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Markku Henriksson

Markku Ilmari Henriksson
Born September 4, 1949, Helsinki

Bachelor of Social Sciences, Master of Social Sciences (political history) 1973, Licentiate 1985, PhD 1988, University of Helsinki

Professor of American studies, University of Helsinki, Renvall Institute (now the Department of World Cultures), acting professor 1996–99 and professor 1999–2004
History lecturer 1990–99, Department of History, University of Tampere
Deputy director 1990–92, Revall Institute, University of Helsinki
Research assistant of non-European history (for several separate periods) 1975–90, Institute for Historical Research and Documentation (later the Renvall Institute)

Publication activities

Awards and honours
D.Litt. (hon), York University, Toronto, 1995
First Class Knight of the White Rose of Finland 2004
Honorary member of the Western History Association (the first outside the US)
American Indian History Lifetime Achievement Award 2013 (the first and to date the only outside North America)
University of Helsinki Badge of Honour for long service 2013
University of Helsinki medal 2014
The International Council for Canadian Studies Certificate of Merit, 2014

Written by Olli Siitonen
Translated by Matthew Billington

The Renvall Institute

In the mid-1970s, Markku Henriksson became a research assistant of non-European history at the Institute of Historical Research and Documentation at the University of Helsinki, which was known as the Renvall Institute from the 1980s to 2010. The Institute, often referred to as ‘Dokula,’ was meant to focus on areas that had been overlooked in traditional historical research. As time went on, however, the Institute began to find a new direction.

North American Bicentennial professors were a significant influence when it came to determining the role of the Institute, and in the 1980s there was more and more discussion at Dokula on adapting an interdisciplinary approach. Many students also brought with them questions and perspectives from various fields. At the time American researchers were used to crossing the boundaries between disciplines, but their Finnish counterparts were wary even of bringing together different branches of history.

“The change originated with the research assistants, and was in a way an accident. The revolutionary faction in the Institute wanted to move ‘beyond history,’ and we finally decided that what we were doing was area and cultural studies. Instead of the traditional categorisation, we wanted to go back to the roots of historical research and take the area itself as the starting point. It was only then that we began to apply methods from other disciplines to the chosen research project.”

Early hints of this communal activity were already evident at the original location of the Institute, an old flat on Meritullinkatu. The staff offices were scattered around the workspace of the amanuensis, which acted as a kind of message relaying nerve centre.

“The layout of the Institute was ideal for research and cooperation. Hallways can work for administrative purposes, but they do not foster a communal spirit.”

The Institute changed its name to the Renvall Institute in the 1980s, and at the beginning of 1992 it was put under the Faculty of Arts. At the same time new offices were given to the Institute in the Topelia Block of the University of Helsinki.

Once Henriksson accepted the externally funded McDonnell Douglas professorship, plans began to expand North American Studies from a minor subject to a fully-fledged discipline. Henriksson began discussions with Martti Pärssinen, professor of Latin American Studies. In 2000, as a result of these negotiations, study modules were formed that led to a degree.

Field work. Bay of Islands, Katamai National Park, 1991.


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