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Happy Independence day to Norway – Independence from Denmark (1814) and the Constitution of Norway (May 17, 1814).

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Norway (Listeni/ˈnɔːrw/ NAWR-way; Norwegian: About this sound Norge (Bokmål) or About this sound Noreg (Nynorsk)),[11] officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a sovereign and unitary monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula plus the island Jan Mayen and the archipelago of Svalbard.[note 1] The Antarctic Peter I Island and the sub-Antarctic Bouvet Island are dependent territories and thus not considered part of the Kingdom. Norway also lays claim to a section of Antarctica known as Queen Maud Land. Until 1814, the kingdom included the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Iceland. It also included Bohuslän until 1658, Jämtland and Härjedalen until 1645, Shetland and Orkney until 1468, and the Hebrides and Isle of Man until 1266.

Norway has a total area of 385,252 square kilometres (148,747 sq mi) and a population of 5,258,317 (as of January 2017).[13] The country shares a long eastern border with Sweden (1,619 km or 1,006 mi long). Norway is bordered by Finland and Russia to the north-east, and the Skagerrak Strait to the south, with Denmark on the other side. Norway has an extensive coastline, facing the North Atlantic Ocean and the Barents Sea.

King Harald V of the Dano-German House of Glücksburg is the current King of Norway. Erna Solberg became Prime Minister in 2013, replacing Jens Stoltenberg. A constitutional monarchy, Norway divides state power between the Parliament, the Cabinet and the Supreme Court, as determined by the 1814 Constitution. The kingdom is established as a merger of several petty kingdoms. By the traditional count from the year 872, the kingdom has existed continuously for 1,144 years and the list of Norwegian monarchs includes over sixty kings and earls.

Norway has both administrative and political subdivisions on two levels: counties and municipalities. The Sámi people have a certain amount of self-determination and influence over traditional territories through the Sámi Parliament and the Finnmark Act. Norway maintains close ties with the European Union and the United States. Norway is a founding member of the United Nations, NATO, the Council of Europe, the Antarctic Treaty and the Nordic Council; a member of the European Economic Area, the WTO and the OECD; and is also a part of the Schengen Area.

The country maintains a combination of market economy and a Nordic welfare model with universal health care and a comprehensive social security system. Norway has extensive reserves of petroleum, natural gas, minerals, lumber, seafood, fresh water and hydropower. The petroleum industry accounts for around a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).[14] On a per-capita basis, Norway is the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas outside the Middle East.[15][16]

The country has the fourth-highest per capita income in the world on the World Bank and IMF lists.[17] On the CIA‘s GDP (PPP) per capita list (2015 estimate) which includes territories and some regions, Norway ranks as number eleven.[18] From 2001 to 2006,[19] and then again from 2009 to 2017, Norway had the highest Human Development Index ranking in the world. It also has the highest inequality-adjusted ranking.[20][21][22] Norway ranks first on the World Happiness Report,[23] the OECD Better Life Index, the Index of Public Integrity and the Democracy Index.

Politics and government

King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway, reigning since 1991.

The Storting is the Parliament of Norway.

Norway is considered to be one of the most developed democracies and states of justice in the world. From 1814, c. 45% of men (25 years and older) had the right to vote, whereas the United Kingdom had c. 20% (1832), Sweden c. 5% (1866), and Belgium c. 1.15% (1840). Since 2010, Norway has been classified as the world’s most democratic country by the Democracy Index.[84][85][86]

According to the Constitution of Norway, which was adopted on 17 May 1814[87] and inspired by the United States Declaration of Independence and French Revolution of 1776 and 1789, respectively, Norway is a unitary constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government, wherein the King of Norway is the head of state and the Prime Minister is the head of government. Power is separated among the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government, as defined by the Constitution, which serves as the country’s supreme legal document.

The Monarch officially retains executive power. However, following the introduction of a parliamentary system of government, the duties of the Monarch have since become strictly representative and ceremonial,[88] such as the formal appointment and dismissal of the Prime Minister and other ministers in the executive government. Accordingly, the Monarch is commander-in-chief of the Norwegian Armed Forces, and serves as chief diplomatic official abroad and as a symbol of unity. Harald V of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg was crowned King of Norway in 1991, the first since the 14th century who has been born in the country.[89] Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway, is the legal and rightful heir to the throne and the Kingdom.

