"After all, no one else does research on Danish history – that’s up to us"

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Same procedure as last year...? No, because unlike Miss Sophie in Dinner for One, AU doesn’t turn 90 every year. Omnibus is celebrating the university’s 90th with a series of short interviews with employees about their relationship to the university.

2018.10.01 | Miriam Brems

Anders Bøgh’s favorite spot at AU is down by the lakes in the University Park, looking up toward the Main Hall. However, he did have a rather macabre experience here once: he witnessed a crow hacking away at a sick duck. Although the former department head felt that putting an end to the suffering bird’s misery was the right thing to do, instead he simply shooed the crow away – not wanting to read about himself in the university newspaper under the headline ‘Department head strangles duck in the park’. Photo: Lars Kruse.

AU’s 90th

  • “In the hope that that the scientific and scholarly research which shall take place here may take place in spirit and truth, I hereby inaugurate Aarhus University.”
  • King Christian X inaugurated the first university in Jutland with these words, on 11 September 1933. The very university where you work – or study: Aarhus University.
  • Omnibus is celebrating AU’s 90th birthday with a series of short interviews: we asked AU employees to answer three questions about their relationship to the university. And about their birthday wishes for the guest of honor.
  • Together with university historian Palle Lykke, we’ve also delved into the archives to find photos from the first nine decades at AU. They’re accompanied by a short text by Palle that illuminates the high points (and low points) documented by the photographer’s lens over the years.
  • And we’ve asked the photographers from AU Photo to revisit the same spots to show you what they look like today. The anniversary series ‘AU’s 90th’ will run throughout the autumn.

Anders Bøgh, dr. phil., emeritus associate professor. Specializes medieval history, employed at Aarhus University since 1975. In his own words and in all modesty, he was the primus motor behind the popular history website danmarkshistorien.dk, and appeared in the television series Historien om Danmark (the history of Denmark), for which he served as a consultant on medieval history. Head of the former Department of History (later Department of History and Area Studies), 1996 - 2004.

Why are you still here?

“Because I’m still trying to write and make myself useful in relation to medieval history. For example, I’ve peer reviewed four books since I retired three years ago and given quite a few talks, and I pay rent for my emeritus office in the form of some lectures and examinations. It’s wonderful to have an opportunity to continue with part of your work.”

Anders Bøgh’s 43 years at AU mean that he’s been employed at the university for almost half of its history, and he’s observed definite differences between AU anno 1975 and 2018:

“It’s a lot more hectic to be employed as a researcher today than back when I started. The demands across the entire spectrum have increased an incredible amount since back then. The workload was smaller, there were fewer teaching hours, smaller classes and no clearly defined publication requirements. Clearly, it was less stressful. I was employed half-time in the last years before my retirement, and that enabled me to ‘survive’. At the same time, it allowed me to be the project manager and principle contributor to the work Nørre Vosborg i tid og rum (Nørre Vosborg in time and space, a major interdisciplinary work on the West Jutland manor Nørre Vosborg from the Viking age to the present, ed.)

What’s your favorite spot at AU?

“Down at the lakes in the University Park, where I stand facing the Main Hall. Because it’s so incredibly beautiful. Until we (the Department of History, ed.) were forcibly relocated up here (to the Nobel Park, ed.), we had the old main building next to the Main Hall. That was a truly excellent place to be, and it really felt like banishment to move into the Nobel ghetto over here.”

Even after the move, Anders Bøgh continued to walk through the park every day on his way to work for many years, and he never quite knew what he’d encounter on his daily walk. For underneath the idyllic surface of the park, nature’s brutal order reigns:

“Once I saw a crow pecking at a duck down by the lake. I stopped and stood still, considering what I should do. The right response in that situation would probably have been to wring the duck’s neck, because it must have been sick since it let a crow peck at it like that. But I was department head at that point, and I could just image the headline in the university newspaper: ‘Department head strangles duck in the park’. I had previously been in the paper under the headline ‘Bøgh falder Eg’ (A play on words; the name ‘Bøgh’ is a homonym for ‘bøg’, Danish for ‘beech’ - ergo ‘beech fells oak’, ed) when I had one of the oaks in the park felled, because it was blocking the light out of our offices. So I decided to take a less heroic approach and shooed the crow away – but I suppose the drama continued as soon as I walked away.”

What is your birthday wish for AU?

“My wish is for AU not to forget that there are some subjects at this university that aren’t as globalized as others – and neither should they be. These are subjects that are concerned with Danish cultural heritage and history, for example History and Scandinavian Studies. AU must be able to to serve Danes with their own history. My old position has been taken over by an American saga researcher. He couldn’t have appeared in Historien om Danmark. There are about twenty researchers at History now, five of whom were not born and educated in this country. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be international researchers here. But there ought to be a limit to how many the university employs who don’t have Danish history among their research areas. After all, there’s (almost) no one else who works on Danish history – that’s up to us. This is not to say, of course, that we should only work on Danish history – not at all  – Danish history has to be situated in an international context. What’s important is that, in the heat of the ranking list race, we don’t forget that we have a clear-cut obligation in regard to the Danish cultural heritage. As I always say, history is our collective memory – and what would happen to you and me if we lost our memory? It’s a bit the same for society.”

AU’s 90th

  • “In the hope that that the scientific and scholarly research which shall take place here may take place in spirit and truth, I hereby inaugurate Aarhus University.”
  • King Christian X inaugurated the first university in Jutland with these words, on 11 September 1933. The very university where you work – or study: Aarhus University.
  • Omnibus is celebrating AU’s 90th birthday with a series of short interviews: we asked AU employees to answer three questions about their relationship to the university. And about their birthday wishes for the guest of honor.
  • Together with university historian Palle Lykke, we’ve also delved into the archives to find photos from the first nine decades at AU. They’re accompanied by a short text by Palle that illuminates the high points (and low points) documented by the photographer’s lens over the years.
  • And we’ve asked the photographers from AU Photo to revisit the same spots to show you what they look like today. The anniversary series ‘AU’s 90th’ will run throughout the autumn.
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Revised 19.10.2018