Inhabited perhaps from the VIII-VII millennium BC, Norway since the most remote age is characterized by being populated by people devoted above all to navigation and therefore to flourishing trade, also practiced with the Romans, while very poor activities, even considered despicable, they were agriculture and pastoralism. Rock engravings dating back to the Bronze Age – in which the first territorial organization and the first development of agriculture took place – already depict the ships with high prows typical of the Vikings, the people of sailors (and raiders) with whom, starting from the century. VIII AD, Norway forcefully entered the history of all of Europe. The most lasting relations, however, were had with England and with the countries bathed by the seas of the North (relations still fundamental for Norway today), whence that Scandinavian matrix, more widely Atlantic, which will lead to economic and social maturation in the bourgeois sense, then the Social Democrat of the country. A certain demographic increase in a territory with enormous environmental difficulties, from the extreme scarcity of arable areas (only 2.9% of the territory), soon prompted the Norwegians to look for new lands (which is the basis, among other things, of their extraordinary expeditions on the North American and Greenland coasts, of the colonization of Iceland, etc.); however it is estimated that around the year 1000 the population was less than half a million units; still at the beginning of the century. XIX was of only 885,000 residents. With the passage from the Danish union (or domination) to the Swedish one, in 1814, the country was already beginning to enter a period of new prosperity; hence a rapid demographic increase (almost a doubling of the population between 1801 and 1865), however higher than the pure increased local availability. In fact, in the fifty-year period 1870-1920 over 600,000 Norwegians were forced to emigrate, especially to the United States: this emigration, in relation to the total population (40%), was among the most massive in history.
Although at a slower pace, the growth of the population, which doubled over the course of the century. XX, continued. Today the immigration is strictly controlled; in fact, the Norwegian state admits only a few refugees, fleeing from countries in serious difficulty, for which however the goal is repatriation as soon as possible. The 5 million approx. of ab. current include approx. 483,177 (2014) immigrants from the rest of the world, of which a quarter came from Asia, 10,000 approx. Finns, a smaller share from Sweden. 0.3% of the population is made up of Lapps (Saami). The latter represent an autonomous minority, from an ethnic point of view the most important in the country, originally its indigenous population, with an indomitable and nomadic past, which has always lived mainly from fishing and breeding of the domestic reindeer. The Saami are distributed over an arc of Nordic lands (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia); the Norwegians occupy in particular the northern county of Finnmark, “protected” by the Constitution of the country which is concerned with preserving its language, culture and lifestyle, as well as establishing an ad hoc Parliament, the Sameting. The natural population growth rate is 3.6%, life expectancy at birth is very high: 79.6 years for men and 83.6 for women.
Due to the particularly harsh nature of its territory, Norway is a truly typical example of a natural environment that conditions both the density and the distribution of the population. Only a tenth of its territory is inhabited, with density average among the lowest in the world (15.7 residents / km²) and extremely uneven distribution: in some districts of the Northern coastal strip, usually in the valleys or along the fjords, are inhabited centers. In limited areas of the southwest coast, the population density reaches 25-50 residents / km², while around the Oslo fjord it is considerably higher. According to iamhigher, the population between urban and rural areas also appears unbalanced: the urban population, which has remained below 50% of the total for a long time, is equal to 79.7% (2012), but it was not the main cities that benefited from this increase, but the medium-small cities thanks to the localization of activities connected with the exploitation of hydroelectric and oil resources. In the agricultural area next to the village there is a farm, while the isolated house is usually used as a temporary residence (for fishing, holidays, etc.). Characteristic are the wooden houses, painted in bright colors, with the roofs often covered with a turf as thermal insulation; famous are the wooden churches, the stavkirker, some of which date back to the Middle Ages. Over 18% of Norwegians live in the urban agglomeration of Oslo, whose fortune began only when it became the capital of the independent state; it is the commercial outlet of the whole country, the greatest maritime center gravitating for its position towards Sweden and Denmark, as well as an industrial, financial and administrative metropolis. The port city, the main one on the west coast, is also Bergen, overlooking the Byfjord, which has added new industrial activities to the traditional prosperity linked to maritime trade, especially vital in the textile, shipbuilding, wood, canning (fish processing) sectors. On the southern shore of the fjord of the same name is Trondheim, a city of ancient origin for a long time residence of the Norwegian sovereigns and the largest cultural and religious center of the country, which has a thriving economy based on trade and various industries in the heart of one of the richest agricultural and forest areas in Norway, the Trøndelag. Other important coastal centers are Stavanger, a very active fishing port, and Narvik, an outlet for iron ore from Sweden; in Lapland they are Tromsø, a fishing center and departure point for expeditions to the Arctic, and Hammerfest, considered the northernmost city in Europe.