About me

My story and my work

I was born in Kolding, Denmark, in 1952. Both my parents came from Copenhagen; my mother was a nurse, my father a dentist. They had moved to the lovely fjord town in Jutland so as to give their children the benefit of forest and beach; here I grew up along with my two sisters, and a brother. I studied history and anthropology at Aarhus University, graduating in 1978. My fourty-year career has followed two paths: one being research, the other being management, the first for 25 years and the second for 15 years.

My research started at The University of Aarhus and continued at the Royal Danish School of Educational Studies, the University of Copenhagen, the Royal Danish Library, the Danish Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, and at the National Archives.

I have worked on a wide range of topics: from the lives of working women in town and countryside during the 19th and 20th centuries, to the history of education and the concept of culture in the same period, to gender theories past and present. During the last two decades I have made specific biographical study of educationalist Natalie Zahle, numerous of her contemporary school pioneers and scholars, politicians Bodil Koch and Ritt Bjerregaard, socialist and feminist Clara Zetkin, and playwright Henrik Ibsen. Parallel to this, I have researched and published articles and books on the history, gender, methodologies and narrative types of the historical biography. I approach the subject as a historian, employing interdisciplinary perspectives from the fields of anthropology and literature. Today, I am studying the male resistance against women in politics, business and economics, organisations, science, education, culture, and media during the first hundreds years of the modern democratic society.

Until 2017, I was a professor at the Danish National Archives, responsible for giving advice on private personal archives. 

Besides my research, and due to my many years as a director, I am an external examiner for Danish and other Nordic universities and Centres of Excellence within the humanities, and a consultant in research management.

From 2017, I resigned as an active member of boards, but from 2021 joined as a member of the board of A.P. Møller og Hustru Chastine Mc-Kinney Møllers Fond til almene Formaal

Curriculum vitae

Qualifications and Degrees

2018: Professor emerita

2012-2017: Professor, The Danish National Archives.

2006: Professor, affiliated University of Copenhagen, DK

1999: Professor, University of Southern Denmark, DK

1992: Dr.phil. fra Københavns Universitet

1988: Senior lecturer, Faculty of Arts, University of Copenhagen

1982: Lic.phil., University of Copenhagen

1979: Cand.mag., History & Anthropology, Faculty of Arts, Aarhus University, DK


2012-2017 Professor, the Danish National Archives

2006-2012: Professor, affiliated Comparative Cultural Studies, University of Copenhagen

2005-2012: Professor (Senior Research Fellow, pr appointm), Danish National Archives

2000-2004: Director: Danmarks Humanistiske Forskningscenter (Danish Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities)

1998-2000: Director of Research, Nationalmuseet (National Museum of Denmark)

1991-1998: Chief Archivist, Håndskriftafdelingen, Det Kongelige Bibliotek (Manuscript Department, Royal Danish Library)

1991-: Historical Advisor, Ligestillingsrådet (Equal Status Council), Statsministeriet (Prime Minister's Office)

1989-1990: Senior Research Fellow, Statens Humanistiske Forskningsråd (Danish Research Council for the Humanities) & Carlsbergfondet (Carlsberg Foundation)

1986-1989: Senior Research Fellow, Danmarks Lærerhøjskole (Danish School of Education Studies)

1983-1985: Historical advisor for Danish folkehøjskoler (adult education 'folk high schools'): Assens Høj- og Efterskole, Foreningen for Danske Folkehøjskoler, Den Nordiske Kvindehøjskole i Visby, Krabbesholm Højskole, Kolding Højskole, Krogerup Højskole, Unge Hjems Højskole, Brandstrup Højskole, Uldum Højskole, Vallekilde Højskole

University teacher: Roskilde University Center, University of Copenhagen

1980-1982: Research Fellow, Department of History, Aarhus University

1978-1980: Lecturer, Department of History, Aalborg University, DK

1977-1979: Sub-editor of the journal Den Jyske Historiker [The Jutland Historian]: University of Aarhus

1977: Research scholarship, Aarhus Universitets Forskningsfond (Aarhus University Research Foundation)

Honorary Offices and Board Memberships

2021-: Member of the A.P. Møller og Hustru Chastine Mc-Kinney Møllers Fond til almene Formaal (AP Moller and Wife Chastine Mc-Kinney Moller Foundation for General Purposes)

2012-2016 Member of the board of the Danish Research Foundation

2011-2017: Member of Advisory Board for the Anniversary of the Reformation 2017

2010-2016: Member of Advisory Board, digitalisation of Kraks Blå Bog (Denmark’s Who’s Who), published by Gads Forlag

