Norway and its history

Also a small attempt to make light on how we live our lives...

Norway's history is an interesting one, both riddled with conflicts and savagery, and with peace and civilization. Though no one incident can truly show a major influence on any one country, I believe that anyone will find that many, many years and various incidents teach the peoples of a nation many valuable lessons, and to this, Norway is no exception.

Norway is believed to have first been settled around 1200 BC. The country grew for many years, until around 770 AD, when The Viking Age began. During this time period, the Scandinavians were found frequently voyaging to the Baltic and Irish seas, and even as far into the Mediterranean as Sicily, where they continued to employ superior ships, weapons, and military organization/strategies. Finally the Norse discovered Iceland and settled there in 870 AD.

Much violence over ownership followed until a leader, King Harald Fairhair taught the Norwegians the strength in unity, and led them to a united Norway in 900 AD.

Woe be to the man who tries to force his beliefs upon another. Religion was one thing that did not sit well with the Norse. King Olav I Tryggvasson introduced Christianity first in 995, but then King Olav II Haraldsson tried to complete the conversion in 1016, and started a bloody war that lasted until 1028 when he was slain at the Battle of Stiklestad and became Patron Saint of Norway.

Other leaders saw the power in peace and free beliefs. Håkon IV became King of Norway in 1217 and showed the people that religion was not all that they had to know. He began Norway's "Golden Age" wherein he reformed and modernized the Administration. Under Håkon Norway's empire reached its greatest size, as Greenland and Iceland formed unions with Norway in 1261. It was also during this time period that Håkon had The Sagas written.

Håkon's ideas lasted long after his death. Between 1319 and 1335, Norway and Scandinavia formed a union and grew to be one of the most powerful nations of the era. This did not stop the Norwegians from learning a harsh lesson concerning health and medical care, when the Black Death struck in 1349, killing two thirds of the population. The Germans saw opportunity in this and gave the Norwegians aid, in exchange for the Treaty of Stralsun which gave the North German free passage through Danish waters, and thus Norway. (Norway was at this time a Danish Province. When they became one is unclear.) As a result, the Germans gained a great deal of power throughout Scandinavia.

War, both open and of political intrigue followed until the Peace of Copenhagen was established in 1660, which set the modern boundaries of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. Finally the wars ended when Sweden attacked Denmark and forced the Danish to surrender Norway, after Napoleon was defeated at the Battle of Leipzig. As a result, Norway was forced to accept Act of Union with Sweden.

This was not all bad, however. Sweden's Act of Union showed the Norse the value of political reform, which they had previously refused, and the Norwegians established a Parliamentary system. Then, in 1905, Norway decided to go one step further by declaring independence from Sweden and dissolving the union.

Perhaps the Norwegians would have done better if the had waited until after World War I to do this, because without Sweden’s backing, when Norway declared it's neutrality in the war, Germany blockaded their seas which caused the Merchant Fleet and thus Norway's economy to take heavy losses in 1914. As a result the leaders of Norway decided that they needed two things:

  • They needed the support of women and gave them the right to vote in 1918, and
  • they decided that they had to take a stand and joined the League of Nations in 1920.

This was such a popular topic for writing that three writers, Bjørnsterjun Bjørnson, Knut Hamsen, and Sigrid Undset won the Nobel Prize for Literature between 1903 and 1928. Their writings inspired a large workforce to employ a Labor Government that lasted from 1929 to 1937.

Then again in 1939, Norway has to re-learn it's lesson on taking sides when it again declares neutrality in World War II and is again occupied by the Germans, on April 9, 1940. This time Norway got the hint and joined the United Nations, but it took them until 1945 to do this. They followed by joining NATO in 1949 and forming the Nordic Council which promoted cooperation among the Nordic Parliaments, in 1952.

Since then Norway has learned that it can always stand for what is right, without being told that it is wrong. It has also stood by the economic reformations, and learned to accept opportunity. The perfect example being the discovery of oil in the North Sea, in 1968. By 1971 the North Sea Oil production had already began transforming Norwegian Economy. Norway has also applied three times for membership in the European Economic Community, and I believe that they got membership the third time.

Norway has, through the years, shown that they know how to learn from their mistakes. It may be a quick reform and then long refinement, as in the Vikings gathering military knowledge, sailing abilities, and weapons, or it may be a slowly re-learned lesson that is taken to the core the second or third time, such as their positions in WWI and WWII. This just goes to show that Norway and her people are, as much as any of us, human, and that they do make mistakes some times, but they learn from them. You might notice that Norway has some of the best sailors and ships, and most efficient shipping lines in the world. They aren't afraid to speak their minds. And most of all, they are willing to do what it takes to help their country secure it's place, and power itself on to whatever comes tomorrow. They also have learned one thing, which is best illustrated in a quote from The Thirteenth Warrior.

"The great father wove the skane of your life many years ago. You can go and hide in a hole if you wish; you won't live a moment longer. The thread has been spun. The weave is set. Fear profits a man nothing."

It is what we all strive to live. It is what they, ancestors and modern people, have learned.



I co-wrote this with LerrisofRecluse. Myself and others felt that this should be mentioned. : )