The Ahrensburg culture (11th to 10th millennia BC) was a late Upper Paleolithic civilization that lived during the Younger Dryas, the final era of cold at the end of the Weichsel glacier. The culture is called after the hamlet of Ahrensburg in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, 25 kilometers (15.53 miles) north-east of Hamburg, where wooden arrow shafts and clubs were discovered. The oldest signs of human habitation in Norway may be discovered near the coast, where the previous ice age’s massive ice shelf began to erode between 11,000 and 8,000 BC. Stone tools ranging from 9,500 to 6,000 BC have been found in Finnmark (Komsa culture) to the north and Rogaland (Fosna culture) to the south-west. However, ideas regarding two distinct civilizations (the Komsa culture north of the Arctic Circle and the Fosna culture from Trndelag to the Oslo Fjord) were declared outdated in the 1970s.
Recent discoveries throughout the whole coast have shown to archaeologists that the difference between the two may be attributed to distinct kinds of tools rather than separate civilizations. Coastal wildlife offered a source of income for fishers and hunters who may have traveled along the southern shore about 10,000 BC, when the interior was still ice-covered. It is now believed that these so-called “Arctic” peoples arrived from the south and followed the coast northward much later.
Dwelling sites going back to about 5,000 BC may be found in the country’s south. Discoveries from these sites provide a more complete picture of the hunting and fishing peoples’ lives. The tools vary in form and are mainly constructed of various types of stone; those from later eras are more skillfully crafted. Petroglyphs (rock engravings) have been discovered, typically around hunting and fishing areas. They symbolize game such as deer, reindeer, elk, bears, birds, seals, whales, and fish (particularly salmon and halibut), all of which were important to the coastal peoples’ way of life. The sculptures at Alta in Finnmark, the biggest in Scandinavia, were created at sea level between 4,200 and 500 BC and depict the development of the country as the sea rose after the end of the last ice age (Rock carvings at Alta).
New immigrants (Corded Ware culture) came in eastern Norway between 3000 and 2500 BC. They were Indo-European farmers who raised cattle and sheep as well as produced grain. The west coast’s hunting-fishing populace was progressively displaced by farmers, but hunting and fishing remained important secondary sources of income.
Bronze was progressively introduced about 1500 BC, but the use of stone tools persisted; Norway had little wealth to trade for bronze items, and the rare discoveries are mainly ornate swords and brooches that only chieftains could buy. Huge burial cairns constructed along the sea as far north as Harstad and inland in the south are typical of this era. The themes of the rock carvings vary from those seen in Stone Age art. The Sun, animals, plants, weaponry, ships, and people are all highly stylized.
Thousands of rock engravings from this time period show ships, and huge stone burial monuments known as stone ships indicate that ships and sailing played a significant part in the society as a whole. The pictured ships are most likely stitched plank boats used for warfare, fishing, and commerce. These ship forms may have originated in the Neolithic era and continued until the Pre-Roman Iron Age, as shown by the Hjortspring boat.
Little evidence of the early Iron Age has been discovered (the last 500 years BC). The deceased were burned, and their graves are devoid of burial items. Norway was in touch with Roman-occupied Gaul throughout the first four century AD. Around 70 Roman bronze cauldrons, which were often used as funeral urns, have been discovered. Contact with civilised nations farther south resulted in the understanding of runes; the earliest known Norwegian runic inscription comes from the third century. The quantity of settled land in the nation grew during this period, as shown by concerted studies of topography, archaeology, and place-names. The oldest root names, such as nes, vik, and b (“cape,” “bay,” and “farm”), are of great antiquity, possibly dating back to the Bronze Age, whereas the earliest compound names with the suffixes vin (“meadow”) or heim (“settlement”), such as Bjorgvin (Bergen) or Saeheim (Seim), usually date from the first century AD.
After Emil Vedel discovered a number of Iron Age artifacts on the island of Bornholm in 1866, archaeologists decided to split Northern Europe’s Iron Age into separate pre-Roman and Roman Iron Ages. They lacked the pervasive Roman influence found in most other early-century AD artefacts, suggesting that areas of northern Europe had not yet come into touch with the Romans at the start of the Iron Age.
The fall of the Western Roman Empire by Germanic peoples in the 5th century is marked by rich discoveries, such as tribal leaders’ tombs holding beautiful weaponry and gold items. For defense, hill forts were constructed atop cliffs. Excavation uncovered stone foundations for farmhouses ranging in length from 18 to 27 metres (59 to 89 feet)—one even 46 metres (151 feet)—their roofs supported by wooden supports. These were family homesteads where many generations coexisted, with humans and cattle living under one roof.
