The Project

The Historical Manufacturing Census of Sweden is the outcome of a collaborations between researchers at the Department of Economic History (Lund University) and the IIES (Stockholm University). We seek to digitize historical records on the large majority of Swedish manufacturing establishments, clean and link the data and make it accessible to the public.

The Swedish "Fabriksberättelserna" was originally collected by the Board of Commerce (Kommerskollegiet) in order to overview the state and development of the industrial sector in the country. The assignment to report was given to local authorities in the cities (hallrätterna) and the rural bailiwicks (fögderierna). It was collected in a largely uniform way from the 1740s and well into the 20th Century: micro-level data with factory name, owner, type of production, production volume, production value, number of workers of different categories, and from 1863, specification of machinery, type of power sources (man, beast, water, steam, electricity) and horse power figures. As such, it constitutes one of the world's oldest industrial censuses which allows individual establishments to be followed over time.

So far, this rich source material has only been used by researchers for specific industrial branches, localities, or shorter time periods. The famous Swedish economist Eli Heckscher understood the material's capacity. Yet he had a, for his time, a crucial objection: "To count through the whole material would be possible; but for the entire country and for such a long period of time [...] it would require a small statistical government department". Consequently, the material was never systematically digitized.

With generous funding from the Ragnar Söderbergs Stiftelse through grants E18/16 and E39/15, Riksbankens Jubileumsfond through grant In19-0951:1, and Vetenskapsrådet through grant 2017-02851, we created a small "statistical government department" of project assistants. Each ledger stored at the Swedish National Archives was photographed. Much like when the census was written down by hand 150 years ago, we have digitized the handwritten information - firm by firm, year by year.

The digitized data has undergone significant quality reviews that involves, for example, harmonizing industrial classifications. We have also geo-linked the data to the smallest geographic unit which is consistently available for all establishments, the Swedish "fögderi". And we have linked establishments over time. The data provided in the Historical Manufacturing Census of Sweden is the outcome of those efforts of a team of researchers over the past years.

This webpage allows you to explore the data. Currently we are offering data for every year between 1863 to 1900. There are two principal ways to do so. You can either search for a specific firm in a given "födgeri" or "län", and explore and visualize the data from that firm. Or you can browse a map which visualizes the spatial distribution of manufacturing activity in any given year, and as measured by a number of outcomes. You can also restrict this visualization to specific industries, and you can see, for every fögderi and län, how industrial activity evolved over time, and which firms existed in that födgeri at any point in time. In the future, more establishment-level variables will be added, and data for further years will become available.

As you explore the data, you might see instances where our database is incomplete, or even incorrect. If you have any information about how the database should be expanded or corrected, we would be grateful if you could share it with us. A dedicated page describes how you can contribute your information.

We hope making this data publicly available provides a unique source to explore and understand Swedish industrial history, as well as to make progress on fundamental questions relating to economic development. Please check ongoing research to see how the data is being used.

Should you have any feedback on this webpage or our work, we'd be glad to hear from you.