In practice, the Prime Minister exercises the executive powers. Constitutionally, legislative power is vested with both the government and the Parliament of Norway, but the latter is the supreme legislature and a unicameral body.[90] Norway is fundamentally structured as a representative democracy. The Parliament can pass a law by simple majority of the 169 representatives, who are elected on the basis of proportional representation from 19 constituencies for four-year terms.

150 are elected directly from the 19 constituencies, and an additional 19 seats (“levelling seats”) are allocated on a nationwide basis to make the representation in parliament correspond better with the popular vote for the political parties. A 4% election threshold is required for a party to gain levelling seats in Parliament.[91] There are a total of 169 Members of Parliament.

The Parliament of Norway, called the Stortinget (meaning Grand Assembly), ratifies national treaties developed by the executive branch. It can impeach members of the government if their acts are declared unconstitutional. If an indicted suspect is impeached, Parliament has the power to remove the person from office.

The position of Prime Minister, Norway’s head of government, is allocated to the Member of Parliament who can obtain the confidence of a majority in Parliament, usually the current leader of the largest political party or, more effectively, through a coalition of parties. A single party generally does not have sufficient political power in terms of the number of seats to form a government on its own. Norway has often been ruled by minority governments.

The Prime Minister nominates the Cabinet, traditionally drawn from members of the same political party or parties in the Storting, making up the government. The PM organises the executive government and exercises its power as vested by the Constitution.[92] Reflecting its monarchical past, Norway was established under the Lutheran Church of Norway, and was the state church until 2012. Formerly the PM had to have more than half the members of Cabinet be members of the Church of Norway, meaning at least ten out of the 19 ministries. This rule was however removed in 2012. The issue of separation of church and state in Norway has been increasingly controversial, as many people believe it is time to change this, to reflect the growing diversity in the population. A part of this is the evolution of the public school subject Christianity, a required subject since 1739. Even the state’s loss in a battle at the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg[93] in 2007 did not settle the matter. As of January 1, 2017 the Church of Norway is a separate legal entity and no longer a branch of the civil service.[94]

Through the Council of State, a privy council presided over by the Monarch, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet meet at the Royal Palace and formally consult the Monarch. All government bills need the formal approval by the Monarch before and after introduction to Parliament. The Council reviews and approves all of the Monarch’s actions as head of state. Although all government and parliamentary acts are decided beforehand, the privy council is an example of symbolic gesture the King retains.[89]

Members of the Storting are directly elected from party-lists proportional representation in nineteen plural-member constituencies in a national multi-party system.[95] Historically, both the Norwegian Labour Party and Conservative Party have played leading political roles. In the early 21st century, the Labour Party has been in power since the 2005 election, in a Red-Green Coalition with the Socialist Left Party and the Centre Party.[96]

Since 2005, both the Conservative Party and the Progress Party have won numerous seats in the Parliament, but not sufficient in the 2009 general election to overthrow the coalition. Commentators have pointed to the poor co-operation between the opposition parties, including the Liberals and the Christian Democrats. Jens Stoltenberg, the leader of the Labour Party, continues to have the necessary majority through his multi-party alliance to continue as PM.[97]

In national elections in September 2013, voters ended eight years of Labor rule. Two political parties, Høyre and Fremskrittspartiet, elected on promises of tax cuts, more spending on infrastructure and education, better services and stricter rules on immigration, formed a government. Coming at a time when Norway’s economy is in good condition with low unemployment, the rise of the right appeared to be based on other issues. Erna Solberg became prime minister, the second female prime minister after Brundtland and the first conservative prime minister since Syse. Solberg said her win was “a historic election victory for the right-wing parties”.[98]

Administrative divisions

Norway, a unitary state, is divided into nineteen first-level administrative counties (fylke). The counties are administrated through directly elected county assemblies who elect the County Governor. Additionally, the King and government are represented in every county by a fylkesmann, who effectively acts as a Governor.[99] As such, the Government is directly represented at a local level through the County Governors’ offices. The counties are then sub-divided into 430 second-level municipalities (kommunar), which in turn are administrated by directly elected municipal council, headed by a mayor and a small executive cabinet. The capital of Oslo is considered both a county and a municipality.

