history, Sonnek paints a picture of how, as a new student in Uppsala, you can’t avoid noticing that history plays an important role at the university and in the city. It is clear that this comes from experience. Elias Sonnek moved from Stockholm to study at Uppsala University.

‘In Uppsala, history places a big role,’ he says. ‘Everyone gets a bit curious when they see that history to some extent controls what or how we do things today. The cathedral and the castle dominate the cityscape, the lectures start fifteen minutes after the appointed time, and we have a rector magnificus rather than a vice-chancellor. Apart from the fact that it says “1477” everywhere, of course,’ Sonnek says with a grin.

City tour and meetings

Every semester, the Society arranges a historical city tour for new students.

‘It’s like a quick introduction to student history in Uppsala and hopefully makes the new students feel more at home,’ says Sonnek. ‘We are pleased, of course, if the University’s teachers tell the students about the city tour. It’s always difficult to get the word out.’

The ambition is to also hold a few events with various lecturers. In autumn 2022, for example, there will be a meeting on 29 September with the author Odd Inge Skjævesland, who wrote the book Sångarprinsen (‘The Singer Prince’).

‘The Swedish-Norwegian Prince Gustaf wrote, among other things, the student song that was first performed in Uppsala,’ says Sonnek. ‘A Swedish translation of the book is now being published, and will be the first book in the Society’s new publication series.’

What does the future hold for the Society?

‘We of course hope to attract more people to our events while also maintaining our focus on unpretentious discussions,’ says Sonnek. ‘I’d also like to see that the Society can encourage those students who, in various academic papers, make valuable contributions to our knowledge of history. The students often come up with good things and can refute different biases and preconceptions.’