50th Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Sustainable Regional Growth and Development in the Creative Knowledge Economy", 19-23 August 2010, Jönköping, Sweden
Issues such as regional interest group mobilization and the projection of regional claims on the national political arenas often occur during critical junctures of regional economic development. In many cases they have such impact on the outcome of a development process that they deserve economic history research. My paper will focus on the challenges of including such issues in regional economic history writing. Departing from research on the historical political economy of the Swedish Norrland region, I will discuss a number of research design challenges that the regional historian will need to manage and reflect upon. One such challenge concerns the use of theory. I will discuss how interest group theories may be used (and abused) to capture decisive relations and linkages between regional interest group demands on one hand and government decision-making on the other hand. I will also point at the importance of a critical attitude towards those myths, discourses and interpretations that may dominate the regional debate on a research field. In this respect, concepts and language may influence historical explanation to such an extent that they distort the understanding of the past. The historian will therefore need to confront those myths through a scientifically adequate research process.