These states were founded on clans or tribes (e.g., the Horder of Hordaland in western Norway). Each of these minor nations had something (local or regional assemblies) for discussing and resolving disputes by the 9th century. The thing gathering sites, each with a hörgr (open-air sanctuary) or a heathen hof (temple; meaning “hill”), were typically located on the oldest and finest farms, which belonged to the chieftains and richest farmers. Regional things came together to create even bigger units: assemblies of deputy yeomen from various areas. As a result, the lagting (assembly for discussions and lawmaking) arose. The Gulating had its meeting point at Sognefjord and may have been the center of the Gulatingslag, an aristocratic confederation around the western fjords and islands. The Frostating was a meeting place for the leaders of the Trondheimsfjord region; the Earls of Lade, in Trondheim, seem to have expanded the Frostatingslag by incorporating the coastland from Romsdalsfjord to Lofoten.
The broader Scandinavian area was the source of Vikings from the 8th through the 10th centuries. The plundering of the monastery at Lindisfarne in Northeast England by Norse Vikings in 793 has traditionally been considered as the beginning of the Viking Age. This period was marked by Viking sailors’ growth and emigration. They colonized, raided, and traded across Europe. In the ninth century, Norwegian Viking explorers were on their way to the Faroe Islands when they stumbled upon Vinland, which is now known as Newfoundland in Canada. The Norwegian Vikings were particularly active in the northern and western British Isles, as well as the eastern North American isles.
According to legend, Harald Fairhair united them following the Battle of Hafrsfjord in Stavanger in 872, becoming the first king of a united Norway. Harald’s realm was mostly a coastal state in South Norway. Fairhair governed with a heavy hand, and many Norwegians fled to Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and portions of Britain and Ireland, according to the sagas. Norwegian immigrants built the modern-day Irish cities of Dublin, Limerick, and Waterford.
In the late tenth and early eleventh century, Norse customs were gradually supplanted by Christian ones. The missionary kings Olav Tryggvasson and St. Olav are mainly responsible for this. In the mid-tenth century, Haakon the Good was Norway’s first Christian monarch, but his effort to establish the faith was unsuccessful. Olav Tryggvasson, who was born between 963 and 969, embarked on a raid on England with 390 ships. During this expedition, he invaded London. Olav returned to Norway in 995 and landed at Moster. He erected a church there, which became Norway’s first Christian church. Olav traveled north from Moster to Trondheim, where he was acclaimed King of Norway by the Eyrathing in 995.
Feudalism did not take hold in Norway or Sweden as it did in the rest of Europe. The administration of government, on the other hand, took on a highly rigid feudal character. The Hanseatic League pushed the monarchy to make ever-increasing concessions in international commerce and the economy. The League held this sway over the monarchy as a result of loans made by the Hansa to the royalty and the monarchs’ enormous debts. The League’s monopolistic dominance over Norway’s economy placed pressure on all groups, particularly the peasants, to the point that Norway had no true burgher class.
When Haakon V, King of Norway, died in 1319, Magnus Erikson, who was only three years old at the time, ascended the throne as King Magnus VII of Norway. Simultaneously, a campaign to make Magnus King of Sweden was successful. (At this period, both Sweden’s and Denmark’s monarchs were chosen to the throne by their respective nobility.) As a result of his accession to the Swedish throne, Sweden and Norway were unified under King Magnus VII.
The Black Death ravaged Norway in 1349, killing between 50 and 60 percent of its people and plunging the country into social and economic collapse. Norway was devastated by the disease. Despite having a mortality rate similar to the rest of Europe, economic recovery took considerably longer due to the tiny, dispersed population. Prior to the epidemic, the population was barely about 500,000. Following the epidemic, many farms were left idle, while the population gradually grew. The tenants of the few remaining farms, on the other hand, found their negotiating positions with their landlords considerably reinforced.
King Magnus VII governed Norway until 1350, when his son, Haakon, succeeded him as King Haakon VI. In 1363, Haakon VI married Margaret, the daughter of Denmark’s King Valdemar IV. When Haakon VI died in 1379, his son, Olaf IV, was just ten years old. On 3 May 1376, Olaf was already elected to the Danish crown. As a result of Olaf’s ascension to the Norwegian throne, Denmark and Norway formed a personal union. During Olaf IV’s minority, Queen Margaret, Olaf’s mother and Haakon’s widow, oversaw Denmark and Norway’s foreign relations.
