Dr Henry Irving

The theme of Finland’s centenary celebration year is ‘Together’. On 6th December 1917 Finland became independent after a long struggle. The newly born state was willed into being by the Finns but despite hard times, the Finnish people would thereafter engage in the building of the country and togetherness of the nation. With the same courage, determination, feeling for equality and democracy, the Finns now lead their country into a new century. The activities and events taking place throughout 2017 will help Finland and the world better understand Finland’s past, experience the jubilee in partnership and set the course for the country’s future. 

The concept of ‘Together’ will be explored in a variety of ways from a variety of partnerships across disciplines as well as regional and national borders. Overall responsibility for putting the programme together rests with the ‘Finland 100 Years’ organisation established in the Prime Minister’s Office. However as the centenary programme is also being created through the joint efforts of Finns and friends of Finland, it is expected that the programme’s implementation and themes will be as diverse as Finland itself. 

On this page you will find information about some exciting projects being run jointly by Finland and the UK to celebrate Suomi 100. 

"Finland’s struggle to achieve independence illustrates the extent to which the First World War challenged the political map of Europe. The war was unlike any that had been fought before in the modern era."

Dr Henry Irving, historian.

Historian Dr Henry Irving on changes in European international relations since 1917

Dr Henry Irving (pictured in the main image, above) is a Senior Lecturer at Leeds Beckett University in the UK. His background is in the history of official communications, with a particular focus on the Second World War and the way in which the British government and British public communicated with one another at this time. 

Following a recent visit to Finland where he took part in an international conference marking the centenary of Finnish independence, Henry spoke to the British Council about his trip and contribution. 

I was asked to present at the conference, which was pulled together by an interesting range of organisations:  the National Archives of Finland; the Finnish Historical Society; the Swedish Finn Historical Society; and the organisation Historians Without Borders. Rather aptly, considering various situations in Europe today, the conference was focused on changes in European international relations since 1917. The aim was to develop a deeper understanding of the context of Finland’s declaration of independence from Russia – which was achieved in 1917 - and the challenges it faced during a turbulent century.

Finland’s struggle to achieve independence illustrates the extent to which the First World War challenged the political map of Europe. The war was unlike any that had been fought before in the modern era. It was a war that demanded great sacrifices from the public and had profound economic consequences. It also led to significant political change, as Europe’s pre-war rulers were discredited or deposed. For Finland, it was the collapse of the Imperial Russia that provided the opportunity to establish an independent republic in place of a subordinate duchy. Its history was echoed by that of other small nations born, or reborn, after the war. 

I was asked to speak about the situation in Britain and the British Empire at this time. Britain’s experience of the First World War was very different from Finland’s, but the conflict was still hugely significant. As Britain’s own centenary commemorations attest, the war marked a decisive moment in the country’s history. The war’s intertwining with the idea of nationhood also appeared to be a direct challenge to the British Empire, which covered a quarter of the world’s surface in 1919.

But the end of the war was also a time of optimism. Britain’s leaders believed that the Empire’s vast resources could be transformed to meet the challenges of the post-war world. My presentation explored this belief by describing the history of an ambitious ‘Empire Exhibition’ held at Wembley in 1924 and 1925. I suggested that the exhibition – which aimed ‘to replicate the empire in miniature’ – provides a glimpse into the mindset of Britain’s foreign policy during the 1920s.

It was an honour to be able to share this history with the other delegates at the conference. As a first-time visitor to Finland, I was also pleased to have the opportunity to explore Helsinki and gain insight into the Finnish academic system. These experiences have given me a new understanding of Finland’s rich history and heritage. They have also illuminated possible links between my research and that being undertaken at Finnish universities. I am hopeful that these links can be strengthened as a result of my visit. After all, as Finland’s centenary celebrations have shown, it is important to consider the future as well as the past.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the National Archives of Finland for their invitation, the British Council for co-ordinating my visit, and the British Embassy for their generous support.

Discover more from Suomi 100

Below you will find details of other featured projects taking place as part of the Suomi 100 celebrations.

A Tale of 2 Countries

To celebrate Finland’s centenary of independence the Finnish Institute in London has worked with the British Library, The National Archives of Finland, The National Library of Finland and several other archives to launch an online gallery titled A Tale of Two Counties. Other partners include The Yle Archives, The Päivälehti Archives, The Archives of President Urho Kekkonen and The Migration Institute of Finland.

A Tale of Two Countries highlights the shared past between Finland and Britain through items that encapsulate aspects of cultural, political, social and personal history. The Gallery preserves digital cultural heritage, inspires the further use of digital collections and invites people to enrich the gallery with personal keepsakes by making archives available to the public.

The gallery is part of the official programme of the Finland 100 anniversary.

Celebrating togetherness with ‘Mobile Home London’

What does home mean to people moving from one place to another? How does the mobility of people impact the idea of home and how homeland is perceived? 

Celebrating independence in Finland means that the idea of home and the homeland is important. To explore this concept a collaborative project between the Finnish Institutes in London, Paris, Berlin and the Benelux countries is being developed that looks at the meaning and the future of ‘home’ in different ways. 

Mobile Home London will study the meaning of home though architecture and collective dialogue in a century marked by mobility. The year will see Mobile Home London work between the UK and Finland to create opportunities for a sustainable and innovative wood construction combining wood building know-how, university collaboration and technology. 

The project is produced in collaboration with architecture professionals and students and will be an integral part of the architecture studies of the University of Westminster. Architect and Head of the Department of Architecture at the University of Westminster, Professor, Harry Charrington and Architect Sami Rintala are the forces behind the project, in collaboration with Harry Paticas and Tom Raymont of Arboreal Architecture. Under their guidance, the students will research and develop environmentally friendly building materials and models with low emission. The end result will be a wooden shelter for a wilderness trail at Lusto Finnish Forest Museum in Punkaharju in Finland. 

The project kicks off in January with a three-day workshop in London run by Sami Rintala, followed by a second 10-day workshop in Finland in May 2017. The processes and end results of the project will be shown at the University of Westminster in London in June 2017 and Habitare Showroom in Helsinki in September 2017.  


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