The CoE is hosted by the University of Tampere, School of Social Sciences and Humanities. The partners are Department of History and Ethnology at Jyväskylä University and History at Abo Akademi University.
Members of the Board are: Professor Pertti Haapala (director, UTA), Professor Petri Karonen (vice-director, JYU), Professor Pirjo Markkola (JYU), Professor Marjaana Niemi (UTA), and Professor Nils Erik Villstrand (ÅA).
Members of the Scientific Advisory Board, nominated by the Academy of Finland, are: Professor Orvar Löfgren, University of Lund, Professor Thomas Welskopp, University of Bielefeld, and Professor Michael North, University of Greifswald.
The CoE consists of four research teams: The Communities (dir. Pirjo Markkola), The Institutions (dir. Petri Karonen), The Structures (dir. Pertti Haapala) and The World-Views (dir. Irma Sulkunen).
The Communities (community and every-day life)
This team studies how people have organized their lives at the everyday level as their own community. It explores what have been the rules, divisions, limits and spaces of social life, and how these forms are related to local, regional and national structures (especially the state control). Local life is analyzed basically through the perspective of actors, i.e. how people have seen and designed their life-chances and produced their identities. The outcome may be called as a crafted community. An interesting issue is how much the content of community has in fact changed in the course of time and why.
The Institutions (institutions and political power)
This team studies especially the formation of the state and its organizations as well as other institutions (such as church, local administration, jurisdiction, education, health care etc.), which organize and structure people's lives, i.e. make them "instutionalized". The organization of the Kingdom of Sweden, Grand Duchy of Russia, the independent Finnish republic and the welfare state are normally seen as a linear history of the strong state. This claim will be questioned by re-evaluating especially the dramatic shifts of social development related to the crises of the state power and other major institutions, the milestones of common historical understanding.
The Structures (material life and demography)
This team studies macro level changes of environment, space, population and economy, i.e. the basic conditions of living, both natural resources and man made infrastructures. The perspective of the approach is to analyze the "limits of the possible", both in the perspective of ecological determinism and the factors which normally are seen as external to individuals, but which actually are reproduced by individuals. Other basic questions are the regional variation of Finland, i.e. the formation of Finland in the Northern European and global context, and the process of modernization. The work is based largely on the statistical database to be produced and new mapping of Finland.
The World-Views (world-views and identities)
This team analyzes the models and patterns of thinking as world-views; how people have configured their world and created identities. The emphasis is on popular thinking and on issues related to everyday life. In the core are the role and various functions of religion and ideas of nation: how they interact with social order (authority) and individual behavior or mentality. In historiography as well as in the current debate Finland has been regarded as a special kind of Lutheran society since the Reformation, and subsequently a society of "state-believers". This strong hypothesis, which combines protestant faith and nation state, needs reconsideration from the very beginning (the birth of "pure belief" in the 17th century) until today's ethos of the welfare state.