A brief history of Norway: Everything you need to know about the Norwegians
Norway, or the “Kingdom of Norway” as it’s known officially, is a Scandinavian country in the Northern region of Europe.
Many people (including the Norway population), consider the Norwegian fjords to be some of the most beautiful places on earth. With an area of 323,802 kilometers squared, it’s not the biggest country in the world, but it’s far larger than Belgium — ten times. What’s more, Norway also benefits from a tiny people density. There are only around 16.53 Norwegians per square kilometer, which is about a tenth of China.
Norway is a spacious place, filled with natural wonders and beauty. Though the official Norway language is Norwegian, most of the inhabitants speak English, ensuring that they can welcome visitors from around the globe. Additionally, Norway also has a strong relationship with bordering countries like Finland, Sweden, and Denmark, which gives it fantastic access to the Scandinavian style and culture.
Today, we’re going to take a trip into the brief history of Norway, examining everything from the Norway population (a little over 5 million) to the culture and background you need to know.
A history of Norway: What you need to know
For the most part, Norwegian history has been greatly affected by the climate and terrain of the unique region. Most of Scandinavia, including Norway, has been completely covered in ice several times. The last of that ice melted only 14,000 years ago, which is when the first traces of humanity entered the Norway population, back in 10,000 BC.
Although the history of Norway begins with small tribes attempting to settle in the north, hunting reindeer and other prey to survive, some of the most significant growth in the region happened during the time of the Vikings, between 793 and 1066 AD.
For over 300 years, the Vikings in Norwegian history invaded and voyaged across neighbouring countries, acquiring national identities to become Danes, Swedes, and even Norwegians. For a long time, local chieftains took control of claiming their own areas of the country, until Harold Harfagre finally transformed Norway into a single state, and became the nation’s first king in 885 AD.
Much of Norwegian history and culture centres around the story of the Vikings, who had the incredible skill to create boats and navigate the seas to surrounding countries. The Vikings spread across Europe, exploring the Caspian Sea and Iceland or Greenland, and even branching out to North America. One of the Norway history facts that most people don’t know is that Leif Eriksson discovered the continent of America, about 500 years before Christopher Columbus.
Gradually, Norway religion began to take on Christian ideals, and the ruling king attempted to oppress the Viking religion, while various members of the population tried to hold onto old beliefs. Traces of the Viking heritage of Norway can still be found in the names of the days of the week, and Norway’s holiday celebrations.
Norwegian history: Joining the Scandinavian region
Today, Norway exists as part of the area of Scandinavia — one of the most beautiful and happiest places on earth. However, it wasn’t until the 14th century that Norway history merged with Denmark, following a royal marriage. The loss of political power for Norway was also affected by the spread of the black death, which killed over half of Norway’s population. Trading activity was gradually taken over by the Hanseatic Liege, and this group controlled the distribution of items across the Baltic area for 200 years.
Together, Denmark and Norway created a kingdom called “Denmark-Norway,” with the capital city of Copenhagen, and Danish became the language for state officials and a considerable number of citizens. A huge integration between Norwegian history and culture and the background of Denmark took place. When the general population of the space began to increase, and the economy started to recover, Norway began its fight for a more independent position, establishing a University in Oslo—the capital city today—in 1811.
1814 is another incredible year to note in the history of Norway. As a result of the “Allies decision,” the country was handed to Sweden at the close of the Napoleon war. A constitutional law was formed and signed as the Swedish king; Karl Johan entered the country. A constitutional law established and was signed after a popular referendum took place, creating a technical and non-cultural union between Norway and Sweden. The parliament for the two countries was divided into two, and the king was obligated to spend at least 3 months of each year in Oslo — the capital of Norway.
Eventually, Norwegian history took another major turn when Norway became neutral in the first and second world wars. Unfortunately, Norway was taken over by the Germans in 1940, but with help from allied forces, the country was once again liberated in 1945. Norway accepted a “Marshall” plan from the US, and rebuilt the country within five years, becoming a member of NATO, and helping to establish the Nordic Council. The Norway population has voted “no” to becoming a part of the European Union twice — both in 1972 and 1994.
Today, Norway is one of the richest countries in the world, thanks in part to the discovery of crude oil in the continental shelf during 1969. The standard of life has increased significantly throughout the history of Norway, making it one of the happiest and most well-respected locations on earth.
