Sophy Bergenheim

A historian’s mindset operating with social scientific methods

I am a historian specialised in welfare state history, particularly the Finnish and Nordic welfare states. I am currently finalising my doctoral dissertation in political history at the University of Helsinki. In my PhD research, I look at Finnish social and health policy NGOs as public policy actors and experts from the 1930s to the 1960s. I have described my PhD project and my upcoming post-doc project in more detail on their respective pages.

My research interests include the history of social, health and population policy, history of medicine, urban history and gender history. I am interested in these themes especially from the perspective of expertise and knowledge production, as well as intellectual and conceptual history.

At the University of Helsinki, the discipline of political history operates under the Faculty of Social Sciences. This background, as well as my research visit in spring 2017 at the History Department / Danish Centre for Welfare State Studies at the University of Southern Denmark, have left a mark on my academic identity. I am part historian, part social scientist – I have a historian’s mindset, but I am more methodologically orientated than the so-called ‘traditional’ historian. I like to approach historical topics through social scientific methods and theories, from political sociology, in particular. I enjoy experimenting with how different questions can be addressed through different methods, as well as tweaking methods into fitting a particular research question.

This promiscuous approach is sometimes met with mild exasperation among historians and social scientists alike; others, however, greet it with positive interest. I choose to see it as my strength. I am driven by methodological and theoretical curiosity – while always keeping historical sensitivity my top priority.