Norway has two integral overseas territories: Jan Mayen and Svalbard, the only developed island in the archipelago of the same name, located miles away to the north. There are three Antarctic and Subantarctic dependencies: Bouvet Island, Peter I Island and Queen Maud Land. On most maps there had been an unclaimed area between Queen Maud Land and the South Pole until June 12, 2015 when Norway formally annexed that area.[100]

A geopolitical map of Norway, showing the 19 fylker, the Svalbard (Spitsbergen) and Jan Mayen islands, which are part of the Norwegian kingdom

96 settlements have city status in Norway. In most cases, the city borders are coterminous with the borders of their respective municipalities. Often, Norwegian city municipalities include large areas that are not developed; for example, Oslo municipality contains large forests, located north and south-east of the city, and over half of Bergen municipality consists of mountainous areas.

Prehistory

The first inhabitants were the Ahrensburg culture (11th to 10th millennia BC), which was a late Upper Paleolithic culture during the Younger Dryas, the last period of cold at the end of the Weichsel glaciation. The culture is named after the village of Ahrensburg, 25 km (15.53 mi) north-east of Hamburg in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, where wooden arrow shafts and clubs have been excavated.[30] The earliest traces of human occupation in Norway are found along the coast, where the huge ice shelf of the last ice age first melted between 11,000 and 8,000 BC. The oldest finds are stone tools dating from 9,500 to 6,000 BC, discovered in Finnmark (Komsa culture) in the north and Rogaland (Fosna culture) in the south-west. However, theories about two altogether different cultures (the Komsa culture north of the Arctic Circle being one and the Fosna culture from Trøndelag to Oslo Fjord being the other) were rendered obsolete in the 1970s.

Approximate extent of the Corded Ware culture

More recent finds along the entire coast revealed to archaeologists that the difference between the two can simply be ascribed to different types of tools and not to different cultures. Coastal fauna provided a means of livelihood for fishermen and hunters, who may have made their way along the southern coast about 10,000 BC when the interior was still covered with ice. It is now thought that these so-called “Arctic” peoples came from the south and followed the coast northward considerably later.

In the southern part of the country are dwelling sites dating from about 5,000 BC. Finds from these sites give a clearer idea of the life of the hunting and fishing peoples. The implements vary in shape and mostly are made of different kinds of stone; those of later periods are more skilfully made. Rock carvings (i.e. petroglyphs) have been found, usually near hunting and fishing grounds. They represent game such as deer, reindeer, elk, bears, birds, seals, whales, and fish (especially salmon and halibut), all of which were vital to the way of life of the coastal peoples. The carvings at Alta in Finnmark, the largest in Scandinavia, were made at sea level from 4,200 to 500 BC and mark the progression of the land as the sea rose after the last ice age ended (Rock carvings at Alta).

Bronze Age

Locations of the Germanic tribes described by Jordanes in Norway

Between 3000 and 2500 BC new settlers (Corded Ware culture) arrived in eastern Norway. They were Indo-European farmers who grew grain and kept cows and sheep. The hunting-fishing population of the west coast was also gradually replaced by farmers, though hunting and fishing remained useful secondary means of livelihood.

From about 1500 BC bronze was gradually introduced, but the use of stone implements continued; Norway had few riches to barter for bronze goods, and the few finds consist mostly of elaborate weapons and brooches that only chieftains could afford. Huge burial cairns built close to the sea as far north as Harstad and also inland in the south are characteristic of this period. The motifs of the rock carvings differ from those typical of the Stone Age. Representations of the Sun, animals, trees, weapons, ships, and people are all strongly stylised.

Thousands of rock carvings from this period depict ships, and the large stone burial monuments known as stone ships, suggest that ships and seafaring played an important role in the culture at large. The depicted ships, most likely represent sewn plank built canoes used for warfare, fishing and trade. These ship types may have their origin as far back as the neolithic period and they continue into the Pre-Roman Iron Age, as exemplified by the Hjortspring boat.[31]

Iron Age

Little has been found dating from the early Iron Age (the last 500 years BC). The dead were cremated, and their graves contain few burial goods. During the first four centuries AD the people of Norway were in contact with Roman-occupied Gaul. About 70 Roman bronze cauldrons, often used as burial urns, have been found. Contact with the civilised countries farther south brought a knowledge of runes; the oldest known Norwegian runic inscription dates from the 3rd century. At this time the amount of settled area in the country increased, a development that can be traced by coordinated studies of topography, archaeology, and place-names. The oldest root names, such as nes, vik, and bø (“cape,” “bay,” and “farm”), are of great antiquity, dating perhaps from the Bronze Age, whereas the earliest of the groups of compound names with the suffixes vin (“meadow”) or heim (“settlement”), as in Bjorgvin (Bergen) or Saeheim (Seim), usually date from the 1st century AD.