Margaret was attempting to unite Sweden with Denmark and Norway by electing Olaf to the Swedish throne. She was on the brink of accomplishing her objective when Olaf IV died unexpectedly. Following Olaf’s death, Denmark appointed Margaret as interim queen. Norway followed suit and crowned Margaret on February 2, 1388. Queen Margaret understood that if she could find a king to govern in her stead, her authority would be more solid. She settled on Eric of Pomerania, her sister’s grandson. Erik of Pomerania was therefore proclaimed king of all three Scandinavian nations during an all-Scandinavian conference convened in Kalmar. Thus, royal politics resulted in personal alliances across Nordic nations, ultimately putting the thrones of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden under Queen Margaret’s authority when the country joined the Kalmar Union.
Union with Denmark
Following Sweden’s exit from the Kalmar Union in 1521, Norway attempted to follow suit, but the following revolt was crushed, and Norway remained in a union with Denmark until 1814, a total of 434 years. During the 19th century’s national romanticism, this era was dubbed the “400-Year Night” because all of the kingdom’s royal, intellectual, and administrative authority was concentrated in Copenhagen, Denmark. In reality, it was a time of tremendous wealth and development for Norway, particularly in shipping and international commerce, and it also ensured the country’s recovery from the demographic disaster caused by the Black Death. Denmark–Norway was a particularly excellent fit in terms of natural resources, as Denmark provided Norway’s requirements for grain and food supplies, while Norway supplied Denmark with wood, metal, and fish.
With the adoption of Protestantism in Trondheim in 1536, the archbishopric was abolished, and Norway lost its independence, thus becoming a Danish colony. Instead, the Church’s revenue and assets were transferred to the Copenhagen court. Norway lost the regular flow of pilgrims to St. Olav’s relics at the Nidaros shrine, and with them, much of its interaction with cultural and commercial life in the rest of Europe.
Norway was eventually reconstituted as a kingdom (although in parliamentary union with Denmark) in 1661, but its land extent decreased in the 17th century as a consequence of the loss of the provinces Bhuslen, Jemtland, and Herjedalen to Sweden as a result of a series of catastrophic battles with Sweden. However, in the north, it expanded its territory by acquiring the northern provinces of Troms and Finnmark at the cost of Sweden and Russia.
The famine of 1695–96 killed about 10% of Norway’s population. Between 1740 and 1800, the harvest failed at least nine times in Scandinavia, resulting in significant loss of life.
Union with Sweden
After being assaulted by the United Kingdom at the Battle of Copenhagen, Denmark–Norway formed an alliance with Napoleon, resulting in terrible circumstances and widespread famine in 1812. As the Danish monarchy found itself on the losing side in 1814, it was obliged to surrender Norway to the king of Sweden under the provisions of the Treaty of Kiel, while the ancient Norwegian provinces of Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands remained under Danish control.
Norway used this opportunity to proclaim independence, establish a constitution based on American and French models, and crown Christian Frederick, Crown Prince of Denmark and Norway, as king on May 17, 1814. This is the well-known Syttende Mai (Seventeenth of May) festival, which is observed by both Norwegians and Norwegian-Americans. Syttende Mai is also known as Norway’s Constitution Day.
The Norwegian-Swedish War erupted as a result of Norwegian resistance to the great powers’ intention to connect Norway with Sweden. Sweden attempted to conquer Norway militarily. The belligerents were obliged to negotiate the Moss Convention because Sweden’s military was not powerful enough to defeat the Norwegian troops outright, Norway’s purse was not big enough to sustain a prolonged war, and British and Russian warships blockaded the Norwegian coast. Christian Frederik abdicated the Norwegian crown and authorized the Norwegian Parliament to enact the required legislative changes to allow for the personal union that Norway was obliged to accept, according to the provisions of the convention. The Parliament (Storting) of Norway chose Charles XIII of Sweden as King of Norway on November 4, 1814, creating the union with Sweden.  Except for the diplomatic service, Norway retained its liberal constitution and autonomous institutions under this system. Following the Napoleonic Wars’ slump, Norway’s economic progress was sluggish until about 1830, when economic recovery started.
