The Viking Age

The period from the end of the 8th century to the mid 11th century in Scandinavia is known as the Viking Age. Over the preceding century the population had increased rapidly, and in Western Norway all the arable land was under cultivation. Ground was clea red for new farms inland, but that was not sufficient. And so, skilful shipbuilders as they were and armed with good weapons of iron, many set off overseas in search of land and wealth. Soon the warriors from Scandinavia were feared far and wide in Europe .

Those who went on the voyages were called "Vikings". Danes and Norwegians tended to head westward, to islands in the Atlantic and to the Frankish Empire, while Swedes sailed east to Russia. At this time Scandinavia really became a part of Europe.

The Vikings were expert warriors who sacked an pillaged. They took prisoners and sold them as slaves. But they were also efficient merchants, craftsmen and farmers who established new states. Norwegian Vikings settled first in the Shetlands, Orkneys, Hebr ides and Faroes. Later they colonised parts of Scotland and northern England, the Isle of Man, Ireland, Iceland and Greenland. They also reached thr coast of Newfounland. Moreover Norwegian and Danish Vikings went on expeditions to the Frankish Empire to trade and plunder; there they were known as the Northmen. Led by the chief Rollo they founded a Viking state in Normandy. Rollo became a duke recognised by the French king, and Normandy became an important centre of power and influence in 11th century Eur ope.

The Vikings brought Christianity back with them to Scandinavia. Administrative concepts gleaned in continental Europe played an important role in the evolution of the Norwegian monarchy in the Middle Ages.

The Middle Ages

After the fall of the saintly King Olav in 1030, the Norwegian population increased, reaching about 400.000 the mid 1300s. The king gained control of the whole country in the eleventh century and the first towns appeared. Norway was converted to Christia nity and controlled by the Church, the king and the overlords. There was widespread unrest in the twelfth century and the period from 1130 to 1217 is known as the Civil War Period. Pretenders to the throne fought to win the kingdom. The thirteenth century is often called the "Golden Age". At this time the King of Norway controlled more territory then in any other period.

In 1349 the country was ravaged by a plague known as the "Black Death" and about one third of the population died.

Union with Denmark

Between 1536 and 1814 Denmark - Norway had ten kings called either Christian or Frederik. Only one of them, King Christian IV, is generally remembered today. He reigned for 60 years and stories of his marriages, his women and numerous legitimate and illeg itimate children are well known. The King was fond of feasting and drinking, but he also wanted to govern his realm well. He was well-educated and trained to lead from an early age. As King, he was highly interested in everything that went on, both at cou rt and throughout Denmark - Norway.

In Norway, the King was primarily known for his interests in developing the country. Christian regarded Norway as a rich country. He brought in iron and mining experts from Germany. There was iron ore in the Norwegian mountains, and possibly copper, silve r and gold too! The state could also earn revenues from forestry and fishing. They would be welcome in the struggle against the main enemy, Sweden, since King Christian intended to stregngthen the position of Denmark - Norway as a great power in the Nort h.

Christian IV was a warrior king, but he had bad luck in war. At the Peace of Broemsebro in 1645 he had to cede the Norwegian district of Jemtland and Herjedalen to Sweden. When the King died three years later the country was deeply in debt and Sweden was on the way becoming the main power in Scandinavia.

Union with Sweden (1814 - 1905)

A golden Age in Litterature When in the autumn of 1814 Norway entered the union with Sweden, Norway was permitted to keep the Constitution. Norwegians saw this as a defence against Sweden. Great challenges faced the newly-fledged nation in most spheres of life. In the field of the a rts, identifying what was quintessentially Norwegians became of prime importance. What should be the written language in the land? Had there during all the years of Danish rule been anything one could call Norwegian litterature? Was there typically Norweg ian music? What did Norway and its rural population look like? The artists set of from the towns on journeys of discovery, and brought back with them to the urban public their impressions of Norwegian landscape and folk life.

Emigration After 1860 emigration to the USA began in earnest. The rapid increase in population in Norway meant that times were hard for many. America seemed very tempting. People had heard about fantastic wages and cheap farm land. In 1862 the American Congress pass ed the Homestead Act which granted new settlers up to 160 acres of land to farm. Friends and relatives wrote letters from America, praising their new country.

Emigration took place in phases. When the last great wave was over, more than 800.000 had crossed the Atlantic. Only Ireland had a higher emigration rate in relation to the total population. Mainly young people emigrated, the majority of them men. Until 1 880 whole families would set off together. Later it was mainly single men and women. Most did well in their new home, though there were some who died during the sea-crossing, came to sad ends in the slums of big cities, or were killed by Indians.Nowadays there is hardly a Norwegian family withour relatives in the USA.


New manufacturing industries arrived from Great Britain in the 1840s. The first textile mills were built in Christiania (Oslo) and near Bergen and Trondheim. Engineering workshops made their appearance at about the same date. In the 1860s and 70s came pul p mills and cellulose factories.

A third phase of industrialisation opened after 1900. The power of waterfalls was harnessed, and the factories began using electricity. New roads were built, and railway, steamer, postal and telegraphic services linked the different parts of the country. Between 1865 and 1900 the urban population increased from 15% to 30% of the total population. In 1900 manufacturing industry accounted 28% of the gross national product and employed over a quarter of the country's active labour force.

A Free Country (1905 - 1940)

In 1905 the union with Sweden ended, and the people of Norway chose Prince Carl of Denmark as their new king. He was married to Princess Maud of England and they had a two-year-old son. Prince Carl took the style Haakon VII and the Crown Prince was given the name Olav. King Haakon adopted the motto "All for Norway". In 1929 Crown Prince Olav married Princess Martha of Sweden. They had three childrenm Ragnhild, Astrid and Harald.

