Norway History – from 1536 to 1814

Norway History – from 1536 to 1814

In the period from 1536 to 1814 the modern state was built in Norway. Little by little the king transformed the feudal government into a royal administration, imposing on the feudatars conditions that were advantageous for the state; many small fiefdoms were reunited into large feudal dominions (later administrative districts), and free fiefdoms were transformed into fiefdoms that had to pay taxes and duties or had to make accounts. With the establishment of the hereditary monarchy, the transformation found its absolute fulfillment in Denmark and Norway, in 1660. The fiefdoms were transformed into provinces, amter, and the feudal lords became prefects (amtmenn) with a fixed salary, without military authority in the districts. The council of the Danish kingdom, which, since 1536, had also been involved in Norwegian affairs, was dissolved: the king had only powerful cabinet ministers around him, exercising absolute power himself. With the Reformation, all the ecclesiastical properties were confiscated by the crown, what served to give the state that secure economic basis which it had previously lacked; during the sec. XVII, and partly also during the XVIII, that enormous quantity of assets ended up by means of sales in the hands of private individuals and procured liquid capital for the state. At the same time ordinary state revenues increased with a series of new taxes, and customs revenues increased with ever-increasing trade. The power of the state became much greater and extended more and more into new fields. The reconstituted state defended itself externally with a strong army and a strong fleet, formed by the recruitment of peasants and citizens belonging to the lower classes, and maintained with the revenues of the kingdom.

According to topschoolsintheusa, the central administration, collegially ordered, was common to Denmark and Norway, since the admitted principle of the government was that the two kingdoms should form a unitary state, and be governed as such. The Norwegian crown council disappeared in 1536 without being formally dissolved and without any Norwegians taking a seat in the Danish one. After 1660 the colleges of government became common to both states and so did the Supreme Court, the university, the bank of issue and all the other state institutions that were gradually established. The highest officials in Norway were as a rule Danish and generally the body of officials in Norway consisted of a large number of Danes, while numerous Norwegians held offices in Denmark. The highest official in Norway from 1572 was a governor (statholder) Danish, although generally with little personal authority. When communications between Norway and Denmark were interrupted in wartime, temporary Norwegian governmental bodies were established, as Norway was always regarded as a constituted unit, a kingdom. When war broke out in 1807, Norway had its own Governing Commission, and a number of other central Norwegian bodies. All were liquidated during 1810, but as the situation became critical again in 1813, the governor Prince Christian Federico was conferred personal power of government.

Also in this period of the 16th-18th centuries, the Norwegian national economy was rebuilt on a new base and had a great development. The woods were better exploited with the use of the hydraulic saw (circa 1520) and the export of timber became a major source of Norwegian income. A series of mines and iron foundries were opened from the beginning of the century. XVI, of silver and copper from about 1620 (Kongsberg, Røros). With the use of new tools, deep sea fishing brought rich profits. Cultivation of the land also progressed, albeit more slowly. The cultivation system remained almost the same, with extensive cultivation, despite the introduction of new plants (the potato from about 1750, herbs and fruit), but the colonization of new lands increased, especially following the

The population in 1570 was about 400,000, about 730,000 in 1769, about 900,000 in 1801. The development of new industries and trade considerably increased internal and foreign exchanges. Norwegian shipping was reorganized so that ships flying the national flag first became masters of the ever-increasing national imports and exports (1600-1750) and later that they were also used on a large scale for maritime traffic between foreign nations. From 1793 to 1807 Norway enjoyed extraordinary prosperity. Most of the new economy was based on the concentration of capital, and the bourgeois of the cities made the greatest profit. Cities and bourgeois were favored by the authorities of the state with privileges and monopolies. All commercial legislation until 1770 was marked by mercantilism, until the liberal idea slowly began to make its way. A noticeable change in economic policy is signaled by the customs laws of 1796.

After 1660 the nobility ceases to exist, and the bourgeoisie rises to domination as a result of its wealth and its relations with foreign countries. The bourgeoisie represented European culture in Norway, and most of the officials came from the bourgeoisie. The peasants were greatly exploited: they were forced, for example, to lend their work in the mines at a wage imposed by the government; moreover, the freedom of industry and commerce was in many ways restricted in favor of the cities and the bourgeoisie. Many peasants, being indebted to the bourgeois, found themselves in a state of dependence. Nevertheless, the peasants in Norway enjoyed much greater freedom in comparison with the bourgeoisie and officials than in any other country, since for the most part they owned the farms they cultivated.

The relatively secure economic position of the peasants gave them a need for independence which later constituted a force in the country’s history. This period also marks great progress for the farmers of Norway.

As the Norwegians gained greater wealth and independence, discontent grew over Norway’s subordinate position vis-à-vis Denmark. The bourgeoisie, in which the national movement had its strongest roots, demanded for Norway its own colleges of government, its own university, its own bank of issue, its own fleet; the peasants asked for Norwegian officials who knew the conditions of the country. There was also an economic contrast between Denmark and Norway, since Norway’s foreign trade was essentially linked to England, while that of Denmark to Germany, France and North America.

In 1807 this contrast, fatal to Norwegian trade, gave rise to the need for a separate Norwegian foreign policy.

The government resisted Norwegian aspirations, thinking they were against the unitary state. However, a series of restrictions on industries and trade was lifted, the Danish monopoly on the import of wheat in southern Norway was lifted; Norway finally had a university (Cristiania, 1811), but, all in all, the government continued the unitary policy until 1814. A real action against this policy, with the aim of bringing about the end of the union, was taken after the 1807 under the leadership of Count Herman Wedel Jalsberg. The government, to reconcile the Norwegians, made a generally milder tax policy for the people than was the one followed in Denmark. Especially after 1770 the taxes were generally not very burdensome in comparison with the possibilities of payment.

Norway History - from 1536 to 1814

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