History of The Old Country Jorgenson
Tor Dagre, editor emeritus, Nytt
The First Men To Appear In
What Is Now Norway
From the Roman Age ( 0 -400
The migrations of 400 to
The age of the vikings (ca.
800 - 1050 AD)
A United Kingdom
The advent of Christianity
The Middle Ages
Union with Denmark
Secession from Denmark
Norway enters into another
Union. 1814 - 1905
Norway after 1905
The Second World War
In the 1960s came the oil age
The first men
to appear in
what is now Norway, emerged from dim pre-history when the great inland
ice sheets were retreating over Scandinavia. 10,000 years ago the
forefathers of today's norwegians hunted reindeer and other prey on
their long trek north. The land they
came to had for centuries borne the weight of the ice cap, so the
coastline was about 200 metres higher than
it is today. The oldest proofs of human activity were discovered on a
hill in the southeast region of Østfold, not far from the
southern frontier with Sweden. At that time the hill was probably
an offshore island, just south of the glacier tip.
There is no general agreement on
where the ancestors of today's Norwegians came from, or on the routes
they took on their journey north, but one of these routes certainly
passed through Østfold. Artefacts found at settlements there are
of the same type that have been discovered in southern Sweden and in
Denmark. A further possible route may have led from the so-called North
Sea continent to southwest Norway.
These first Norwegians were hunters who, wherever nature permitted it,
settled in small groups. They left proof of their existence
in flint tools, clay vessels, and not least, rock carvings. In every
part of Norway remain specimens of their art, hewn or ground into the
rock. The carvings depict their prey: reindeer, moose, deer, bears and
fish. People, or boats appear only seldom.
The transition to agriculture started in Norway approximately 5,000 to
6,000 years ago, initially in the area around
the Oslofjord. By the Bronze Age (1500 - 500 B.C.) it is the farmers'
cultural relics that dominate the archaeological finds,
particularly in south Norway. Finds from this same period in north
Norway show that the people were hunters. At many locations in far
north Finnmark there were sizeable settlements of hunters, clear proof
of seasonable cooperation between
Roman Age (
0 -400 A.D.) grave finds show that there were links with the
countries to the south. Utensils of bronze, and glass were discovered,
as well as weapons. The art
of writing, in the form of runic letters also became known in the
Nordic lands at this time. The
400 to 550 AD were a restless period of
Europe's history, and relics found in Norway indicate that the same
farms in marginal areas indicates that settlement had reached
reveal that at this time the coastal areas to the west were deforested.
troubled times led tribes
to establish defense systems such as forts, and on the eastern banks
of Norway's largest
lake, Mjøsa, the remains of these are evident over a stretch of
The age of the vikings
(ca. 800 - 1050
The Viking era marks the termination of
the prehistoric period in Norway. There were still no written sources
of knowledge, and what
is known about this period is largely based on archaeological remains.
the Sagas shed some light on this age. Although they were written down
later, the Sagas were
based on word of mouth tales passed down from one generation to the
next. In synthesis they
reveal that the Viking age must without comparison have been the
richest of all the prehistoric
periods in the north.
Many scholars regard the looting of the
monastery of Lindisfarne, off England's northeast coast, in the year
793 as the beginning of the
Viking Age. Over extensive parts of west and southwest Europe they are
still regarded as cruel
brigands, who wraught havoc on their victims with fire and the sword.
This is only partially
true. The Vikings also came on peaceful errand, to trade and to
Norwegian Vikings settled
in the Orkney Isles, the Shetlands, the Hebrides, and on the Isle of
Man. The mainland of
northern Scotland and Ireland also became their home, and Dublin,
founded by the Vikings
in the 840s, was under Nordic rule right up to 1171. On Iceland and
Greenland the Norwegian
Vikings found uninhabited land. There they settled and built
Present day Iceland
is a direct consequence of the Viking colonization. On Greenland,
however, the Norse
for reasons unknown died out some few centuries later. The Norwegian
Vikings came mostly from
the south and west of the country, where the land had been utilized to
the maximum it could
tolerate. In southeast and north Norway, on the other hand, settlement
based on agriculture
and other activities spread to previously uninhabited areas,
particularly in the mountains and
For their many expeditions the Vikings
needed fast and seaworthy ships, and men with the skill to navigate
them over open seas. The fact
that the these hardy men repeatedly voyaged to America and back is
evidence enough of
their mastery of the long ships. The Sagas relate that it was Leif
Eriksson who discovered "Wineland
the Good" in the year 1001, but present day scholars claim that other
reached America before him. The Viking Age finally culminated in 1066
when the Norwegian
King Harald Hardruler and his men were defeated at the Battle of
Stamford Bridge in England.
