Political history

Kansaa Senaatintorilla suurlakkoviikolla 30.10.–6.11.1905. / Helsingin kaupunginmuseo

Global and social problems are primarily resolved in the sphere of politics, and the tension between the past and the future is crucial for contemporary changes. Political history provides the tools to understand and critically assess many contemporary problems and changes.

Because political history is a historical and social scientific discipline, it takes a much broader view of politics than the traditional state-centred approaches. This view encompasses civic society, media and various organised and unorganised forces and movements.

Political history explores changing economic, social and cultural structures as prerequisites and targets of policy. Another important topic is the political handling and use of history. The examination of international relations extends from foreign policy, diplomacy and wars to changes in the international system, globalisation and European integration as well as non-governmental transnational players.

Teaching and research in political history develop approaches based on social science history in collaboration with the discipline of economic and social history.

Current research focuses on the following:

  • The development of nation states, civil society and social movements
  • The formation of the welfare state
  • The politics of gender
  • The politics of memory and the political use of history
  • The Cold War and subsequent international system
  • Security issues related to globalisation and European integration as well as cross-border mobility

For more information about research and grant-funded researchers, see the University of Helsinki research portal.

Discipline coordinator: Kimmo Rentola, professor


The discipline of political history has several ongoing research projects. 

  • Pauli Kettunen ja Kimmo Rentola: GLASE Multilayered Borders of Global Security GLASE, (SRC consortium)
  • Kimmo Rentola: Reimagining Futures in the European North at the end of the Cold War REIMAG, (Academy of Finland consortium)
  • Pauli Kettunen: Nationalism and Democracy in the Welfare State, NaDeWe (Academy of Finland)
  • Jukka Kortti: From Culture to Politics (Finnish Cultural Foundation)

More research projects involving the discipline are listed in the research portal


Political history can be studied in the Bachelor’s and Master’s Programmes in Society and Change (in Finnish). For the first two years, students pursue the studies available to all in four disciplines: economic and social history, development studies and social and cultural anthropology in addition to political history. During the third year, students divide along discipline-specific study tracks. The Master’s Programme in Society and Change focuses on discipline-specific studies. The degree programmes continue the long-standing and solid cooperation in social science history between the disciplines of political history and economic and social history.

Degree programmes that offer teaching in political history

Postal and street address for the discipline of political history

PO Box 54 (Snellmaninkatu 14 A)
00014 University of Helsinki

Information for media