Archaeologists first made the decision to divide the Iron Age of Northern Europe into distinct pre-Roman and Roman Iron Ages after Emil Vedel unearthed a number of Iron Age artefacts in 1866 on the island of Bornholm.[32] They did not exhibit the same permeating Roman influence seen in most other artefacts from the early centuries AD, indicating that parts of northern Europe had not yet come into contact with the Romans at the beginning of the Iron Age.

Migration period

Viking swords found in Norway, preserved at Bergen Museum

The destruction of the Western Roman Empire by the Germanic peoples in the 5th century is characterised by rich finds, including tribal chiefs‘ graves containing magnificent weapons and gold objects.[citation needed] Hill forts were built on precipitous rocks for defence. Excavation has revealed stone foundations of farmhouses 18 to 27 metres (59 to 89 ft) long—one even 46 metres (151 feet) long—the roofs of which were supported on wooden posts. These houses were family homesteads where several generations lived together, with people and cattle under one roof.[citation needed]

These states were based on either clans or tribes (e.g., the Horder of Hordaland in western Norway). By the 9th century, each of these small states had things (local or regional assemblies),[citation needed] for negotiating and settling disputes. The thing meeting places, each eventually with a hörgr (open-air sanctuary) or a heathen hof (temple; literally “hill”), were usually situated on the oldest and best farms, which belonged to the chieftains and wealthiest farmers. The regional things united to form even larger units: assemblies of deputy yeomen from several regions. In this way, the lagting (assemblies for negotiations and lawmaking) developed. The Gulating had its meeting place by Sognefjord and may have been the centre of an aristocratic confederation[citation needed] along the western fjords and islands called the Gulatingslag. The Frostating was the assembly for the leaders in the Trondheimsfjord area; the Earls of Lade, near Trondheim, seem to have enlarged the Frostatingslag by adding the coastland from Romsdalsfjord to Lofoten.[citation needed]

Viking Age

Viking helmet found at Gjermundbu in Buskerud, is the only complete Viking Age helmet that has been found

The Gokstad ship at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway

From the 8th to the 10th century, the wider Scandinavian region was the source of Vikings. The looting of the monastery at Lindisfarne in Northeast England in 793 by Norse people has long been regarded as the event which marked the beginning of the Viking Age.[33] This age was characterised by expansion and emigration by Viking seafarers. They colonised, raided, and traded in all parts of Europe. Norwegian Viking explorers first discovered Iceland by accident in the 9th century when heading for the Faroe Islands, and eventually came across Vinland, known today as Newfoundland, in Canada. The Vikings from Norway were most active in the northern and western British Isles and eastern North America isles.[34]

According to tradition, Harald Fairhair unified them into one in 872 after the Battle of Hafrsfjord in Stavanger, thus becoming the first king of a united Norway.[35] Harald’s realm was mainly a South Norwegian coastal state. Fairhair ruled with a strong hand and according to the sagas, many Norwegians left the country to live in Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and parts of Britain and Ireland. The modern-day Irish cities of Dublin, Limerick and Waterford were founded by Norwegian settlers.[36]

Norwegian, Danish and Swedish expansion during the Viking age between 800–1050

Norse traditions were slowly replaced by Christian ones in the late 10th and early 11th centuries.One of the most important sources for the history of the 11th century Vikings is the treaty between the Icelanders and Olaf Haraldsson, king of Norway circa 1015 to 1028.[37] This is largely attributed to the missionary kings Olav Tryggvasson and St. Olav. Haakon the Good was Norway’s first Christian king, in the mid-10th century, though his attempt to introduce the religion was rejected. Born sometime in between 963–969, Olav Tryggvasson set off raiding in England with 390 ships. He attacked London during this raiding. Arriving back in Norway in 995, Olav landed in Moster. There he built a church which became the first Christian church ever built in Norway. From Moster, Olav sailed north to Trondheim where he was proclaimed King of Norway by the Eyrathing in 995.[38]

Feudalism never really developed in Norway or Sweden, as it did in the rest of Europe. However, the administration of government took on a very conservative feudal character. The Hanseatic League forced the royalty to cede to them greater and greater concessions over foreign trade and the economy. The League had this hold over the royalty because of the loans the Hansa had made to the royalty and the large debt the kings were carrying. The League’s monopolistic control over the economy of Norway put pressure on all classes, especially the peasantry, to the degree that no real burgher class existed in Norway.[39]