A United Kingdom
Up to the 800s the
regions that later
became Norway were not unified. But both groups and individuals
Two main types of community were formed:
or "tings" organized around a central "Althing", and petty
kingships There must have been several
this. Not least of them was the farmers' need for peace and continuity,
the coastal areas, that were repeatedly troubled by robber bands and
the harryings of
Vikings. The coastal areas possessed at this time substantial riches in
shape of stolen
and traded goods. Safe on their "thrones" sat the petty kings, who
thanks to the
by intermarriage, were a tight-knit group with considerable power.
The petty kings in the
Viken - the
surrounding the Oslofjord, played a major role in this process. Their
might increased steadily
as district after district was brought under their rule. After a battle
at Hafrsfjord near
believably fought in the year 872, King Harald Fairhair strengthened
his position as
ruler of large areas of the country. This unifying process, however,
continued for several
more decades, bringing harsh struggles between warring Norwegian
chieftains, and between
Norwegian and other peoples of the north. By 1060 the unifying process
appears to have
was introduced into
over a lengthy period of time, possibly two hundred years. It was a
natural result of
Norwegians' contact with Christian Europe, through trading connections
and Viking raids.
from the churches of England, Germany and Denmark had also contributed
to a weakening
traditional belief in the Nordic gods. This development culminated with
the three missionary
Håkon the Good, Olaf Trygvasson, and Olaf the Stout. The latter's
martyr death, at
battle of Stiklestad in 1030 gave him saint's status. The Church had
won the final victory.
From the middle of the 11th
legislation that was enacted, the songs that were sung, and the
monuments that were erected
the firm establishment of Christianity in Norway. Shortly before the
first bishoprics appeared, among them the see of Nidaros, later
Trondheim, where the
held office from 1152. The Norwegian archbishop also played a political
In 1537 the Reformation was enforced in Norway by royal decree. At this
time the country
was under Danish rule, and the Reformation was enforced simply by
so-called Danish/Norwegian church ordinance applicable in Norway too.
From the early 1600s the
Lutheran creed was the sole creed of Norway .
The year 1130 was a
history. A period of peace was disrupted by conflicts, the civil wars which
right up to 1227.
But 1130 was a special year
too. It is regarded as the start of the so-called "High
Middle Ages, a period of population
consolidation within the Church, and the rise and development of the towns. As Crown
Church brought district after district under their rule the degree of public administration
authority increased. Historians say that only then could Norway be called one realm.
The power of the monarchy
the 1100s and 1200s, ending in victory both over the Church and the nobles. The
secular aristocracy was replaced by a serving aristocracy. The status of the
changed in this period, from that of freeholder to that of tenant. However, the farmer, who
rented his lands on a lifetime basis, enjoyed a free status that was rare indeed in most
contemporary Europe. The slaves of the Viking age also disappeared in the High Middle Ages.
During this period the
of gravity in Norway moved from the southwest to the districts surrounding the Oslofjord.
the reign of King Håkon V, in the 1200s, Oslo became Norway's capital. Prior to
it had been an insignificant clutch of houses squatting in the innermost reaches of the
When the Black Death reached Norway, in 1350, the town allegedly housed no more than
people. At that time Bergen had a population of 7,000 and Trondheim 3,000.
The state revenues in the
were extremely modest by European standards. Towards the end of the period they
scarcely adequate to finance any expansion of the administrative apparatus of Crown
state. The Black Death had raged with terrible effect, reducing the population to one half
possibly only one third of its pre-1350 level. This development prompted the King and
nobility to seek revenues from lands and feudal estates, regardless of national
This contributed towards the growth of the political unions in the Nordic lands.
Right from the 1319 to 1343
and Sweden had been in personal union, an institution later expanded through
arrangement of inter-Scandinavian royal marriages.
Håkon VI (1340-80) - son of
Swedish king Magnus Eriksson, and Håkon V's daughter Ingebjørg - was lawful heir
the throne of Norway. He married Margrete, daughter of the Danish king Valdemar Atterdag. Their
Olav, was chosen to be Danish king on the death of Valdemar in 1375. He inherited the
of Norway after his father in 1380, thus bringing Norway into a union with Denmark
lasted right up to 1814.
