Norwegian History

Norway is a small, independent country in northern Scandinavia. The population is about 4.25 million and is predominately Lutheran. It is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, as measured by gross domestic product per capita.

The years from the 8th century to the mid 11th century is known as the Viking Age. Skilful shipbuilders armed with weapons of iron sailed the seas in search of land and wealth. They were also capable merchants, craftsmen and farmers.

In the eleventh century the first towns appeared. Norway’s population reached 400,000 in the mid 1300s. From 1536 to 1814, Norway had ten kings called either Christian or Frederik. King Christian IV is the only one recalled today. After 1860 people stated going to the America. When it was over, more than 800,000 had crossed the Atlantic.

Manufacturing industries shot up in the 1840s. The first textile mills were opened in Oslo and near Bergen and Trondheim. Engineering businesses opened up at about the same time. In the 1860s and 70s pulp mills and cellulose factories opened. By 1900, manufacturing industries counted for 28% of the gross national product and employed over a fourth of the labor force.

The fishing industry starting modernizing around 1900. Fishing boats were built with decks and engines, so the fishermen could go further out to sea. New equipment leads to larger catches. After the World War II, fishing fleets added trawl gallows and ring nets to catch more fish while sonar and echo-sounders made schools easier to find. On land, factories were built and employees hired to process frozen fish, fish fillets, fishmeal, and fish oil.

War and Occupation (1940 - 1945)

The Nazis invaded Norway in 1940, demanding a complete surrender, and acceptance of occupation. These demands were refused by the government, which moved with the royal family to London. In May 1945 the Germans surrendered, and on June 7, 1945 the king and government returned.

After 1945

In 1969 Philips Petroleum discovered oil. The Norwegian Parliament felt the state should have a role in this new industry and Statoil was established. The state received large shares in each discovery and became involved in the exploration, production and refining of oil and gas. Oil activities also benefited business and industry onshore. The petrochemical industry grew and the production of platforms and equipment created more jobs.

By the end of the 1930s, 60 percent of the total merchant fleet consisted of motor ships. Following the German invasion, the Norwegian government demanded the entire fleet work for the Allies. Over 3,400 sailors died and nearly 60 percent of the fleet was lost. After 1945, 30 years of growth restored the fleet, but the 1970s economic crises and laid up half the tanker fleet.

High costs in the early 1980s, made many ship owners registered their ships abroad. To rejuvenate shipping, the Norwegian International Ship Register (NIS) Act was enacted in 1987. By 1990 Norway's merchant fleet was the third largest in the world. 

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