sven-eric liedman


Sven-Eric Liedman, year of birth 1939, place of birth Karlskrona, Sweden.

I grew up in the countryside in southern Sweden. My father was a clergyman in the Swedish Lutheran church, a well-read man of humble origins, my mother a hospitable housewife. During my formative years between 1942 and 1950, we lived in a large parsonage in the small parish of farming estates known as Vittskövle. My schooling was erratic. Having left secondary school before the age of fourteen, I went on to complete my upper secondary education by correspondence when I was seventeen, a couple of years earlier than normal.

At Lund University, I completed an undergraduate degree with an emphasis on literature and philosophy in 1959. The teacher who contributed most to my development was Gunnar Aspelin, Professor of Theoretical Philosophy. With his retirement, the history of philosophy, which was my field of study and his speciality, was no longer represented at any department of philosophy in Sweden. I therefore changed departmental affiliation for my continued studies, to the history of ideas and science, a discipline not offered in Lund, but available at the University of Gothenburg. In 1966 I defended my doctoral thesis there, on the interface between philosophy and biology in Germany during the first half of the nineteenth century.

As there were no positions open in the history of ideas and science in all of Sweden, I accepted the post of arts editor of a Malmö daily paper, Sydsvenskan. Being a newspaper editor was a new world for me, marked by its fast pace. I stayed on as arts editor for two and a half years, stepping down as a result of a conflict with the management of the newspaper. This was in 1968, and my politics were too far to the left for them. After returning to university life, I earned a professorial chair in Gothenburg in 1979, and remained in that position until retirement. In my capacity as Professor of History of Ideas and Science, I have had the privilege of seeing a large number of gifted students through to university positions and other key posts in society.

I have been writing newspaper articles, essays, books and scholarly publications since my earliest working years. In 1965 my translation of a selection of works by the young Karl Marx was published. These works had not previously been available in Swedish. In 1968 I completed a monograph on the young Marx. My research over the years has covered many other subjects as well, ranging from the development of eighteenth and nineteenth century history of ideas and science, to a volume on the political history of ideas, which is now in its fourteenth edition, has had numerous reprintings and has been translated into various languages, although not yet into English.

Between 1997 and 2006 I completed an extensive trilogy, the first volume of which was a study of the history of ideas and science in the modern era and the second of the history of human knowledge, while the final volume dealt with the concepts of form, and matter, concepts with the aid of which mankind has been creating a picture of the world since time immemorial. I have, furthermore, written a number of shorter books on, for example, the concepts of solidarity and freedom.

My comprehensive biography of Karl Marx was published in Swedish in 2015 and in English as A World to Win in 2019.

I have been the recipient of a number of prestigious literary awards in Sweden, including the August prize(1997), the Kjellgren prize (2002), Swedish Academy Nordic prize (2008) and the Rettig prize (2018).

I am married and have three children.