Sunday, March 19, 2006

History of Norway

History of Norway. This essay has information pertaining to the history of the European nation of Norway.

Wikipedia notes, "Norway, or officially the Kingdom of Norway (Norwegian: Kongeriket Norge or Kongeriket Noreg) is a Nordic country on the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, bordering Sweden, Finland and Russia. Norway's extensive coastline along the North Atlantic Ocean is home to its famous fjords. The country has a very elongated shape. The Kingdom of Norway also includes the arctic island territories of Svalbard and Jan Mayen."

From the site:

Unlike the Swedes and Danes, the Norwegians were not organized even so late as the ninth century. The name of king was borne by the chiefs and heads of separate clans, but their authority was limited and the rights of the subjects very extensive. Only by marauding expeditions were the Vikings able to gain honour and wealth, and at times also to acquire control of extensive districts. Their early history is lost in the fabulous tales of the bards. In 872, Harold Haarfager (Fair-Haired), after a decisive sea-fight near Stavanger, established his authority over all the clans. Those refusing to submit left the country and their possessions were confiscated. When Harold divided his kingdom among several sons, its permanence seemed once more uncertain, but Hakon the Good restored a transient unity and procured an entrance for Christianity. Olaf Trygvesson continued the work of union after Hakon's death, and promoted the spread of the new faith, but in a sea-fight with the united forces of the Danes and Swedes he was killed about 1000 near Svalder (of uncertain location). The kingdom now fell apart, some portions coming under Cnut the Great of Denmark.

Finally Olaf, son of Harold Grenske and a descendant of Harold Haarfager (1015), re-established the boundaries of Norway, and aided Christianity to its final victory. At a later date Olaf became the patron saint of Norway. His severity so embittered the great families that they combined with Cnut and forced him to flee the country. Returning with a small army from Sweden, he was defeated and killed in the battle of Stiklestad (29 July, 1030). His heroic death and the marvellous phenomena that occurred in connexion with his body completely changed the feeling of his opponents. His son, Magnus the Good, was unanimously chosen his successor (1035), and the Danish intruders were driven away. Magnus died childless in 1047, and the kingdom went to his father's half-brother Harold, son of Sigurd. Harold had won fame and wealth as a viking, and had been an important personage at the Byzantine Court. On account of his grimness he was called Hardrada (the Stem). Impelled by ambition, he first waged a bloody war with Denmark and then attacked England. On an incursion into Northumberland, he was defeated at the battle of Stamford Bridge (1066). His son, Olaf the Quiet, repaired the injuries caused the country by Harold Hardrada's policy. Olaf's successor, Magnus, conquered the Scotch islands, waged successful war with Sweden, and even gained parts of Ireland, where he was finally killed. One of his sons, Sigurd Jorsalafari (the traveller to Jerusalem), went on a crusade to the Holy Land, while another son, Eystein, peacefully acquired Jemtland, a part of Sweden. With Sigurd's death (1130) the kingdom entered upon a period of disorder caused partly by strife between claimants to the throne, partly by rivalry between the secular and ecclesiastical dignitaries, whose partisans (known as the Birkebeinar and the Baglar) perpetrated unbelievable outrages and cruelty on each other. The power of the king sank steadily, while that of the bishops increased. For a time Sverre (1177-1202) seemed successful, but lasting peace was not attained until the reign of his grandson, Hakon the Old (1217-63). Hakon ruled with wisdom and force and was highly regarded by the rulers of other countries. During his reign Norway reached its greatest extent, including Greenland and Iceland. He died in the Orkney Islands (1263) while returning from an expedition against the Scotch.

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