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...the chapters are lucidly composed, and consequently pleasant to read...The introduction by the editors is very fine indeed...I find something compellingly interesting everywhere in the text. The combination of theory, conception and fact is quite gracefully handled. No heavy-footed jargon here. Sheldon Rothblatt, University of California, Berkeley Within the growing attention to the diverse forms and trajectories of modern societies, the Nordic countries are now widely seen as a distinctive and instructive case. While discussions have centred on the 'Nordic model' of the welfare state and its record of adaptation to the changing global environment of the late twentieth century, this volume's focus goes beyond these themes. The guiding principle here is that a long-term historical-sociological perspective is needed to make sense of the Nordic paths to modernity; of their significant but not complete convergence in patterns, which for some time were perceived as aspects of a model to be emulated in other settings; and of the specific features that still set the five countries in question (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland) apart from one another. The contributors explore transformative processes, above all the change from an absolutist military state to a democratic one with its welfarist phase, as well as the crucial experiences that will have significant implications on future developments. Johann Pall Arnason is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at La Trobe University, Melbourne, and Visiting Professor at Charles University, Prague. His research interests focus on comparative historical sociology, with particular emphasis on the comparative sociology of civilizations. Recent publications include: Civilizations in Dispute: Historical Questions and Theoretical Traditions (Brill 2003); Axial Civilizations and World History (co-editor, Brill 2005); and The Roman Empire in Context: Historical and Comparative Perspectives (co-editor, Blackwell 2010). Bjorn Wittrock is Principal of the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS), Uppsala, and University Professor at Uppsala University. He has published extensively, currently eighteen books, in the fields of intellectual history, historical social science, social theory and civilizational analysis. Recent publications include: Frontiers of Sociology (co-editor, Brill 2009) and Eurasian Transformations, Tenth to Thirteenth Centuries: Crystallizations, Divergences, Renaissances (co-editor, Brill 2004).