Kalmar Union

Norwegian Kingdom at its greatest extent, c. 1265

Upon the death of Haakon V (King of Norway) in 1319, Magnus Erikson, at just three years old, inherited the throne as King Magnus VII of Norway. At the same time, a movement to make Magnus King of Sweden proved successful and both the kings of Sweden and of Denmark were elected to the throne by their respective nobles, Thus, with his election to the throne of Sweden, both Sweden and Norway were united under King Magnus VII.[40]

In 1349, the Black Death radically altered Norway, killing between 50% and 60% of its population[41] and leaving it in a period of social and economic decline.[42] The plague left Norway very poor. Although the death rate was comparable with the rest of Europe, economic recovery took much longer because of the small, scattered population.[42] Even before the plague, the population was only about 500,000.[43] After the plague, many farms lay idle while the population slowly increased.[42] However, the few surviving farms’ tenants found their bargaining positions with their landlords greatly strengthened.[42]

Kalmar Union c. 1400 AD

King Magnus VII ruled Norway until 1350, when his son, Haakon, was placed on the throne as Haakon VI.[44] In 1363, Haakon VI married Margaret, the daughter of King Valdemar IV of Denmark.[42] Upon the death of Haakon VI, in 1379, his son, Olaf IV, was only 10 years old.[42] Olaf had already been elected to the throne of Denmark on 3 May 1376.[42] Thus, upon Olaf’s accession to the throne of Norway, Denmark and Norway entered personal union.[45] Olaf’s mother and Haakon’s widow, Queen Margaret, managed the foreign affairs of Denmark and Norway during the minority of Olaf IV.[42]

Margaret was working toward a union of Sweden with Denmark and Norway by having Olaf elected to the Swedish throne. She was on the verge of achieving this goal when Olaf IV suddenly died.[42] However, Denmark made Margaret temporary ruler upon the death of Olaf. On 2 February 1388, Norway followed suit and crowned Margaret.[42] Queen Margaret knew that her power would be more secure if she were able to find a king to rule in her place. She settled on Eric of Pomerania, grandson of her sister. Thus at an all-Scandinavian meeting held at Kalmar, Erik of Pomerania was crowned king of all three Scandinavian countries. Thus, royal politics resulted in personal unions between the Nordic countries, eventually bringing the thrones of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden under the control of Queen Margaret when the country entered into the Kalmar Union.

Union with Denmark

The Battle of the Sound between an allied Dano-Norwegian–Dutch fleet and the Swedish navy, 8 November 1658 (29 October O.S.)

After Sweden broke out of the Kalmar Union in 1521, Norway tried to follow suit,[citation needed] but the subsequent rebellion was defeated, and Norway remained in a union with Denmark until 1814, a total of 434 years. During the national romanticism of the 19th century, this period was by some referred to as the “400-Year Night”, since all of the kingdom’s royal, intellectual, and administrative power was centred in Copenhagen in Denmark. In fact, it was a period of great prosperity and progress for Norway, especially in terms of shipping and foreign trade, and it also secured the country’s revival from the demographic catastrophe it suffered in the Black Death. Based on the respective natural resources, Denmark–Norway was in fact a very good match, since Denmark supported Norway’s needs for grain and food supplies, and Norway supplied Denmark with timber, metal, and fish.

With the introduction of Protestantism in 1536, the archbishopric in Trondheim was dissolved, and Norway lost its independence, and effectually became a colony of Denmark. The Church’s incomes and possessions were instead redirected to the court in Copenhagen. Norway lost the steady stream of pilgrims to the relics of St. Olav at the Nidaros shrine, and with them, much of the contact with cultural and economic life in the rest of Europe.

Eventually restored as a kingdom (albeit in legislative union with Denmark) in 1661, Norway saw its land area decrease in the 17th century with the loss of the provinces Båhuslen, Jemtland, and Herjedalen to Sweden, as the result of a number of disastrous wars with Sweden. In the north, however, its territory was increased by the acquisition of the northern provinces of Troms and Finnmark, at the expense of Sweden and Russia.

