History is a crucial element of identity everywhere and is constantly invoked as an influential argument in discussions on social and political issues. The more global the world becomes, the greater is the risk of canonizing the past in a limited "national" (or similar) perspective. It is the task of academic research to point out the critical nature of historical knowledge. The best way to do that is to rethink the basics of our historical understanding. The critical point in today's Europe is (still) the dominance of two paradigms we aim to break: national history and history of modernization.
The subject of the study is the history of Finland from the late middle ages (1400) to present day (2000) or more precisely: what is the history of Finland. For us it is a history of an imagined nation, a critical approach to long a process, formations, interactions, structures, communities and identities, which later become known as the history of Finland. An analytical model for the research - and for the organization of the CoE - is to divide "historical reality" into six structures: environment, population, economy, institutions, communities, and world-views. These structures are seen as spheres of interactions, which overlap each other and which themselves are outcomes of individual and group actions. The method of the research teams may be called history of society. The analytical framework is the concept of society, or the construction of society. The history of society aims to write the structural history of power, everyday life and perceptions, or in other words: history of institutions, intentions and identities.
From a historiographic point of view the major result will be a new reconstruction of the factors which created "Finland" as a Northern society and later as a modernizing nation state. The image of Finland as a distant and homogeneous periphery with a unique identity will certainly be broken. Instead there will be a story of a complex "global" development, and another story about how the history of Finland was invented. The added value for international historical research will be a good "case study" of a topic which is relevant and crucial everywhere. For Finnish research - and identity - it is important to see our history in a theoretically rewarding comparative perspective.