Diffusion of things and thoughts

Rolf Guttesen


In the 19th century the population of the Faeroe Islands grew from 5,200 in the 1801 census to 15,200 in the 1901 census. The leading question in this paper is derived from this fact. What was the material and ideological background for this profound change that caused changes in all parts and corners of the society? This leads to the problem definition: ”Where did the new things and thoughts come from, and who came with them?” Theories on innovation and diffusion are implemented in the analysis. In the 1st section of the paper the situation in the Faeroese society is described with concrete examples. The 2nd section applies the diffusion theory with the concepts carriers and barriers. The 3rd section adds the concepts base and superstructure that are coupled with the already mentioned concepts in the second section. In the 4th section some concepts and methods from economic geography, population potential and threshold values are presented and used. In the ending an effort to quantify the innovation process is presented. This leads to a recapitulation of concepts in the foregoing sections, but also to new questions as the result of these, especially figure 4, are unforeseen and provoking. A society as the Faeroese, tiny in scale and remote in location, and therefore with a low population potential, cannot be expected to produce many ”things and thoughts” by itself. In the 5th section some local persons of virtue are mentioned, as well as a row of civil servants who all came from mainland Denmark. These were carriers of ideas from the European enlightenment movement and other ideas that widened the material base of the growing population. The legal base, laws and statutory elements, that changed the possibility for the landless class to acquire land came from outside, from the King, and generally the barriers were the local land-owning class. A main point in this process of change is the introduction of the Amtmand, the Governor of Prefect, in 1816, that was the beginning of the setting up of a local centralized administration. Later, with the Danish Constitution coming into force in 1849, the first democratic assembly on the Faeroe Islands was elected. Further, the Constitution had no place for the Royal Monopoly Trade; it was abolished in 1856.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18602/fsj.v62i0.31


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