In the 11th century, Olav Haraldsson laid the
foundation for the United Kingdom of Norway. In 1380, a
Danish-Norwegian union was established, which was ruled
from Copenhagen and came to last for four centuries.
Denmark was forced to relinquish Norway to Sweden in
1814. The Swedish-Norwegian union lasted until 1905,
when Norway became independent from Sweden.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Norway, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
Norway was in the past divided into a number of small
kingdoms, the counties, where Viking chiefs, and later
kings, struggled to expand their territories. Around 900
AD, Harald Hårfagre was probably master of the coastal
regions. The first to succeed in laying the foundation
for a united Norway was Olav Haraldsson, who in the
beginning of the 1000s took control of both the coastal
areas and the interior of the country.
Several Norwegian Vikings went west. Olav had
accepted Christianity during a Viking march against
England and then became the one who, by hard methods,
completed Norway's Christianity. The king was the head
of the church and religion became an important factor in
linking the kingdom. After his death in the Battle of
Stiklestad 1030, Olav was declared Norway's national
A prosperous 13th century is followed by decline
Mutual battles raged between various faithful
dependents until Håkon Håkonsson took control in the
second half of the 13th century and enforced that the
oldest married king's son should be granted inheritance
to the throne. During Håkon's time, Iceland and
Greenland came under Norwegian rule, trade flourished
and Bergen became a leading trading town. At the end of
the 13th century, German merchants were granted
extensive trading rights, which would prove fatal to
Norway's economic independence.
The Late Middle Ages were characterized by economic,
political and social decline. In the mid-1300s, Norway
lost between a third and a half of its population in the
death toll. Most of the agriculture was put into service
when many of the farmers died and no one could use the
land. The German trade union Hansan got a stronger grip
on foreign trade, Bergen became a significant Hanseatic
city and the central power weakened.
In 1380 a Danish-Norwegian union was formed, which
from 1397 constituted the Kalmar Union including Sweden.
Norway formally retained its own laws, but the higher
officials were Danes and the administrative language was
Danish. The country was increasingly governed by
Copenhagen. The Kalmar Union was dissolved in 1523, and
in 1536 Norway formally became a Danish province. At the
same time, the Protestant Reformation, a
counter-movement to Catholicism, was spread throughout
Europe in the 16th century.
New golden age in the 17th century
The dissolution of the Hanseatic League in the 17th
century led to a new economic upturn. Norwegian exports
of timber products to the Netherlands and Scotland,
among others, grew rapidly. The importance of shipping
increased, fish exports grew and King Kristian IV
encouraged mining in Norway and created several new
In war with Sweden, Denmark lost Jämtland, Härjedalen
and Bohuslän. When Denmark weakened, Norway's position
within the Union became stronger. But when royal
monarchy was introduced in Denmark in the 1660s, Norway
must obey directly under the Danish king.
After the Great Nordic War (1716-1718) a long period
of peace entered. Norwegian shipping, fishing and trade
could develop without interruption. However, when in
1807 Denmark joined the French continental system
(Napoleon's plan to prevent exports from Britain to the
continent), Norway was included in the blockade, which
in combination with the growth of famine led to famine.
The blockade meant that Norway had to take
responsibility for its own government, as relations with
Denmark weakened. Due to the peace in Kiel in 1814,
Denmark was forced to resign from Norway to Sweden, but
the Danes had to retain the former Norwegian areas of
Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.
Struggle for Norwegian independence
In Norway, the demands for independence had started
to grow strong. An elected national assembly drafted a
Norwegian constitution at Eidsvoll's mill and on May 17,
1814, appointed the Danish prince Kristian Fredrik as
the Norwegian king. However, the Swedish throne follower
Karl Johan went on a campaign in Norway and the military
in a couple of weeks turned down the independence
The peace treaty, the so-called convention in Moss,
stipulated that the king of Sweden should also be the
king of Norway, but the Norwegians largely had to retain
their new constitution which was more democratic than
the Swedish one. Norway was less divided than Sweden and
the new National Assembly received only one chamber.
The mid-19th century was characterized in Norway by
popular movement activity, association formation and
public education, which became an important exercise in
political activity. Demands for broader popular rule and
struggle against the old governmental regime united
small farmers, younger merchants, craftsmen and
academics. These liberal and mostly union-critical
circles, which in 1884 would form the party of Venstre,
demanded democracy, parliamentarism and universal
An increasingly fierce power struggle developed
between the majority in the national assembly, the
parliament, on the one hand, and the Swedish king and
the Norwegian government official on the other. The
king, encouraged by the government, considered himself a
veto on constitutional issues and refused to comply with
the parliament's decision on a constitutional amendment.
After the opposition won a convincing victory in a
recent election, the battle culminated with the
government being deposed through national law and King
Oscar II was forced in 1884 to issue a Left government
led by Johan Sverdrup. Norway thus became the first
country in the Nordic region with parliamentary rule.
The Conservatives formed the party Høire (now the Right)
the same year.
The Union with Sweden dissolves - independence
The existence of the Union and the fact that the king
was Swedish had helped to radicalize Norwegian politics.
Venstre had a trump card in his nationalist union
criticism, supported by, among others, the author
Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. Venstre propelled incipient
social legislation and could, after new electoral
successes, enforce universal suffrage for men in 1898 -
women gained the right to vote in 1913. The
royal-friendly Høyre was forced to reconsider its union
defense in fear that political power would be pushed
further to the left. In 1904, the party joined Venstres
demands for its own Norwegian consulate and foreign
administration, and left-wing politician and shipowner
Christian Michelsen formed a national unity government.
The conflict with Sweden in the consulate matter led
to a government crisis in Oslo. When King Oscar II
refused to intervene in June 1905, the parliament took
the opportunity to declare that he no longer served as a
Norwegian king. A Norwegian referendum gave overwhelming
support for the dissolution of the Union and after
negotiations in Karlstad the union was formally
dissolved in September 1905. The Danish prince Carl was
appointed Norwegian king by the name of Haakon VII.
During World War I, Norway remained neutral. The
country joined the League of Nations (forerunners of
today's UN) in 1920 and was granted the supremacy of
Svalbard (Spetsbergen). During the 1910s and 1920s,
Norway was ruled alternately by the left and right
governments. The class contradictions were sharp and the
An economic crisis in the late 1920s hit agriculture
hard. The peasant party (founded in 1921) thus received
increased support and in 1931 was able to form its first
government. In 1935, the Peasant Party and the Labor
Party (formed in 1887) settled into the so-called crisis
settlement, a social policy program and support for
agriculture. Thus, the Labor Party could embark on three
decades of almost uninterrupted government ownership.
Former prime minister became former sawmill worker Johan
Norway gets new government
Norway gets a red-green government. With the Labor
Party leader Jens Stoltenberg as prime minister, the
Labor Party, the Socialist Left and the Center Party
form a government.
The Labor Party wins the parliamentary election
The Labor Party wins the parliamentary election. The
Labor party increases its voting share from 24 percent
in the 2001 election to 33 percent (61 of the 169
seats). The next largest is the Nationalist and
Immigration Critical Progress Party, which reaches a top
listing of 22 percent (38 seats). Conservative Høyre
goes back from 21 percent in 2001 to 14 percent (23
seats). The Socialist Left Party backs 9 percent (15
seats), while the Christian People's Party gets 7
percent (11 seats). The center party increases slightly
to 6.5 percent (11 seats), while liberal Venstre
increases to 6 percent (10 seats). Together, the three
red-green parties receive 87 seats against 82 for the
bourgeois. The turnout is 77 percent.