Our Norwegian Heritage :

 

Norway: History

 

 

 

The forefathers of modern Norwegians were prehistoric hunters and farmers that arrived after the last Ice Age and other groups that continued to arrive through the Roman period and on through the 6th Century AD. The settlements in Southern and Western Norway reached saturation point prior to the Viking Era and it is from these areas that the Vikings sailed.

Viking Era (793 - 1066): Although many Norwegians glorify these seaworthy marauders, their victims had other opinions. It should be noted that the Vikings did not just destroy lives and property while stealing valuables and people for slaves, they also created colonies in Ireland, Scotland, and Iceland and extensively explored the northern Atlantic Ocean. This era is said to have begun in 793 and ended in 1066 with the defeat of King Harald Hardruler in 1066. In the southeast and north Norway, on the other hand, settlement based on agriculture and other activities spread to previously uninhabited areas, particularly in the mountains and valleys.

Unification Era (1020 - 1350): At the beginning of this era, Norway was not unified, but by 1060 the country was unified by force with Christianity forcibly introduced and finally in1030, becoming the "state religion" with the death of martyred King Olaf. The 12th and the 13th centuries were a time of growth and prosperity during which Oslo became Norway's capital. During this time Norway and Sweden shared a joint monarchy.

The Plague (1350 - 1450): In the middle of the 14th century, the plague arrived in Norway resulting in the death of 1/2 to2/3 of Norway's inhabitants. A severe economic depression resulted.

"Alliances" with and territory of Denmark (1450 - 1814): In 1450, Norway united with Denmark, a union that was supposedly between equals. However, Norway lost its independence in1536 and became a subsidiary of Denmark. In 1537, a Danish Royal Decree forced the reformation on Norwegians and in the early 1600's, a Danish edict established the Lutheran Church as the only church in Norway. Economic reforms spawned the growth of a middle class in Norway by the middle 1700's and a sense of Norwegian nationality arose even though they were a territory of Denmark.

Denmark cedes Norway to Sweden (1814): Unfortunately, Denmark (and Norway) allied themselves to France during the Napoleonic Wars. After Napoleon's defeat in 1814, Denmark ceded their territory of Norway to Sweden, who was on the winning side of the conflict. When the Norwegians did not accept this "union", Sweden launched a military campaign to force the issue. After the 1814 "union" with Sweden, Norway's economy suffered due to the disappearance of her traditional markets in Denmark and Britain. Many citizens faced hardships and the Storting , Norway's parliament, continued to defy the Swedish monarchy. An assembly convened at Eidsvoll and formally adopted a constitution designating the Danish Prince Christian Frederick as King on 17 May 1814. To this day, May 17th is celebrated. During the 1830's the economy rebounded and by 1848, there were calls for democratic reforms. In 1884, Norway formally divided itself into two political parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives, although the division had been happening for 15years.

Reforms of 1884: When the Liberals placed their leader Prime Minister in 1884,several reforms were implemented such as a jury system, and a law on primary education. As the end of the century approached, the majority of Norwegians were still involved in farming and/or forestry and the population was expanding.

Emigration to the USA: In Norway, the late 1800's and early 1900's were a time and place when farming did not offer a promising future and emigration to the USA was a popular alternative for both religious freedom and economic opportunity.

Independence (August 1905): Politically, the conflict with Sweden was finally coming to a resolution. A Norwegian referendum in August 1905 ended the "union". In November that year, the Danish Prince Karl was invited to be King of Norway. He accepted, taking the name Håkon VII. The present King Harald is his grandson. Note: Universal suffrage was given to men in 1898 and to women in 1913.


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This page was last updated by Carolynne White March 30, 2001