The late Middle Ages were a
marked economic deterioration in Norway. The population had been drastically
by the ravages of the Black Death and other plagues during the fourteenth century. Many
in the marginal areas were deserted, and incomes sank. Some claim that a worsening of
climate and the grip of the Hanseatic League on Norwegian economy were the cause of
decline. Others believe that a steady impoverishment of the soil
to the deterioration.
The economic depression
consequences in its wake. Denmark assumed increasing importance as the major
land. Danish and German nobles were appointed to the highest official offices. Lands
episcopal residences passed into foreign hands. The Norwegian nobility dwindled. Thus
the will and the ability for national self-assertion gradually sapped.
From 1450 the union with
by treaty - a treaty supposedly meant to ensure the power of the Norwegian
of the Realm when a monarch was being selected, though this stipulation was never
The treaty was also to serve as a guarantee of the equality of the two realms. This was
theory - practice proved otherwise.
In 1536 Norway ceased to be
kingdom. This came about at a national assembly in Copenhagen, where King
III had to pledge to the Danish noblemen that Norway was henceforth to be
to the Danish Crown, like any other Danish possession. Norway's Council of the
was disbanded, and the Norwegian church lost its autonomy. The Danish noblemen could
then on freely take over positions as officers of the law in Norway, and could earn their
from Norway too.
This close political link
drew Norway unavoidably into the wars that Denmark waged with Sweden and the Baltic Sea
It led the Danish king to surrender Norwegian land to Sweden; Jemtland and
in 1645, Båhuslen and the fief of Trondheim in 1658, the latter, however, was returned to
two years later.
An assembly of the States
in 1660 acclaimed Frederik III as heir to the throne and assigned to him the task
giving the kingdoms a new constitution. In this way the two kingdoms were subject to an
monarchy, a factor which affected Norway's position throughout the remaining
of the union of the two lands. Although Norway was governed from Copenhagen, the
was often in no position to rule. The real power lay in the hands of the state officials.
and large Norway profited from this, as among the state officials dawned some comprehension
the Norwegian standpoint. On issues relating to Norway in particular, the views of
high-ranking Norwegian officials were often respected.
In this period of absolute
was formulated whereby Denmark and Norway were to be treated as a single economic
Thus, Denmark was accorded sole rights to the sales of grain in southeast Norway (1737),
a corresponding monopoly on sales of iron from Norway was introduced in Denmark.
the so-called town privileges in 1662 all trade in timber was concentrated in the
where the inhabitants were granted exclusive rights to purchase timber from the farmers and
sawmill owners. The intention was to create a wealthy middle class in the town -
this goal was achieved.
The middle class which
of economic developments bore the seeds of a certain national awareness. This was
marked in the 1700s. It could have resulted from the strong economic growth of
social class, but probably the decisive factor was the growing resistance to the rulers'
to make Copenhagen the economic nub of the two lands. The Norwegian traders could
compete with the mighty trading houses of the Danish capital.
In the late 1700s most
through Copenhagen. The timber retailers of southeast Norway made a concerted
for a national Norwegian bank, and at the same time supported the demands of the
officials for a Norwegian University. These demands were denied, as the government
any move which might give Norway a more autonomous position, and impair the
of the union. The concept of a Norwegian University and national bank
came to symbolize the growing national consciousness.
The trend accelerated
Wars of 1807 -1814. Denmark/Norway were allied with France, and the
blockade isolated Norway both from Denmark and from the market. Shipping and timber
came to a halt, and famine and hunger spread through the land. As Norway could no longer
administered from Copenhagen, a government commission of senior officials was
to carry out this task. The King, Frederik VI, submitted to demands for a national
which was consequently established in 1811. All these events formed the backdrop for
was to take place in 1814.
At the Battle of Leipzig in
suffered heavy defeat. One of his opponents on the battlefield, the kingdom of Sweden,
previously lost Finland to the czardom to the east, and now wished to have Norway as a
on its western border. Sweden's allies had therefore pledged Norway to it as
of the spoils of war.