2010-2016: Member of Advisory Board, WASMI, Women and Social Movements International, State University of New York, USA

2010-2013: Member of monitoring committee for the Hope and Care project, Diakonissestiftelsen (Deaconess Foundation School of Nursing), Copenhagen

2009-2015: Member of Academic Steering Committee for the Danish Educational and School History project, Danish School of Education, Aarhus University

2008: KRAKA Prize, awarded by The Association of Gender Studies, DK, for Uden Omsvøb. Et portræt af Bodil Koch, 2007 (To the Point. An Incisive Portrait Of Bodil Koch)

2008-2012: Vicepresident of the board, The University of Aalborg, Denmark

2005-2012: Board of Governors, Aalborg University

2004: The Einar Hansen Research Prize

2002: Co-initiator of the European Consortium of Humanities Centres and Institutes (ECHCI), University of Utrecht, NL

2002-: Member of Det Lærde Selskab (The Learned Society), University of Aarhus

2000-2004: Vice-Chair, Kommissionen for Videnskabelige Undersøgelser i Grønland (Commission for Scientific Research in Greenland)

2000-2004: Vice-Chair, Dansk Polarcenter, (Danish Polar Centre), Copenhagen

1999-2001: Board member, N. Zahles Skole (N. Zahles' Schools), Copenhagen

1998-2004: Member of the Council, Dansk Jødiske Museum (The Danish Jewish Museum)

1999-2004: Member of the Council, Fremtidsrådet (Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies)

1998: Member of Kungliga Samfundet för utgivande av handskrifter rörande Skandinaviens historia (The Royal Society for the Publication of Manuscripts Concerning the History of Scandinavia), Stockholm University, Sweden

1996-2001: Board member, Det Danske Institut i Damaskus (The Danish Institute in Damascus, Syria); appointed by the Minister of Culture

1996-2011: Board member, N. Zahles Skoles legat (N. Zahles' School Foundation), Copenhagen

1995-1996: Member of working group: development of strategic perspectives for the humanities in Denmark; appointed by the Minister of Research

1995-1996: Board member, KVINFO. Center for Information om Kvinde- og Kønsforskning (Danish Centre for Information on Gender, Equality and Ethnicity); appointed by the Minister of Culture, DK

1995- Board member, Weilbachs Kunstnerleksikon (Weilbach Encyclopaedia of Artists); appointed by the Minister of Culture

1994-1998: Chair of Kulturministeriets Forskningsudvalg (Ministry of Culture’s Research Council); appointed by the Minister of Culture

1994-1995: Member of the Commission studying the recommendations of the OECD concerning research councils in Denmark; appointed by the Minister of Research

1994-1995: Member of the academic committee advising on cultural policy, Ministry of Culture

1994-1995: Member of the academic committee advising on the publication: Roskilde University - a Historical Retrospective: Experiment and Institution, Else Hansen PhD, University of Roskilde

1993-2002: Vice-Chair, board of Dansk Kvindebiografisk Leksikon (Biographical Encyclopaedia of Danish Women)

1993-1995: Chair, De nationale forskningscentre og -samlinger ved Det Kongelige Bibliotek (National Research Centres and Collections at the Royal Danish Library)

1995-: Member of Statens Privatarkivudvalg (State Commission for Private Archives); appointed by the Minister of Culture

1993: Weekendavisens Litteraturpris (The Weekendavisen Prize for Literature): for the biography Natalie Zahle – En Biografi om Køn, Dannelse og Magtfuldkommenhed (Copenhagen, 1992)

1992-1996: Secretary for Kommissionen for Registrering af Litterære Kilder (Commission for the Registration of Literary Sources in Denmark), Royal Danish Library

1992-2010: Board member, Foreningen af San Cataldos Venner (Friends of San Cataldo), Italy

1990-1993: Member of Idrættens Forskningsråd (The Danish Council for Sports Research), representing the Humanities; appointed by the Minister of Culture

Honors and awards

2020: Recipient of Rosenkjærprisen

2020: Recipient of Holberg Medaljen

2017: Recipient of Statens Kunstfonds Arbejdslegat

2014: Recipient of Årets Faglitterære Pris

2008: Recipient of KRAKA-prisen

2004: Recipient of Einar Hansens Forskningsfonds Pris

2002: Admitted into Det Lærde Selskab, århus Universitet

1993: Recipient of Weekendavisens Litteraturpris

Adjudication Panel

2017: External Examiner, the Niels Bohr Archives and Institute, The University of Copenhagen