This was also the era of the development of Norwegian romantic nationalism, as Norwegians strove to identify and express an unique national identity. The movement included many aspects of culture, including literature (Henrik Wergeland [1808–1845], Bjrnstjerne Bjrnson [1832–1910], Peter Christen Asbjrnsen [1812–1845], Jrgen Moe [1813–1882]), painting (Hans Gude [1825–1903], Adolph Tidemand [1814–1876]), music (Edvard Grieg [1843–
King Charles III John, who ascended to the throne of Norway and Sweden in 1818, was the country’s second monarch after Norway’s independence from Denmark and union with Sweden. Charles John was a complicated figure whose rule lasted till 1844. During Metternich’s reign, he defended Norway’s and Sweden’s constitutions and freedoms. As so, he was considered a liberal king for his time. He was, however, merciless in his employment of hired informers, the secret police, and limitations on press freedom to crush public reform movements, particularly the Norwegian national independence movement.
Following King Charles III John’s reign, the Romantic Era saw major social and political changes. Women were granted the ability to inherit property in their own right alongside males in 1854. The final vestige of maintaining unmarried women as minors was abolished in 1863. Furthermore, women were then eligible for a variety of professions, especially that of a public school teacher. However, by the mid-century, Norway was still a long way from becoming a “democracy.” Officials, property owners, leaseholders, and burghers of incorporated towns may vote. This system was met with considerable skepticism.
Norway, however, remained a conservative culture. Life in Norway was “controlled by the aristocracy of professional men who occupied the majority of the key positions in the central government.” In Norway, there was no strong bourgeoisie class to seek an end to this aristocratic dominance of the economy. As a result, even though revolution spread across much of Europe in 1848, Norway remained relatively untouched by the uprisings.
Marcus Thrane was a socialist utopian. He appealed to the working people, advocating a shift in social structure “from bottom upwards.” In Drammen, he founded a labor society in 1848. Within a few months, this organization had 500 members and was producing its own newspaper. Within two years, 300 organizations had been established across Norway, with a total membership of 20,000 people. The membership was attracted from both the urban and rural lower classes; for the first time, these two groups believed they had a similar cause. In the end, the rebellion was quickly suppressed; Thrane was apprehended and condemned to three years in prison for crimes against the state’s safety in 1855, after four years in prison. Marcus Thrane tried unsuccessfully to revitalize his movement following his release, but after the death of his wife, he moved to the United States.
All males were given universal suffrage in 1898, followed by all women in 1913.
Dissolution of the union
Christian Michelsen, a shipping tycoon and politician who served as Prime Minister of Norway from 1905 to 1907, was a key figure in Norway’s peaceful independence from Sweden on June 7, 1905. A nationwide vote reaffirmed the public’s preference for monarchy over republicanism. No Norwegian could legally claim the crown since none could demonstrate a connection to medieval monarchy, and in European tradition, royal or “blue” blood is required to lay claim to the throne.
The Norwegian crown was offered to a prince of the German royal family of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg by the government. The Norwegian Parliament overwhelmingly chose Prince Carl of Denmark as Monarch, making him the first king of a completely autonomous Norway in 508 years (1397: Kalmar Union); he adopted the name Haakon VII. The nation welcomed the prince of neighboring Denmark, his wife Maud of Wales, and their newborn son to re-establish Norway’s royal family in 1905. After centuries of strong connections between Norway and Denmark, a prince from the latter was the logical option for a European prince who could best relate to the Norwegian people.
First and Second World Wars
Norway was a neutral nation during the First World War. In fact, the British had put pressure on Norway to give over progressively significant portions of its vast merchant fleet to the British at cheap rates, as well as to join the trade embargo against Germany. Norwegian commercial ships, sometimes with Norwegian seamen still on board, were traveling under British flags at the time, putting them at danger of being destroyed by German submarines. As a result, many Norwegian men and ships perished. Following it, the Norwegian merchant navy’s global rating dropped from fourth to sixth.
Norway declared its neutrality during the Second World War, but was invaded by German troops on April 9, 1940. Despite the fact that Norway was caught off guard by the German surprise assault (see: Battle of Drbak Sound, Norwegian Campaign, and Invasion of Norway), military and naval resistance lasted two months. Norwegian military forces in the north launched an assault against German troops in the Battles of Narvik, until they were forced to surrender on 10 June after losing British assistance transferred to France during the German invasion of France.
