Violence in Europe

pp 43-64

Homicide in Scandinavia: Long-Term Trends and Their Interpretations

  • Dag LindströmAffiliated withISAK(Institutionen for studier av samhällsutveckling och kultur), Enheten, för historia, (Department for Studies in Social Change and Culture, History Division), Linköpings universitet

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Present day Scandinavia is usually considered to be a rather peaceful and secure part of the world. This is generally confirm in the national crime statistics. The post-war homicide rates in Sweden, Norway and Denmark have been comparatively low. In Finland, on the other hand, homicide rates have been quite high even by international standards. (See Fig. 2.) However, the difference between Finland and the other Scandinavian countries does not represent a long historical continuity. It is actually a comparatively recent phenomenon. There is no evidence indicating higher homicide rates in Finland than in other parts of Scandinavia before the eighteenth century. Historical studies also tell us that medieval and early modern Scandinavia in general was much more violent and dangerous than today. Several studies have revealed a terrifying level of lethal violence, especially in the towns, where the highest estimated homicide rates reach a level of about 80 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

Homicide rates in Scandinavia 1951–1995. The figures are calculated as mean values per 100,000 population annually, based on reported offences. Source: von Hofer, 1997.