2012-2016: Examiner and board member, The Danish National Research Foundation

2013: External Examiner, Dr.Philos. on Historical Biography on Nansen, The University of Tromsø

2012: External Examiner, Ph.D.-historian at the Holocaust-Centre, University of Oslo

2010: External examiner: PhD in Theatre History and Biography, University of Oslo, Norway

2009: Chair of Nordic adjudication board: Professorship in Gender Studies, University of Copenhagen

2008: External examiner: Senior Researcher in History, Museum of National History, Frederiksborg, DK

2008: External examiner: Riksbankens Jubilæumsfond, Sweden

2006: Examiner: Senior Researcher in History, Danish State Archives

2005: External examiner, ph.d. dissertation, The female Woman. Femininity,Citizenship

And Professionalisation, Anne Lykke Poulsen, University of Copenhagen, DK

2004-2005: External examiner: Professorship in the history of education, DPU, DK

2003: External examiner: History, Lund University, Sweden

2002: External examiner: Research Council for the Humanities, Gender Studies, Oslo, Norway

2001: External examiner: dr.philos dissertation, Biografiens retorikk [The Rhetoric of the Biography], Marianne Egeland, The University of Oslo, Norway

1999: External examiner: ph.d. dissertation Historiebevidsthedens dannelse og brug i 1990'erne [The Making of Historical Consciousness in the 1990s], Marianne Poulsen, The Danish University of Education

1998: External examiner, dr.philos dissertation, Nina Grieg - Kunstner og Kunstnerhustru [Nina Grieg - Artist and Artist's Wife], Inger Elisabeth Haavet, The University of Bergen, Norway

1994-1998: Tutor, PhD students, The University of Aarhus

1992-1993: Tutor, PhD students, Universities of Copenhagen and Roskilde

1993-: Examiner, History, Universities of Copenhagen and Roskilde

Areas of Research 1980-2017

Male resistance against women in politics, business and economics, organisations, science, education, culture, and media during the first hundreds years of the modern democratic society.

Methodology of the historical biography

The Art of Biography/The Methodology of the Historical Biography from the Antique to present times

A series of empirical historical biographies on public figures

Methodology of women's history and gender studies

19th- and 20th-century Scandinavian educational history

Latest publications

• “Beundring frem for undren - er det videnskab?”, om de nyeste landvindinger i den biografiske genre og om en afhandling, der ikke kender dem, in TEMP nr. 19, 2019, pp. 213-224

• Kulturarvsbevaring i Danmark: Privatarkiver, p. 162-170 in Kulturarven og dens retlige beskyttelse (red. Ditlev Tamm), DJØF’s Forlag 2016

Understanding Biographies. University of Southern Denmark Press, 2016

Biography, Gender and History: Nordic Perspectives (eds. Halldorsdottir, Kiinnunen, Leskelä-Kärki & Possing). University of Turku Press, 2016. 

”De manges veje til politisk magt og repræsentation. Om en kun delvist udforsket historie”, i: Kildekunst (red. Bak m.fl.), 2016.

• Frk. Isabella Brockenhuus-Løwenhielm: Social Pioner og gøgeunge i egen rede, in (red. Bisgaard et al: Den Danske Adel fra Junigrundloven til i Dag, Gad 2015

• Ind i Biografien, Gyldendal 2015

• The Historical Biography, in The International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Elsevier 2015

• At fortælle om mænd og kvinder som individer. Refleksioner over den biografiske vending i historien, in (red. Carlsson Wetterberg, Lidström & Wistrand): Berättende, liv, mening, Örebro 2014

• Elämä pelissä. Biografin historia ja vastuu, in (red. Hakisalo, Jalagin, Junila & Kurvinen): Historiallinen elämä, Oulu, Finland 2014

• In Search of the Keys for a Biographical Analysis, in (red. Burdiel & Forster): The Uses of Biography in Europe, Oxford University Press (in press)

• In Search of the Keys to a Biographical Analysis of Bodil Koch (1903-72), in (red. Manns & Sundewall): Methods, Interventions and Reflections: Report from the X Nordic Women’s and Gender History Conference, Stockholm 2014

• Representing Gendered Individualities, in (red. Manns & Sundewall): Methods, Interventions and Reflections, Stockholm 2014