The allied victory at Leipzig
by diplomatic pressure in Copenhagen and a military attack on the double monarchy, by
of Holstein. In January 1814 Fredrik VI surrendered, cut the links with Napoleon, and
Norway over to his Swedish opponents. In this way ended 434 years of union between
However, the agreement
and its opponents contained political elements that were of major importance to Norway.
terms firmly established that Norway was again to take its place among the independent
in union with Sweden. In a subsequent proclamation from the Swedish king
XIII, it was stated that Norway was to have the status of an independent state, with
own free constitution, national representation, its own government and the right to levy
The Norwegians were not
to accepting this state of affairs. Governing Norway at that time was the nephew
the Danish King, Prince Christian Frederik. In understanding with his uncle, the
paved the way for a Norwegian revolt, to prevent a Swedish takeover and presumably also
secure a reunion of Denmark and Norway.
The governor's action led to
of an assembly whose purpose was to forge a constitution. They met at Eidsvoll,
70 km north of Oslo and on May 17 1814 formally adopted the constitution, choosing
Frederik as Norwegian king. To this day. May 17 is celebrated as the Norwegian
The victors of the Napoleonic
were unwilling to accept any deviation from the terms of the agreement. The Swedes
diplomatic pressure, and when this proved to be of no avail, they launched a
campaign of trained troops who rapidly subdued the Norwegians. In August an agreement
signed at Moss, south of Oslo, whereby the Swedes accepted the Norwegian Constitution
at Eidsvoll, with the amendments made necessary by the Union of the two kingdoms.
Christian Frederik relinquished his power on 10 October 1814, and left the country.
had entered into another Union.
into another Union. 1814 -
In the years immediately
the newly organized state fought repeatedly for its existence. Norway was hit by the
economic depression it had ever suffered. The common market with Denmark was
and the British market was closed to Norwegian timber. Mines and sawmills lost
custom. Many of the wealthier middle class citizens in southeast Norway went bankrupt. The
was hard and long.
During this period of
were a number of trials of strength between Norway's parliamentary assembly, the
and the Swedish monarchy. The Constitution was used as a means of abolishing
Norwegian nobility , partly to prevent the Swedish King from enlisting support for himself
creating more nobles. In 1821 a crisis arose when the Swedish monarch assembled troops
Oslo to force the Storting to accept increased power for the monarchy. The
From the 1830s Norway enjoyed
of economic buoyancy, which fed demands for freer trade and customs regulations.
rights were expanded and customs tariffs were given a free trade bias. In other
too, Norway started to take part in general developments in Europe. The first railway line
laid, between Oslo and Eidsvoll,in 1854. Telegraph lines were erected. New management methods
introduced in agriculture.
The foundation for modern
was laid in the 1840s, with the establishment of the first textile factories and
workshops. Between 1850 and 1880 the size of the Norwegian merchant fleet increased
Economic developments were
intensified class conflict. The February revolution of 1848 had consequences for the
movement among the workers. The calls for democratic reform grew louder.
In the Storting antagonisms
between the representatives of the senior officials who attended to administration, and
delegates for the farmers and the radicals. The farmers were in the majority as early as
In 1859 the first attempt to create a party organization was unsuccessful, but ten years
the first liberal block was formed, though without a party organization. Norway's first
party, the radical Liberal Party was established, in 1884, and its political counterpart, the
Party, some months later.
The antagonism felt towards
monarchy soon became apparent in the Union, not least because foreign policy was led
its entirety from Stockholm. As early as 1827 the Storting requested of the King that
Norwegian prime minister be allowed to take part in handling diplomatic issues. Other
were forwarded to promote Norwegian equality in the union, a special Norwegian
flag, for example.
The really major struggle
monarchy, however, was linked to the introduction of parliamentarianism,
constitutional principle that a government must have the support of the national assembly if
is to remain in power. As a condition for this, the Storting passed amendments to the
in 1874, 1879 and 1880, giving ministers of the crown access to the sessions of the
On each occasion the King refused to sanction the proposal.
This raised the issue of
amendments in fact needed the consent of both the King and the Storting. Both the
and the Conservative representatives asserted that they did. However, the Liberals
determined to bring matters to a head through an impeachment process. After an
campaign in 1882, conducted with a vehemence so far unparalleled, the Liberals returned
representatives to the Storting, as against the Conservative's 32. The government of
Minister Selmer was impeached, and in 1884 sentenced to partial loss of office,
for having advised the King not to sanction the constitutional amendments. After a
of interim Conservative government, the King saw no option but to request Liberal
Johan Sverdrup to become prime minister. Parliamentarianism had finally won
The Liberals put several of
issues through parliament, including the jury system, new military arrangements and a law
Towards the end of the
on the subject of the union intensified. A Swedish demand that the union's foreign
must be Swedish, and the Norwegians' demand for their own consulates sparked strong
Swedish troops prevented the Norwegians from achieving their desires. In
the Norwegians spent the final years of the century building up their military power.