King Haakon and the Norwegian cabinet fled to London’s Rotherhithe. Throughout the war, they delivered motivational radio lectures and backed covert military operations in Norway against the Germans. Vidkun Quisling, the head of the tiny National-Socialist party Nasjonal Samling, attempted to take power on the day of the invasion but was forced to stand down by the German invaders. The head of the German occupying authority, Reichskommissar Josef Terboven, held real influence. Quisling subsequently established a collaborationist administration under German authority as Minister President. Approximately 15,000 Norwegians volunteered to fight in German forces, notably the Waffen-SS.
The proportion of the Norwegian people who backed Germany was historically lower than in Sweden, although it was more than is often assumed now.
It included a number of notable figures, including Knut Hamsun. The idea of a “Germanic Union” of member states fell well in with their deeply nationalist-patriotic worldview.
Many Norwegians and people of Norwegian ancestry served in both the Allied and Free Norwegian armies. In June 1940, a small number of Norwegians followed their monarch to Britain. This group comprised 13 ships, five planes, and 500 Royal Norwegian Navy personnel. By the end of the war, the Royal Norwegian Navy had 58 ships and 7,500 men in service, the newly formed Norwegian Air Force had 5 squadrons of aircraft (including Spitfires, Sunderland flying boats, and Mosquitos), and land forces included the Norwegian Independent Company 1 and 5 Troop as well as No. 10 Commandos.
During the five years of German occupation, Norwegians built a resistance movement that fought the German occupation forces with civil disobedience as well as armed resistance, including the destruction of Norsk Hydro’s heavy water plant and heavy water stockpile at Vemork, which crippled the German nuclear program. The Norwegian Merchant Marine, on the other hand, was crucial to the Allied war effort. Norway had the world’s fourth biggest commercial marine fleet at the time of the invasion. Throughout the war, it was headed by the Norwegian shipping firm Nortraship on behalf of the Allies and took part in every military action, from the Dunkirk evacuation to the Normandy invasions. Norway sends a Christmas tree to the United Kingdom every December to express gratitude for British help during WWII. In London’s Trafalgar Square, a ceremony is held to build the tree.
Post-World War II history
The Labour Party had an absolute majority in parliament from 1945 until 1962. The administration, headed by Prime Minister Einar Gerhardsen, embarked on a Keynesian economics-inspired agenda that emphasized state-financed industrialization and collaboration between trade unions and employers’ organizations. Many elements of economic state control established during the war were maintained, but rationing of dairy goods was abolished in 1949, while price controls and rationing of housing and automobiles lasted until 1960.
The postwar alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States was a continuation of the wartime alliance. Despite pursuing the aim of a socialist economy, the Labour Party distanced itself from the Communists (particularly after the Communists took power in Czechoslovakia in 1948) and increased its foreign and defense policy connections with the United States. Norway began receiving Marshall Plan assistance from the United States in 1947, joined the OEEC a year later, and became a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949.
Phillips Petroleum Company found petroleum resources in the Ekofisk field west of Norway in 1969. Statoil, Norway’s state oil corporation, was established in 1973 by the Norwegian government. Because of the enormous capital expenditure needed to develop the country’s petroleum sector, oil production did not provide net revenue until the early 1980s. Both the percentage and absolute number of employees in industry peaked about 1975. Since then, labor-intensive sectors and services such as factory mass manufacturing and transportation have been extensively outsourced.
Norway was one of the original members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). In 1972 and 1994, two referendums on joining the European Union were narrowly defeated.
In 1981, a Conservative administration headed by Kre Willochreplaced the Labour Party with a strategy of boosting the stagflationary economy via tax cuts, economic liberalization, market deregulation, and efforts to combat record-high inflation (13.6 percent in 1981).
Norway’s first female prime minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland of the Labour party, carried on many of her conservative predecessor’s policies while supporting traditional Labour issues such as social security, high taxation, nature industrialization, and feminism. Norway had paid off its foreign debt by the late 1990s and had begun to build a national wealth fund. Since the 1990s, a contentious issue in politics has been how much of the government’s revenue from petroleum production should be spent and how much should be saved.
Anders Behring Breivik carried out two terrorist attacks in Norway on the same day in 2011, targeting the government quarter in Oslo and a summer camp of the Labour Party’s youth organization on Utya island, killing 77 people and injuring 319 others.
The Conservative Party and the Progress Party won 43 percent of the votes in the 2013 Norwegian parliamentary election, bringing a more conservative administration to power.