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Education for National Defense: Swedish Defense Education for Secondary School Youth during WWII
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Educational Sciences, Department of Education. (Uppsala Studies of History and Education (SHED))ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6803-4010
2016 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The links between physical education and military activities has a long tradition in Sweden, which dates back to the founder of Swedish gymnastics Per Henrik Ling (1776-1839) and his role as a teacher of physical education at the Royal Swedish War Academy. In 1863 weapons exercises was also introduced as part of gymnastics in Swedish schools and they went on until 1917, when military exercises was removed from Swedish secondary education. They then stayed discontinued until the outbreak of WWII, when the idea of a restoration of military exercises and other forms of defense education in Swedish schools were revived.

This paper examines the defense service training that was introduced for both boys and girls during WWII. In 1940 the question of defense service training for children and youth surfaced again due to the escalating world war. After the issue had been investigated, an act was passed by the Swedish Parliament in the summer of 1941 and compulsory defense service training in Swedish secondary schools could commence that same autumn. The training proceeded in varying degrees at different schools until the spring of 1945 when the Parliament decided to end it. As it turned out there was no consensus in society regarding how far reaching the defense training for children and youth should be. The committee investigation preceding the decision to introduce defense service training proposed a very extensive training program. When the Parliament approved the introduction of defense training in Swedish schools, the scope of activities was decreased significantly, however. Studies of individual schools’ activities show that defense service training in some places had begun even before the fall of 1941, and some schools organized exercises that were more extensive than what the act later would require. In other schools they chose instead to downplay the purely military exercises.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
History of Education, History of Childhood and Youth, Military History, Gender History
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-301175OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-301175DiVA: diva2:953854
International Standing Conference for the History of Education 38, Chicago IL, 17-20 August 2016
Available from: 2016-08-18 Created: 2016-08-18 Last updated: 2016-08-18

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Larsson, Esbjörn
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