In the end it was the
triggered the final conflict between the two countries. On March 11 1905, the government of
Minister Michelsen was formed to push the consulate issue through as a
Norwegian action. On June 7 the government placed its power in the hands of the Storting.
latter, however, requested the government to continue temporarily, in accordance with the
and current law "with the amendments made necessary in that the union with
under one King is dissolved as the King no longer functions as a Norwegian monarch."
Thus, the Norwegian view was
was now dissolved. However, the Swedes demanded a referendum to clarify
the nation as a whole was in agreement with this move. Further, Sweden demanded
on the conditions for a dissolution of the union.
The referendum took place in
1905. 368,392 Norwegians voted to end the union, 184 were against it.
The negotiations with
at Karlstad in August/September. The result was an agreement on a peaceful dissolution
Norway after 1905
The issue of Norway's
future form of
was hotly disputed. A referendum showed a large majority in favor of a
rather than a republic. On 18 November 1905 the Storting chose the Danish prince
as King of Norway. He took the name Håkon VII, and entered his new kingdom at Oslo on
November, together with his English Queen Maud, the daughter of Edward VII, and the
Crown Prince Olav - the present King Olav V.
When the union with Sweden
Norway was enjoying a period of economic growth, which lasted right up to WWI
1914. The GNP rose by 55%, i.e. by an average 4 percent per year. The population
rapidly and the employment situation eased. This was a result of the second phase of the
revolution, which in Norway was characterized by the exploitation of cheap
and foreign capital investments. For the first time in Norway the electrochemical and
industries were built up, and new products appeared on the market. Major
such as Norsk Hydro were established and a number of new industrial centres sprang up.
Despite the economic progress
a large number of Norwegians emigrated to the United States around the turn of
The Labour movement had
in Norway prior to the dissolution of the union with Sweden. The first trade
were formed in 1872, and the Labour Party was founded in 1887. Universal suffrage
given to men in 1898 and to women in 1913.
As early as the election of
Party secured four mandates. In 1912 26% of the electorate cast their votes in its
and 23 representatives were returned to the Storting. This made the party the second
in the national assembly, after the Liberals. The strikes and lockouts of 1911-12 tested the
of the Labour movement - which waxed strong and more radical in the two years
The first two years of
however, brought relatively modest changes in the country's social structure. As late
1910 42 per cent of the work force was still engaged in agriculture and forestry. In 1920
corresponding figure was 37 per cent. Today this figure has sunk to 6 per cent.
Following the dissolution of
Norway had to build up a foreign office and a network of embassies and consulates. The
available for this were extremely limited. The guidelines for foreign policy drawn
by the government of Christian Michelsen in 1905 stressed that Norway should refrain
entering alliance which could involve the country in wars. This policy of neutrality had
broad support of the people. However, Norway played an active part in the work of
international arbitration agreements.
During WWI Norway remained
the Norwegian merchant fleet suffered heavy losses on account of the u-boat war
the mining of the seas. About 2,000 seamen lost their lives. The war, however, brought
financial gains, which enabled the Norwegians to repurchase major companies which
passed into foreign ownership (Borregaard,the coalfields of Spitsbergen (Svalbard)
In 1920, in the settlement following the war, Norway retained its sovereignty over
At the General Election of
lost their majority in the national assembly. Right up to 1945 no single party was able
gain a majority in the Storting. This caused uneasy parliamentary conditions. In 1928
Labour Party was able to form its first government, which, however, survived for only 19
after it was felled by a non-socialist majority.
Prior to its first government
Party had gone through a turbulent period. From 1921 to 1923 it was affiliated to the
internationale. After the break with the latter, partly as a result of the required
of the "dictatorship of the proletariat", the party started to gain ground at the elections.
The depression that started
also affected Norway. The government's currency policy intensified the problems.
and shipping suffered heavy losses. A number of banks crashed. The krone started to fall,
the lack of foreign currency was severe. State revenues diminished, and many of the
were hard hit. Earnings, which had been high as a result of arbitration in 1920, were
under vehement protest from the workers, who at that time were strongly influenced
revolutionary viewpoints. The beginnings of both red and white guards were apparent.
was severe right up to the start of WWII.