• Telling Lives: In Search of the Keys, in (red. Bandak & Kuzmanovic): Qualitative Analysis in the Making, Routledge 2014

• The Biographer’s Power and Private Archives, in (red. Bieri): Crisis, Credibility and Corporate History, Liverpool University 2014

• The Historical Biography, in International Encyclopedia of Social & Behavioral Sciences, Elsevier 2013

• Den Farlige Biografi. Om Lis Jacobsens arkiv og den historiske biografis udfordringer, Fund & Forskning 2012

• Biography – an Unloved, but Much Pursued Courtesan, in Biographies of the Financial World (eds. A Pehrlinge & H Sjögren), Stockholm 2012

• En bevægelse med en historie kan ikke væltes, i Den nødvendige historie, FV, Kbh. 2010

• Om kunsten at skrive biografi om Ibsen, pp. 15-38, in: Astrid Sæther, Ståle Dingstad, Atle Kittang & Anne Marie Rekdal (red.): Den biografiske Ibsen, Acta Ibseniana VI 2010, Senter for Ibsen-studier, Universitetet i Oslo 2010

• Clara Zetkin (1857-1933) – et portræt, pp. 29-47, i Anne Brædder, Anette Eklund Hansen & Knud Knudsen (red.): Arbejderkvinder i 100 år, Arbejderhistorie * Tidsskrift for Historie, Kultur og Politik, København 2010. English summary

• Om kunsten at skrive biografi, i Rubicon, pp. 76-93, Syddansk Universitet 2009

• Portraiture and Re-portraiture: Biography as a technique in the Making of History, i Living Political Biography. Narrating Ideas of Europe, Aarhus Universitets Forlag/Oxford University Press 2011

• Om kunsten at skrive biografi, i Rubicon, p. 76-93, Syddansk Universitet 2009

• Fremtidens biografier, i Bokvennen. Norsk litterært tidskrift, september 2008.

• At vække sjælen og udvikle åndens kraft. Om hvorfor kvinder var overflødige, (17 s.) in Joakim Garff (red.): At Komme Til Sig Selv. Om danske dannelsestænkere, Forlaget Gad, 2008

• Uden omsvøb. Et portræt af Bodil Koch 1903-1972, Ill., Gyldendal 2007

• Portrættering og omportrættering. Om biografi som dekonstruende metode, pp. 239-252, i Jette Kofod og Dorthe Staunæs (red.): Magtballader. 14 fortællinger om magt, modstand og menneskers tilblivelse. Danmarks Pædagogiske Universitetsforlag, Khb. 2007

• Et kritisk blik på biografien. Genren med de mange liv, i Med livet som insats. Biografien som humanistisk genre, Henrik Rosengren & Johan Östling (red.), Sekel Bokförlag Lund

• Bodil Koch: Manegeklovn eller regeringens eneste mandfolk? i Bøge Pedersen & Larsen (red.): Det bedste selskab. Festskrift til Jens Engberg, SFAH, Aarhus 2006

• Genren med de mange liv, in: Et Kritisk Blik, Festskrift til Morten Thing, Tiderne Skifter, oktober 2005

• The Historical Biography: Genre, History and Methodology, pp. 17-25 in: Writing Lives in Sport. Biographies, Life-histories and Methods (ed. John Bale, Mette K. Christensen, Gertrud Phister, Acta Jutlandica LXXVIII: 3, Humanities Series 77, Aarhus University Press 2004

• Biografen der brød med traditionen? p. 15-22 in: Jens Chr. Manniche 1942-2003. Biograf, historiegraf, kolonihistoriker, Den jyske Historiker, Julenummer 2003, Aarhus, DEN JYSKE HISTORIKER, Historisk Institut, Aarhus Universitet

• Humaniora i Samtale, in: Finn Horn og Henrik Kaare Nielsen (red.): Universitetet til Tiden? Debatbog. Forlaget Klim, Aarhus 2003

• Awakening the Promise of the Soul, Gyldendal, Copenhagen 2002

• In Conversation with the Humanities, Copenhagen 2002, http://www.humanities.dk/english/staff/birgitte_possing.html

• Den biografiske udfordring: Mytologisering eller harmonisering [The Biographical Challenge: Mythologisation or Harmonisation] in: K. Hastrup (ed.): Værdier og Videnskab [Scholarly Values], Videnskabernes Selskab (The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters), Copenhagen 2002

• At Vække Sjælen, Gyldendal, Copenhagen 2001

• The Historical Biography, in: The International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Elsevier, Oxford 2001