The famine of 1695–1696 killed roughly 10% of Norway’s population.[46] The harvest failed in Scandinavia at least nine times between 1740 and 1800, with great loss of life.[47]

Union with Sweden

The 1814 constitutional assembly, painted by Oscar Wergeland

After Denmark–Norway was attacked by the United Kingdom at the Battle of Copenhagen, it entered into an alliance with Napoleon, with the war leading to dire conditions and mass starvation in 1812. As the Danish kingdom found itself on the losing side in 1814, it was forced, under terms of the Treaty of Kiel, to cede Norway to the king of Sweden, while the old Norwegian provinces of Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands remained with the Danish crown.[48]

Norway took this opportunity to declare independence, adopted a constitution based on American and French models, and elected the Crown Prince of Denmark and Norway, Christian Frederick, as king on 17 May 1814. This is the famous Syttende Mai (Seventeenth of May) holiday celebrated by Norwegians and Norwegian-Americans alike. Syttende Mai is also called Norwegian Constitution Day.

Norwegian opposition to the great powers’ decision to link Norway with Sweden caused the Norwegian-Swedish War to break out as Sweden tried to subdue Norway by military means. As Sweden’s military was not strong enough to defeat the Norwegian forces outright and Norway’s treasury was not large enough to support a protracted war, and as British and Russian navies blockaded the Norwegian coast,[49] the belligerents were forced to negotiate the Convention of Moss. According to the terms of the convention, Christian Frederik abdicated the Norwegian throne and authorised the Parliament of Norway to make the necessary constitutional amendments to allow for the personal union that Norway was forced to accept. On 4 November 1814 the Parliament (Storting) elected Charles XIII of Sweden as king of Norway, thereby establishing the union with Sweden.[50] Under this arrangement, Norway kept its liberal constitution and its own independent institutions, except for the foreign service. Following the recession caused by the Napoleonic Wars, economic development of Norway remained slow until economic growth began around 1830.[51]

Harvesting of oats in Jølster around 1890

This period also saw the rise of the Norwegian romantic nationalism, as Norwegians sought to define and express a distinct national character. The movement covered all branches of culture, including literature (Henrik Wergeland [1808–1845], Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson [1832–1910], Peter Christen Asbjørnsen [1812–1845], Jørgen Moe [1813–1882]), painting (Hans Gude [1825–1903], Adolph Tidemand [1814–1876]), music (Edvard Grieg [1843–1907]), and even language policy, where attempts to define a native written language for Norway led to today’s two official written forms for Norwegian: Bokmål and Nynorsk.

King Charles III John, who came to the throne of Norway and Sweden in 1818, was the second king following Norway’s break from Denmark and the union with Sweden. Charles John was a complex man whose long reign extended to 1844. He protected the constitution and liberties of Norway and Sweden during the age of Metternich. As such, he was regarded as a liberal monarch for that age. However, he was ruthless in his use of paid informers, the secret police and restrictions on the freedom of the press to put down public movements for reform—especially the Norwegian national independence movement.[52]

The Romantic Era that followed the reign of King Charles III John brought some significant social and political reforms. In 1854, women won the right to inherit property in their own right just like men. In 1863, the last trace of keeping unmarried women in the status of minors was removed. Furthermore, women were then eligible for different occupations, particularly the common school teacher.[53] By mid-century, Norway’s democracy was limited by modern standards: Voting was limited to officials, property owners, leaseholders and burghers of incorporated towns.[54]

A Sami family in Norway around 1900

Still Norway remained a conservative society. Life in Norway (especially economic life) was “dominated by the aristocracy of professional men who filled most of the important posts in the central government”.[55] There was no strong bourgeosie class in Norway to demand a breakdown of this aristocratic control of the economy.[56] Thus, even while revolution swept over most of the countries of Europe in 1848, Norway was largely unaffected by revolts that year.[56]

Marcus Thrane was a Utopian socialist. He made his appeal to the labouring classes urging a change of social structure “from below upwards.” In 1848, he organised a labour society in Drammen. In just a few months this society had a membership of 500 and was publishing its own newspaper. Within two years 300 societies had been organised all over Norway with a total membership of 20,000 persons. The membership was drawn from the lower classes of both urban and rural areas; for the first time these two groups felt they had a common cause.[57] In the end, the revolt was easily crushed; Thrane was captured and in 1855, after four years in jail, was sentenced to three additional years for crimes against the safety of the state. Upon his release, Marcus Thrane attempted unsuccessfully to revitalise his movement, but after the death of his wife—migrated to the United States.[58]

In 1898, all men were granted universal suffrage, followed by all women in 1913.