Fishing, Whaling and Sealing

Exports of clipfish (dried cod) became increasingly important from the mid-eighteenth century onwards. The herring fisheries provided a good livelihood for the coastal poulation, but the herring stocks disappeared at certain periods. Cod never disappeared completely, but catches varied consideraby from one season to the next. Great progress was made in the fishing industry around 1900. Fishing boats were built with decks and engines, so the fishermen were able to go out to the fishing banks. New equipment such as drift nets and purse seine nets, lead to increasingly large catches. After the Second World War the catches were even bigger, as the fishing boats had trawl gallows and ring nets while sonar and echo-sounders made it easier to find the fish. Fact ories were built on land for the production of frozen fish, fish fillets, fishmeal and fish oil.

Coastal whaling has long traditions in Norway and has no connection with the pelagic whaling carried out by the Vestfold shipowners. Seal hunting began round Svalbard in the 1790' and later spread to the Barents Sea, Greenland and Newfounland.

War and Occupation (1940 - 1945)

When the Germans invaded in 1940 they demanded an end to all opposition, and acceptance of a german occupation. These demands were refused by the King and the government. The fighting in southern Norway lasted three weeks, but the struggle continued in th e Narvik area until 7 June. Then the government and the royal family crossed to London to carry on the war.

In Norway the Germans set about reorganising the country along Nazi lines with the help of Vidkun Quisling and NS. But this was thwarted by the people in the worlds of sport, the Church, education and various trades and professions who combined into a bro adly-based resistance movement. Towards the end of the war the resistance leadership cooperated closely with the government in exile in London to form a clandestine army, Milorg. In May 1945 the Germans laid down their arms, and on 7 June the King and the government returned to a liberated Norway.

The Period After 1945


King Christian IV established a Norwegian army in 1628. From 1750 onwards officers were trained at the Military Academy in Christiania. Most of the crew of the Danish - Norwegian fleet were Norwegians.

After 1814 Norway had its own defence forces and when the union with Sweden was dissolved in 1905 the country had a strong defence.

Defence was neglected after the First World War. When the Germans attacked in 1940, the country had little possibility o f defending itself. Norway became a member of NATO in 1949. The Norwegian defence system has always been based on a popular army. All males are still constripted for national service.

An Oil Nation

In 1969 the Philips Petroleum Company discovered oil on the Ekofisk field. The Norwegian Parliament decide that the state should play a key role in this new industry and Statoil was founded. The state company recieved large shares in new discoveries and b ecame involved in the exploration, production and refining of oil and gas. Foreign companies and the Norwegian companies Norsk Hydro and Saga Petroleum also took part in the oil boom.

Oil activities also benefited Norwegian business and industry onshore. The petrochemical industry was established and the production of platforms and equipment brought increased employment. Oil production had its dangers, however. In 1980 the Alexander Ki elland platform capsized and 123 people died. However the accident did not prevent exploration of the North Norwegian coast. The firs promising gas discoveries were made on Tromsoflaket in 1981.

Norwegian Shipping

From 1850 to 1880 the merchant fleet increased substantially. In this third "golden age" Norway rose to third position among shipping nations. During World War I Norwegian vessels contributed to the Allied victory, at a loss of 2.000 seafarers and half t he fleet.

In the interwar period Norway acquired a modern fleet of tankers. At the end of the 1930' 60% of the total fleet consisted of motor ships, a higher proportion than in any other country. Following the German invasion in 1940, the Norwegian government in Lo ndon requisitioned almost the entire merchant fleet. Norwegian seafarers sailed in the service of the Allies. 3.400 of them died and nearly 3/5 of the fleet was lost. After 1945 came 30 years of continuous growth, but the 1970s saw a crisis in the economy and half the tanker fleet was laid up.

As a result of high costs in the early 1980s, many shipowners registered their ships abroad. To revitalise Norwegian shipping the Norwegian Parliament passed the Norwegian International Ship Register (NIS) Act in 1987. In 1990 Norway's merchant fleet was once again the third largest in the world.

Norway and the World

Norway is a small, rich, democratic, industrialised country on the northern periphery of the Europe. The population is about 4,25 million and 88% are belonging to the Lutheran Church of Norway.

At the end of the 1980s the UN published a survey of living standards in 130 countries. The survey was intended to show where it was best to live and Norway came in sixth place. According to the survey, Norway differs from other countries particurarly in the following areas:

  • Norway has little land under cultivation and the inhabitans are scattered.
  • A large number of people have moved to towns and urban areas in the last thirty years.
  • Norway imports more food than most other European countries.
  • The per capita gross national product is high.
  • Incomes are fairly evenly distributed throughout the population
  • Norway gives the largest amount of development aid per capita of all the western industrialised countries.
  • A large proportion of women are involved in politics.
  • Norwegians drink a relatively little alcohol


This pic is of our present King Harald and Queen Sonja. When Harald was born on February 21, 1937, he was the first prince born in Norway for 567 years! Norway had been ruled by Sweden and Denmark, so it was a great moment for the Norwegian people when he was born.

King Harald was signed in the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim on Juny, 23, 1991. His motto is as King Olav and King Haakon:
"All For Norway".

He is a very popular king, and the Norwegian people loves him.

King Harald and Queen Sonja has 2 children. They are:
Crown Prince Haakon, and
Princess Martha Louise.

King Harald is a sportsman, and his favourit sports is sailing. He has been participated in several big championships.


Our former king, King Olav V was one of the most popular kings in Norway ever. He died at the same time as the Gulf-war in Iraq/Kuwait started. It was a chock for the Norwegian people that our popular king died. He had always been a friend of the people.

King Olav was also very interested in sports, and he was a very good ski-jumper as well. He loved to go skiing in the area around Oslo, and he often went there by taking the tramcar as other "ordinary" people.