The Malady of Emigrants: Homesickness and Longing in the Colony of New Sweden (1638–1655)

  • Magdalena NaumEmail author
Part of the Contributions To Global Historical Archaeology book series (CGHA, volume 35)


In the seventeenth century, in the age of wars fought far from home, colonial expansion, and transoceanic resettlements, homesickness became a considerable social problem. In 1688, Johannes Hofer, a Swiss student of medicine, described it as a psychosomatic condition caused by inability to adjust to the life after relocation. Homesickness, or nostalgia, was to him “the sad mood originating from the desire for return to one’s native land.” Homesickness was a common malady in colonial America and one of the causes of return migration. It did not spare those employed in the colony of New Sweden, including Johan Printz, one of its governors. The governor’s letters and reports sent to Sweden provide insights into dissatisfaction with the life in the colony and desperate longing to return home. In case of governor Printz and his employees, nostalgic feelings might have been instigated by the interactions with objects brought from home. Already Hofer observed that those feeling homesick “are moved by small external objects and nothing creates a stronger impression than the desire recalling the homeland.” These connections between fantasies about home and materials that bring them about are explored and theorized about in this chapter.


Seventeenth Century Material Object Return Migration Native Land Object Entanglement 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I would like to thank Mary Beaudry and Travis Parno for inviting me to write this chapter. I thank Karen Hutchins, Sean Winter, and the editors for their valuable comments. This chapter summarizes some of the results of an ongoing research project on the colony of New Sweden which is funded by the Crafoord Foundation and the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Archaeology and Ancient HistoryLund UniversityLundSweden

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