Yrjö Kaukiainen
Humanist of the day

Yrjö Kaukiainen

Professor Emeritus Yrjö Kaukiainen is descended from the seafaring Koivisto clan of Karelia. Professor Kaukiainen, an internationally renowned scholar of maritime history, stresses that in a time of globalisation it is important to study the meeting of people and cultures. Maritime history is an excellent tool for such research.

Yrjö Kaukiainen

Yrjö Martti Aleksander Kaukiainen
Born April 4, 1940, Längelmäki

Master of Arts 1964, Licentiate 1968, PhD 1970 (Finnish History), University of Helsinki
Docent in Finnish History 1971–76, University of Helsinki

Research associate in Finnish and Scandinavian History 1970–76, University of Helsinki
Associate professor of economic history 1976–92, University of Helsinki
Professor of economic history 1992–98, University of Helsinki
Professor of European History 1998–2003, University of Helsinki

Research themes:
Economic and social history, especially maritime history, population history, the history of Old Finland, the history of the dissemination of knowledge. The primary research focus has been the 18th and 19th centuries.


State Award for Public Information 1999

Photo: Pirkko Leino-Kaukiainen
Written by Tytti Steel (Kaija Hartikainen, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Yrjiö Kaukianen’s interest has focused on maritime history as a part of the global economy. According to Professor Kaukiainen, his most important works have been his most recent articles in English, which deal with the development of global maritime transport, cargo markets and transportation costs from the mid-nineteenth century until the present day. Of a different nature have been local history projects, the most recent of which have been the history of Wyborg Province and the history of the Kymenlaakso region of southeast Finland.

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The defence of a doctoral dissertation is unforgettable to every PhD. Yrjö Kaukiainen completed his doctorate in 1970, and the subject of his dissertation was Finnish peasant sailing at the beginning of the nineteenth century. With a twinkle in his eye, Professor Kaukiainen says that today the spirit of doctoral defences is freer, in fact downright convivial, compared to those times.

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At the beginning of his career, Yriö Kaukiainen did not really feel that his research resonated with his countrymen. “To this day I still wonder why maritime history is often seen as some kind of romantic fringe area of history that doesn’t need to be taken seriously. In the present age of ever increasing globalisation, maritime history nevertheless offers an excellent vantage point on the birth and development of globalisation, and through this it is possible to shed light on the social history of cultural encounters, as well. Furthermore, at the micro level it can tell us how these kinds of macro phenomena are reflected in people’s individual lives.”

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