Kalmar Union[edit]

Norwegian Kingdom at its greatest extent, c. 1265

Upon the death of Haakon V (King of Norway) in 1319, Magnus Erikson, at just three years old, inherited the throne as King Magnus VII of Norway. At the same time, a movement to make Magnus King of Sweden proved successful and both the kings of Sweden and of Denmark were elected to the throne by their respective nobles, Thus, with his election to the throne of Sweden, both Sweden and Norway were united under King Magnus VII.[40]

In 1349, the Black Death radically altered Norway, killing between 50% and 60% of its population[41] and leaving it in a period of social and economic decline.[42] The plague left Norway very poor. Although the death rate was comparable with the rest of Europe, economic recovery took much longer because of the small, scattered population.[42] Even before the plague, the population was only about 500,000.[43] After the plague, many farms lay idle while the population slowly increased.[42] However, the few surviving farms’ tenants found their bargaining positions with their landlords greatly strengthened.[42]

Kalmar Union c. 1400 AD

King Magnus VII ruled Norway until 1350, when his son, Haakon, was placed on the throne as Haakon VI.[44] In 1363, Haakon VI married Margaret, the daughter of King Valdemar IV of Denmark.[42] Upon the death of Haakon VI, in 1379, his son, Olaf IV, was only 10 years old.[42] Olaf had already been elected to the throne of Denmark on 3 May 1376.[42] Thus, upon Olaf’s accession to the throne of Norway, Denmark and Norway entered personal union.[45] Olaf’s mother and Haakon’s widow, Queen Margaret, managed the foreign affairs of Denmark and Norway during the minority of Olaf IV.[42]

Margaret was working toward a union of Sweden with Denmark and Norway by having Olaf elected to the Swedish throne. She was on the verge of achieving this goal when Olaf IV suddenly died.[42] However, Denmark made Margaret temporary ruler upon the death of Olaf. On 2 February 1388, Norway followed suit and crowned Margaret.[42] Queen Margaret knew that her power would be more secure if she were able to find a king to rule in her place. She settled on Eric of Pomerania, grandson of her sister. Thus at an all-Scandinavian meeting held at Kalmar, Erik of Pomerania was crowned king of all three Scandinavian countries. Thus, royal politics resulted in personal unions between the Nordic countries, eventually bringing the thrones of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden under the control of Queen Margaret when the country entered into the Kalmar Union.

Union with Denmark

The Battle of the Sound between an allied Dano-Norwegian–Dutch fleet and the Swedish navy, 8 November 1658 (29 October O.S.)

After Sweden broke out of the Kalmar Union in 1521, Norway tried to follow suit,[citation needed] but the subsequent rebellion was defeated, and Norway remained in a union with Denmark until 1814, a total of 434 years. During the national romanticism of the 19th century, this period was by some referred to as the “400-Year Night”, since all of the kingdom’s royal, intellectual, and administrative power was centred in Copenhagen in Denmark. In fact, it was a period of great prosperity and progress for Norway, especially in terms of shipping and foreign trade, and it also secured the country’s revival from the demographic catastrophe it suffered in the Black Death. Based on the respective natural resources, Denmark–Norway was in fact a very good match, since Denmark supported Norway’s needs for grain and food supplies, and Norway supplied Denmark with timber, metal, and fish.

With the introduction of Protestantism in 1536, the archbishopric in Trondheim was dissolved, and Norway lost its independence, and effectually became a colony of Denmark. The Church’s incomes and possessions were instead redirected to the court in Copenhagen. Norway lost the steady stream of pilgrims to the relics of St. Olav at the Nidaros shrine, and with them, much of the contact with cultural and economic life in the rest of Europe.

Eventually restored as a kingdom (albeit in legislative union with Denmark) in 1661, Norway saw its land area decrease in the 17th century with the loss of the provinces Båhuslen, Jemtland, and Herjedalen to Sweden, as the result of a number of disastrous wars with Sweden. In the north, however, its territory was increased by the acquisition of the northern provinces of Troms and Finnmark, at the expense of Sweden and Russia.

