(Og solen står med bonden op)
The Philosophical History of the Nordic Folkhighschool

ERICA SIMON was a French scholar and teacher (of Scandinavian subjects in a French university) who was widely recognized in Scandinavia as the non-Scandinavian best versed in matters of the folk-high-school. She founded a kind of folkhighschool in France, where Scandinavian folk-highschool people and French rural people came together to discuss matters of interest to both. She has written and lectured extensively on this subject. This book, the result of graduate research, is a history of the early years (approximately 1843-1873) of the folkhighschools in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The Epilogue gives her observations about the extension of the folkhighschool movement in America, Israel, Nigeria and Australia, and closes with some opinions about the possible place of the folkhighschool in our “post-industrial society”.

KATHRYN PARKE was an active Quaker, retired librarian, long-time student of folk education, and friend/admirer of Erica Simon. She was a co-founder of the Folk Education Association of America (IPEA) in 1976, served as its executive secretary, and edited its journal Option for 8 years. Kay translated numerous articles from Norwegian and Danish, and two other books, including the autobiography of European Quaker leader/activist Sigrid Helliessen Lund (from Norway). She retired in Black Mountain, NC.


Frederik Christensen’s foreword identifies this as a re-working in book-form of a series of lectures given by Simon at the Nordic Folk Academy [Kungälv, Sweden] in 1985. These lectures in turn were drawn from her massive doctoral dissertation Reveil National et Culture Populaire en Scandinavie; La Genése de la Højskole Nordique 1844-1878, which has not been translated into any Scandinavian language [nor into English].

Frederik continues: “Nobody outside of the North has worked his or her way, as has Erica Simon, behind the outer frames and the visible form of the first folkhighschools, holding fast to the main idea. Therefore this publication – in spite of its historical distance – is a provocative and very timely response to the development in the Nordic folkhighschool today.

The Finnish folkhighschools aren’t included, says Christensen, partly because this book deals with the development of the folkhighschool. during the earliest decades, while Finland’s first folkhighschool appeared in 1889; and partly because the Finnish folkhighschools intended to give out their own history in connection with their centennial in 1989.

The national chapters are translated from French to each country’s language. The Danish translation was undertaken by Vilhelm Nielsen, the Norwegian by Solveig Schult Ulriksen, and the Swedish by Carin Cederblad-Hansen. The translators have supplied the notes.

The book is published with support from the Nordic Cultural Fund.

[The English translator has used square brackets to insert a number of small additions, for the benefit of English-readers who may not be familiar with some of the concepts that would be immediately understood by the Scandinavians for whom Simon’s book was written.]

by Erica Simon, 1989
Askov Højskoles Forlag
Translated by Kathryn Parke, 1998