Norway history facts that might surprise you
The history of Norway has seen significant growth over the years. Initially an ice-covered region, struggling to develop a population, Norway has moved through the age of the Vikings, overcome the hardships of war, and has emerged as one of the most stunning countries in Europe.
Not only is the Norway population one of the happiest in the world, but it’s also supported by an incredible culture and a fantastic regional landscape. The Norway flag has become synonymous with productive people, welcoming communities, and awe-inspiring glaciers, mountains, and incredible coastal fjords.
Here are some Norway history facts that you definitely need to know if you have an interest in this fantastic country.
1. Leif Erikson discovered North America before Christopher Columbus
Most people assume that the first person to set foot on American soil was Christopher Columbus. However, it was Leif Erikson who discovered North America, 500 years before Columbus crossed the sea. Although Leif was technically born in Iceland, his father was one of the most famous Norwegian Vikings of all, Erik the Red.
2. Nights and days are different in Norway
Much of Norwegian history takes into account the unique weather and terrain of the Scandinavian landscape. It’s no surprise then that Norway’s nights and days are a little different to what you’d expect elsewhere in the world. For instance, the sun never goes down in this country throughout several weeks of summer, and during the winter, the sun might not rise for weeks too. This is called Polar Night and Midnight Sun.
Norway is also one of the locations in Scandinavia where you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis. In days where the sun never rises, your chances of seeing this phenomenon are even greater.
3. Norway has the world’s highest concentration of fjord
Since much of Norway history is covered in ice, it’s fair to assume that the country offers a unique insight into Nordic beauty. The fjords of Norway are world-famous, with tourists visiting from all around the world every year. Norway has the highest concentration of fjords in the world, with over 1,000 scattered around the country. Some of the most famous are the Sognefjord, Lysefjord, and Hardangerfjord.
4. The Norway population once included the Vikings
Scandinavia is the official birthplace of the Vikings, and the history of Norway is packed full of Viking tails. These skilled and fearsome warriors not only explored the world around them but conquered and raided regions long before the Norway religion switched to Christianity.
5. There are 2 written versions of Norway language
The Norway languages you’ll hear throughout the country range from Norwegian to English. However, one interesting point to know is that there are two separate written versions of the language. The most common option is Bokmal, while the second option is Nynorsk. There are also a host of different dialects to consider when it comes to the official Norwegian tongue.
Norway population, religion, and folklore
Now that you know a few basic Norway history facts let’s move on to discuss the population of the country. There are more than 5.258 million people living in Norway, which means that the country has fewer people than Sweden or Denmark. However, Denmark is only slightly ahead, with 5.749 million people, and the Norway population is continually growing.
One interesting point to note is that like other regions in Scandinavia, Norway consistently ranks high on the Human Development Index. This is the index designed by the United Nations to identify some of the happiest and most productive countries in the world.
There are many things that make Norway’s people special and interesting. One point you might be interested in is Norway’s religion, which has changed drastically over the years. Originally, the main religion of the country belonged to the Vikings. However, as the country evolved, Norway became a profoundly Christian country.
Today, Norway is a very secular country, where people have the freedom to follow whatever religious believes they choose. The Church of Norway is Lutheran, but there are various other Christian denominations, and Catholic beliefs are welcome too. Islam is also one of the most popular religions in Norway, and there are plenty of Jewish and Buddhist communities too.
Since 71.5% of the Norway population is Lutheran Christian, holidays like Easter and Christmas are very popular. Additionally, Norway also celebrates its own national day on the 17th of May. An event surrounding the Norway flag, the national day is marked by children’s parades across the country. This might be one of the reasons why Norway’s day is also referred to as “Children’s day.”
Beyond religion, Norwegian history and culture also benefit from a rich folklore and plenty of Viking myths. Thanks to the fact that Norway has been inhabited by many nomadic cultures over the years, folk plays a big part in the modern heritage and culture of the country. Legends include references to trolls, witches, elves, and other characters. Norway’s geographical features have also impacted its folklore stories. Many stories tell about elves and trolls living in the forests.
Norway language and currency
As mentioned previously, the official Norway language is Norwegian, although most people will speak English. Usually, English is the primary language taught alongside Norwegian in local schools, although some older people have limited proficiency here.
The official Norwegian language is very similar to Danish and Swedish. If you’re an expat moving into the Norway population, you’ll be encouraged to learn Norwegian, as the government requires any applicant for citizenship to be fluent in either Norwegian or another Scandinavian language. You’ll need to prove that you have attended classes for Norwegian for at least 300 hours!
