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  • Book
  • Open Access
  • © 2022

Encounters and Practices of Petty Trade in Northern Europe, 1820–1960

Forgotten Livelihoods

Palgrave Macmillan
  • Illuminates how mobile traders were perceived and described

  • Shows how commodities enable and shape trading encounters

  • Examines how the availability of certain narratives in the archive delimits historical understanding

  • This book is open access, which means that you have free and unlimited access

Buying options

Softcover Book USD 49.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book USD 59.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)

Table of contents (14 chapters)

  1. Front Matter

    Pages i-xiv
  2. Introduction: Encounters and Trading Practices

    • Jutta Ahlbeck, Ann-Catrin Östman, Eija Stark
    Pages 1-27Open Access
  3. Unearthing Livelihoods: Sámi Trade as an Active Livelihood

    • Otso Kortekangas
    Pages 29-46Open Access
  4. Rag Collectors: Mobility and Barter in a Circular Flow of Goods

    • Johanna Wassholm, Anna Sundelin
    Pages 69-94Open Access
  5. Conclusions: Dealing with Difference

    • Jutta Ahlbeck, Ann-Catrin Östman, Eija Stark
    Pages 321-339Open Access
  6. Back Matter

    Pages 341-353

About this book

This open access book uncovers one important, yet forgotten, form of itinerant livelihoods, namely petty trade, more specifically how it was practiced in Northern Europe during the period 1820–1960. It investigates how traders and customers interacted in different spaces and approaches ambulatory trade as an arena of encounters by looking at everyday social practices. Petty traders often belonged to subjugated social groups, like ethnic minorities and migrants, whereas their customers belonged to the resident population. How were these mobile traders perceived and described? What goods did they peddle? How did these commodities enable and shape trading encounters? What kind of narratives can be found, and whose? These questions pertaining to daily practices on a grass-root level have not been addressed in previous research. Encounters and Practices embarks on hidden histories of survival, vulnerability, and conflict, but also discloses reciprocal relations, even friendships.


  • history of labor
  • history of consumption
  • history of trade
  • folklore
  • ethnography
  • Nordic history
  • postcolonial studies
  • Open Access


“This book is an exciting and welcomed contribution to the study of social and economic history of the Nordic countries. It provides a broad, yet empirically precise, interdisciplinary insight into the understudied topic of petty trade, which in turn offers a valuable entry to exploring the livelihoods, trading practices, and encounters of mobile and often marginalised social groups (e.g. Sámi, Jews, and Roma people) in Finland, Sweden and its neighbouring countries. The book is therefore a must-read for anyone interested in not only petty trade, but also economic activities and everyday lives of ethnic, religious and/or linguistic minorities in the Nordic countries.” (Fia Sundevall, Stockholm University, Sweden)

“The volume assembles case studies on practices of petty trade – often regarded as marginal – and highlights just how common they were throughout Europe. The book shows how such highly ambiguous and diverse activities or trades served the needs of consumption, bartering and entertainment. By reading sources against the grain, the individual chapters depict everyday routines and encounters of sellers and residents, while also reconstructing sellers’ agency and tactics. Overall, this book opens up new perspectives while drawing a highly differentiated and multifaceted picture of practices often neglected by historians because they do not fit neatly into traditional categories of work or trades.” (Sigrid Wadauer, University of Vienna, Austria)

Editors and Affiliations

  • Culture, History and Philosophy Åbo Akademi University, Turku, Finland

    Jutta Ahlbeck, Ann-Catrin Östman

  • The Finnish Literature Society, Helsinki, Finland

    Eija Stark

About the editors

Jutta Ahlbeck is a Researcher and Docent of History of Ideas. She is affiliated with Åbo Akademi University and University of Oulu, Finland.

Ann-Catrin Östman is a Senior Lecturer and Docent of History. She is affiliated with Åbo Akademi University, Finland.

Eija Stark is a Researcher and Docent of Folklore Studies. She is the Development Manager of the Finnish Literature Society, Finland.

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: Encounters and Practices of Petty Trade in Northern Europe, 1820–1960

  • Book Subtitle: Forgotten Livelihoods

  • Editors: Jutta Ahlbeck, Ann-Catrin Östman, Eija Stark

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Cham

  • eBook Packages: History, History (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2022

  • License: CC BY

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-030-98079-5

  • Softcover ISBN: 978-3-030-98082-5

  • eBook ISBN: 978-3-030-98080-1

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XIV, 353

  • Number of Illustrations: 27 b/w illustrations, 5 illustrations in colour

  • Topics: Social History, European History, Economic History

Buying options

Softcover Book USD 49.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book USD 59.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)