The famine of 1695–1696 killed roughly 10% of Norway’s population.[46] The harvest failed in Scandinavia at least nine times between 1740 and 1800, with great loss of life.[47]

Union with Sweden

The 1814 constitutional assembly, painted by Oscar Wergeland

After Denmark–Norway was attacked by the United Kingdom at the Battle of Copenhagen, it entered into an alliance with Napoleon, with the war leading to dire conditions and mass starvation in 1812. As the Danish kingdom found itself on the losing side in 1814, it was forced, under terms of the Treaty of Kiel, to cede Norway to the king of Sweden, while the old Norwegian provinces of Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands remained with the Danish crown.[48]

Norway took this opportunity to declare independence, adopted a constitution based on American and French models, and elected the Crown Prince of Denmark and Norway, Christian Frederick, as king on 17 May 1814. This is the famous Syttende Mai (Seventeenth of May) holiday celebrated by Norwegians and Norwegian-Americans alike. Syttende Mai is also called Norwegian Constitution Day.

Norwegian opposition to the great powers’ decision to link Norway with Sweden caused the Norwegian-Swedish War to break out as Sweden tried to subdue Norway by military means. As Sweden’s military was not strong enough to defeat the Norwegian forces outright and Norway’s treasury was not large enough to support a protracted war, and as British and Russian navies blockaded the Norwegian coast,[49] the belligerents were forced to negotiate the Convention of Moss. According to the terms of the convention, Christian Frederik abdicated the Norwegian throne and authorised the Parliament of Norway to make the necessary constitutional amendments to allow for the personal union that Norway was forced to accept. On 4 November 1814 the Parliament (Storting) elected Charles XIII of Sweden as king of Norway, thereby establishing the union with Sweden.[50] Under this arrangement, Norway kept its liberal constitution and its own independent institutions, except for the foreign service. Following the recession caused by the Napoleonic Wars, economic development of Norway remained slow until economic growth began around 1830.[51]

Harvesting of oats in Jølster around 1890

This period also saw the rise of the Norwegian romantic nationalism, as Norwegians sought to define and express a distinct national character. The movement covered all branches of culture, including literature (Henrik Wergeland [1808–1845], Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson [1832–1910], Peter Christen Asbjørnsen [1812–1845], Jørgen Moe [1813–1882]), painting (Hans Gude [1825–1903], Adolph Tidemand [1814–1876]), music (Edvard Grieg [1843–1907]), and even language policy, where attempts to define a native written language for Norway led to today’s two official written forms for Norwegian: Bokmål and Nynorsk.

King Charles III John, who came to the throne of Norway and Sweden in 1818, was the second king following Norway’s break from Denmark and the union with Sweden. Charles John was a complex man whose long reign extended to 1844. He protected the constitution and liberties of Norway and Sweden during the age of Metternich. As such, he was regarded as a liberal monarch for that age. However, he was ruthless in his use of paid informers, the secret police and restrictions on the freedom of the press to put down public movements for reform—especially the Norwegian national independence movement.[52]

The Romantic Era that followed the reign of King Charles III John brought some significant social and political reforms. In 1854, women won the right to inherit property in their own right just like men. In 1863, the last trace of keeping unmarried women in the status of minors was removed. Furthermore, women were then eligible for different occupations, particularly the common school teacher.[53] By mid-century, Norway’s democracy was limited by modern standards: Voting was limited to officials, property owners, leaseholders and burghers of incorporated towns.[54]

A Sami family in Norway around 1900

Still Norway remained a conservative society. Life in Norway (especially economic life) was “dominated by the aristocracy of professional men who filled most of the important posts in the central government”.[55] There was no strong bourgeosie class in Norway to demand a breakdown of this aristocratic control of the economy.[56] Thus, even while revolution swept over most of the countries of Europe in 1848, Norway was largely unaffected by revolts that year.[56]

Marcus Thrane was a Utopian socialist. He made his appeal to the labouring classes urging a change of social structure “from below upwards.” In 1848, he organised a labour society in Drammen. In just a few months this society had a membership of 500 and was publishing its own newspaper. Within two years 300 societies had been organised all over Norway with a total membership of 20,000 persons. The membership was drawn from the lower classes of both urban and rural areas; for the first time these two groups felt they had a common cause.[57] In the end, the revolt was easily crushed; Thrane was captured and in 1855, after four years in jail, was sentenced to three additional years for crimes against the safety of the state. Upon his release, Marcus Thrane attempted unsuccessfully to revitalise his movement, but after the death of his wife—migrated to the United States.[58]

In 1898, all men were granted universal suffrage, followed by all women in 1913.

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