Speaking of moving to Norway, it may help you to know that the Norway currency is the Krone or Norwegian Krone. Remember, Norway isn’t a part of the European Union, meaning they don’t use the Euro. The Krone comes in various formats and can take a while to get used to.
Much of the Norway population prefers to simply use its credit card in most places. However you will need your PIN. This will reduce your chances of facing problems with your day-to-day transactions.
Norway history and culture: Scandinavian Vikings
More than a thousand years have passed since the Vikings of Norway lived in large parts of the Western World. However, much of Norwegian history and culture is still impacted by Viking heritage. Some people always herald the Viking era as the “golden” age for the country. That may be why Norse literature is a massive part of the country. Norse literacy is evident throughout various parts of the history of Norway.
Names from Norse mythology are very popular in Norway, and people still tell stories about traders, pioneers, and pirates of the Viking age. Aside from their Viking background, the Norway population also feel a deep connection to the rural culture. This is something that visitors will often see expressed in folk music and traditional costumes still worn today on days like Constitution Day.
One exciting feature of Norwegian history and culture is the Law of Jante. This is an essential part of how the country operates. Essentially, the law demands that wealth isn’t flaunted throughout Norway and that people don’t criticize others based on what they do or don’t’ have. Jante Law may be one of the reasons why Norway is one of the happiest places on earth. The mindset ensures a feeling of equality, respect, and humility across the country.
A significant part of any country’s culture ties back to its food and recipes. Norway’s interest in food revolves heavily around seafood and natural products that can be taken from the earth. Usually, the most typical food is a thinly-sliced brown cheese that you can eat with bread. Other cornerstones include whale steak and cured salmon.
Breakfast is a savoury affair that includes flatbreads, fish, crisp bread, and cheese. There isn’t any fruit or sweets involved. Lunch also features a lot of open-faced sandwiches with cold meat and cheese, while dinner can include root vegetables paired with a range of meets, all the way from pork and beef, to chicken and whale. Constitution Day is celebrated by eating thinly sliced dried meets, porridge, and flatbread.
Norway design and architecture
Another element that has affected Norway history is the architecture of the country. Norway is well-known for its tradition of building as much of a building as possible in wood, including churches — which are some of the biggest parts of the Norwegian landscape. Driving through the country, you’ll find plenty of traditional red houses, as well as more modern and colourful homes.
The low population density of Norway combined with its stunning landscape means that the country isn’t cluttered with massive office buildings and flats. Instead, the environment feels far more rustic and welcoming.
Tourism in Norway has grown significantly in the recent years. On a national level, Norway has become one of the most popular countries in the world to visit. One of the largest cities in Norway, Tromso, has been voted one of the most desirable destinations for travellers across the globe.
This doesn’t mean that the Norway landscape is packed full of crowds and tourists; however, Norway is big enough to let everyone explore with plenty of freedom and space. The tourism hasn’t affected anyone’s ability to enjoy the endless fjords, sea to summit sights and wildlife.
Celebrating the history of Norway
The history of Norway is incredible, packed full of exciting tales about Vikings, and exciting collaborations with other countries in Scandinavia. Today, Norway continues to stand out from regions around the world for its incredible environment, culture, and sights. Indeed, Norway is one of the leading countries worldwide for its contribution to clean water and air. 96% of Norway’s population claim that they’re happy with their water quality, and the country maintains the highest percentage of electric car sales in the world too.
Interestingly, Norway is also home to a highly educated population, with 35% of adults holding a four-year degree or better. Public universities in Norway are also free from tuition fees — even for international students. If that wasn’t compelling enough, the country is also more supportive of parents than other countries. One of the most significant hardships that people from different regions face has to do with the inability to take maternity leave or paternity leave. However, mothers in Norway can take 35 weeks of maternity at full pay, or 45 weeks, with 80% of their income.
With one of the highest employment rates worldwide, and some of the safest streets that any visitor will find, the Norwegian region has plenty of benefits to offer. Whether you’re just visiting or you’re lucky enough to call Norway your home, there’s nothing quite like this country anywhere else on earth.
Scandification. Discovering Scandinavia.
Scandification explores and celebrates the magic of Scandinavia. Stay tuned and we’ll bring the essence of Scandinavia to you.