TORA is a historical geographic register provided by the Swedish National Archives (Riksarkivet). TORA serves as a cloud service to be used as an authority file, a historical GIS and a gazetteer for historical places and divisions in Sweden.

The core concept of TORA is Historical Settlement Unit such as a village, hamlet, single farm, manor or town. Their spatial position is defined by latitude and longitude coordinates, that are set on the basis of historical large-scale maps from the 17th century and later. So far, 24 000 units have been registered, which covers about half of all settlements that existed in Sweden during the Middle Ages until the early modern period c. 1800 (of which many still exist today).

TORA also includes topographical divisions such as parishes and counties, with boundaries represented as polygons.

All geographical references in TORA (points and polygons) are shared freely under the public domain CC-BY.

Using linked data principles, the TORA cloud service publishes open research data from the Swedish National Archives (Medieval Sweden, DMS), the Institute for Language and Folklore (Place-Names of Sweden, SO), the National Library of Sweden (Suecia) and the Database of manors in Sweden.

TORA is built on EntryStore digital platform and its REST API developed by MetaSolutions AB. The platform converts and publish TORA-related data as linked data in RDF-format. TORA reuses the Dublin Core and Simple Knowledge Organization System vocabularies. In addition, the TORA data model (graph) has its own concepts, for instance Historical Settlement Unit and Topographical Division.

As the TORA cloud expands, more specific questions related to historical places can be asked, based on spatial location, events, statistics and other types of data.

The goal is to increase, simplify and improve the use of historical sources and linked data in research and applications.

The TORA project

TORA has been launched on the initiative of a group of researchers and co-workers at several institutions in Sweden. Funds were granted from Kungl. Vitterhetsakademien and Riksbankens Jubileumsfond for a project in 2015, which is ongoing until 2019.1 The project is located at Riksarkivet in Stockholm and belongs to the unit of Diplomatarium.

The sources

The c. 24,000 spatial coordinates in TORA, referring to settlement units, have been excerpted on basis of the following source materials (in the order they have been added):

  • Large-scale maps from the 17th century: In principle, all settlements in Sweden mapped by land surveyors during the 17th century are included in TORA. These maps covers 15,000 settlement units, which were registered as coordinates in two projects at Riksarkivet during 2003-2011.
  • The illustrated topographical survey of Sweden – Suecia antiqua et hodierna (Sweden past and present): This collection, at the National Library of Sweden, consist of more than 1,000 draughts, drawings and engravings of settlement in Sweden from the second half of the 17th century. About 240 sites appears in this source of which c. 180 are new registrations.
  • Medieval written sources and cadastres (jordeböcker): All settlements in Sweden, documented in medieval written sources and later registers until c. 1570, are continually identified and described by the research group Det medeltida Sverige (Medieval Sweden) at Riksarkivet. Many of these have already been assigned to coordinates (see above). Those not found on 17th century maps have been assigned to coordinates using later maps. At present about 6,600 settlements units have been added (ongoing).
  • Sources and reference books about manors: The database Sveriges herrgårdar (Manors in Sweden) contains information about 3,500 manors in Sweden. Basically all have been matched with coordinates in TORA (ongoing).
  • Sources and reference books about place names: The book serie Sveriges ortnamn (SO), published by the department of Onomastics in Uppsala, provides a systematic presentation and interpretations of place names in Sweden. The material is currently being digitized and linked to TORA by the Institute for Language and Folklore. Any settlement unit missing coordinates will be added (ongoing).
  • Large-scale maps from 18th century: Land survey maps created before c. 1800 form the basis for a further spatial registration to TORA. Primary, the maps created before the enclosure reforms (storskifte, enskifte, laga skifte) are relevant (not started).

  1. TORA-projektet. Bygge och koordinering av historiska databaser, Samlingarna och forskningen 2015 ↩︎