This chapter presents a general introduction and background to Widengren’s intellectual life. The focus is on Widengren’s formative years as a young student at Stockholm University College (in Swedish, Stockholms Högskola), but the chapter also cover some of the intellectual and academic milieus that Widengren belonged to during his long career. While his academic life is the focus here, Widengren’s interest in the military, his horse-riding and his engagement in Swedish public debates will also be discussed. This introductory chapter will make it easier for the reader to comprehend the remaining chapters of this edited volume and to place Widengren in his proper intellectual context.
Leaving aside the philosophical response to the rhetorical question of whether we can learn anything from the past, I suggest that Geo Widengren can be used as an example showing how the study of religions as a discipline has evolved and changed over time. Widengren can therefore serve as a prism casting light on changes within the History of Religions as an academic discipline in Sweden and internationally, but his academic career took place at a time when Sweden, like the rest of Europe, was undergoing tremendous changes.