In 1932, however, an economic
which led to a drastic improvement of Norway's balance of payments. From
to 1939 the national income rose by more than 1,400 million Norwegian kroner, a
sum for Norway at that time.
In 1920 Norway became a
of Nations, thus departing from its policy of isolation. The Nordic cooperation
during the war continued in the League of Nations, where the Nordic states pledged
support to peace-keeping measures, though avoided committing themselves to military
The president of the Norwegian Storting, Carl Joachim Hambro was president of the
when WWII broke out.
The imminent threat of war
1930s brought defence issues into the forefront of Norwegian political debate. The
had previously strongly opposed granting funds to the military, and were partly
in this view by the Liberals. Another reason for socialist skepticism towards defence was the
that the Vidkun Quisling, later to become a national socialist, led the Ministry of
in the early 1930s, as a cabinet minister in the Agrarian Party government. In 1936 the Labour
again formed a government, with parliamentary support from the Agrarian Party.
Nygårdsvold became prime minister. Grants to defence were increased, though too late to
any real effect on Norway's military strength. At the outbreak of WWII in 1939 Norway
proclaimed its neutrality.
Norway's declaration of
of little significance. On 9 April 1940 German forces attacked Norway, which after a
struggle was subdued, despite some military assistance from Great Britain and
The royal family, the government and some of the heads of the Ministry of Defence and
civil administration left for Great Britain, along with the withdrawing allied troops.
the war the Norwegian government carried out its work in exile .
The Norwegian merchant fleet
important resource that the Norwegians put at the disposal of the allies. It consisted
more than 1,000 ships, aggregating over 4 million gross tons. In Great Britain military
were built up again within all the services. They took part in the naval campaigns in the Atlantic,
the combat following the invasion of continental Europe in 1944, and in the air combat over
UK and the Continent. Towards the end of the war, the Swedes permitted Norway to build up
units in Sweden. Some of these took part in the campaigns against the German
This happened after a Soviet force had attacked and liberated a small area of Norway in
east Finnmark, in Norway's far north. In occupied Norway civilian resistance grew from
to year. Secret military forces were also assembled and constituted something of a
to the Germans.
Norway was occupied right
capitulation of 1945. At the time of the surrender there were no fewer than
German troops in Norway, which at that time had a population of barely 4 million.
occupation led to German exploitation of the Norwegian economy, and the Nazi reign of
included executions and mass exterminations. But in comparison with the German conduct
many other occupied countries Norway escaped relatively lightly from the second
early as 8 May 1945 Norwegian
from the Resistance started to take over some positions from the Nazis. Gradually,
and Norwegian troops from Great Britain and Sweden joined them. When the Germans
down their arms, and the allied forces took over, the whole process ran very smoothly.
exiled government returned home from Britain and on 7 June King Håkon sailed
the port of Oslo on board a British naval vessel.
From the German concentration
surviving Norwegians. At the end of the war 92,000 Norwegians were abroad,
of them in Sweden. In addition to the German
occupiers there were 141,000 foreign
in Norway, most of them prisoners of war. 84,000 of the prisoners were
During the course of the war
had commandeered 40% of Norway's GNP. In addition to this came the ravages of
war itself. In Finnmark these were considerable. Large areas were destroyed as a result of
"scorched earth" policy the Germans pursued during their retreat. Other towns and
were destroyed by bombs or deliberate burning.
A total of 10,262 Norwegians
lives either during the war or whilst they were imprisoned. About 40,000 were put
When the liberation came
accord that the rebuilding of Norway must be given top priority.
At the election of 1945 the
gained a majority and appointed a government led by Einar Gerhardsen. Up to the election
1961 it retained this majority, but in 1963 the Labour government was felled by a vote of
confidence in connection with circumstances surrounding an industrial accident on the island
of Svalbard. This led to the formation of the first post-war non-socialist government,
by John Lyng. However, it was short-lived.
The government's goal was to
within five years. It wished to force the pace of industrialization through
on heavy industry. Developments went even faster than the politicians had planned. By 1946
industrial production and the domestic product were greater than they had been in 1938.
1948/49 the country's real capital stood well over the prewar level. The subsequent years
a period of steady growth and progress.
In the years immediately
maintained a very low profile in foreign policy. The intention was to remain well
eventual conflicts between the major powers, as well as any bloc formations. It was hoped
the United Nations, under the leadership of its first Secretary General, Norwegian Trygve
would be a sufficient guarantee of security. This safeguard was to replace that
by the British safety guarantee, which Norwegian governments had relied on prior to
This, however had not functioned when the Germans occupied Norway, but despite this,
loyalties were firmly with the West.
As East/West tension
Norwegian foreign policy was reorientate too. Norway played a part in the Marshall
albeit rather reluctantly to begin with.
Through Marshall Aid Norway received
thousand million kroner from 1948 to 1951.
The Communist takeover in
in 1948, and the Soviet Union's proposal for a defensive alliance along the lines
its pact with Finland triggered strong reaction in Norway. After an interim period when an
attempt was made to form a Nordic defence alliance, Norway joined NATO, alongside
in 1949. Since then a succession of opinions polls has confirmed that the Norwegians
overwhelmingly in favour of NATO membership.
The social democratic party
heavily committed to curbing communist influence both in political life and in the
organizations such as the trade unions; and the struggle ended in victory. While the
Party, at the first post-war election in 1945 returned 11 representatives (out of the total of
the mandates were reduced to zero by 1949. Subsequently, the communists have
only a peripheral influence in Norway, and at present the two communist parties only have
per cent voter support, according to opinions polls. They are, of course, not represented
The post-war years have
steady progress in the Norwegian economy. The more plentiful resources have been
on building up a welfare state, which has created a more egalitarian society than in
other of the Western lands.
the oil age.
Prospecting in the North
rich finds, bringing considerable oil and gas production. Later,
finds have also been registered in the Norwegian Sea and the Barents
Sea. The major production
now takes place in the Norwegian Sea, off central Norway.
The petroleum age has led to a
restructuring of Norwegian trade and industry. The traditional
under sharply increased costs -have had problems in competing
internationally, and have
to cut back severely. The Norwegian economy has been beset by problems,
of varying political hues have struggled to overcome.
In the post-war period the
has been the issue of whether or not Norway should join the Common
government, headed by the Centre Party's Per Borten, supported by the
the Liberals, the Christian Democrats and the Centre Party itself was
When Britain applied for EC membership in 1967, the issue of Norwegian
increased urgency; Britain was one of Norway's major trade partners.
by 136 against 13 to renew a previous application from 1962.
The application unleashed violent
in Norwegian political opinion. A process of polarization ensued,
and the Borten
collapsed in 1971. A Labour Party government, led by Trygve Bratteli,
negotiations with the EC and submitted the results to the people for
decision, through the referendum of 1972. The tug-of-war preceding the
referendum was of such
that even today politicians shudder at the thought of a repetition. The
was a No to membership, with 53 per cent against, and 47 per cent
Following the referendum the
resigned. A government of centrist parties, with Christian Democrat
prime minister, conducted negotiations with the EC on a trade agreement
which right up
today regulates Norway's relationship to the Common Market.
The referendum of 1972 left its
the Norwegian political parties. The Liberals split, and both of the
new parties lost
of their influence. The general election of 1973 revealed a severe
fall-offof support to the
Party among EC opponents outside the capital.
Disgruntled voters shifted
to the newly established Socialistic Association for the Election,
which also swallowed up
Left Socialist Party and the communist voters. The Association returned
to the Storting. The party later changed its name to the Socialist
Party of the Left, and had
support of 5-6 per cent of the voters. (10% at the 1989 election.)
In the post-war years the
has largely revolved around whether the country is best served by a
government. Viewed in an international context, however,the dividing
has not been particulary wide.
Produced for the Ministry of
by Nytt fra Norge,
which is also responsible for the
of the article. Reproduction permitted.
Printed in October 1989.
This page was
last updated 7 August 1995 by the editors
After the Borten government of
Norway had non-socialist governments from 1981 to 1986, with
Willoch as prime minister. Willoch's government had the backing of a
1981 to 1985. The general election of 1985 placed two representatives
Party of Progress in a position to tip the scales either way.
The Willoch government was felled
the Party of Progress added its votes to those of the socialists in
1986, when voting in
issue of petrol duties. From 1986 to 1989 Labour Party leader Gro
Harlem Brundtland headed
minority Labour government.