Overview of Oslo

History of Oslo

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There is evidence that Norway has been inhabited since at least the 10th millennium BC. A small segment of the population today, the Sami people, were the largest group of indigenous people to settle Europe. Sami relied on coastal fishing, fur trapping, sheep herding, and reindeer herding. Even thought the population has dwindled, the Sami are still respected with the Norwegian monarch stating that the kingdom was founded upon the territories of two peoples-the Norwegian's and the Sami.

The time period Norwegian's are best known for is the age of the Viking. Around AD 600 the Norse people began to sail and craft unique ships and a culture that was all their own. Many small groups of people existed along the coast and interior of Norway, but sea faring trade and traditions were common. Norse traditions included a detailed mythology of nine worlds connected by Yggdrasil, the world tree. Harald Fairhair unified the distinct groups of people under his leadership in 872 AD as the first king of Norway.

Christianity slowly replaced the Norse traditions in the 10th and 11th centuries. The kings Olav Tryggvasson and St. Olav were missionaries and sought to bring their people Christian attributes. Haakon the Good was Norway's first Christian king, taking over in the mid tenth century. However, his efforts to make his people Christian were unsuccessful.

In 1319 a three year-old Magnus Erickson inherited the throne as King Magnus VII of Norway. At about the same time, Magnus was also elected King of Sweden. This untied the two young countries under one, very young, ruler.

The Black Plague or Black Death arrived in 1349 and changed the world, Europe, and Norway radically. Between 50 to 60 percent of the total population was killed in Norway. This was similar to the rates of the rest of mainland Europe, but recovery was slower as the population in this northern region was exceptionally small and scattered to begin with.

Norway was once again joined with a neighboring country when King Haakon VI died in 1379. His son, Olaf V, was only 10 years old, but had already been elected to the throne of Denmark in 1376. Olaf V was then King of Norway and Denmark, uniting the countries under a single throne. Margaret Valdemarsdottir of Denmark had been working to merge the leadership of Sweden with Denmark, and now she was able to unite the two with Norway as well. Before she could accomplish her goal, Olaf V suddenly died. However, Denmark made her temporary ruler and she was crowned on February 2, 1388. To secure her position, she married Erik of Pomerania who was then able to be crowned king of all three Scandinavian countries (Finland was part of Sweden at this time). This Kalmar Union allowed each country to retain their up their sovereignty, but they were not solely autonomous.

This peaceful cohesion was disrupted when Sweden split from the Kalmar Union in 1521. Denmark and Norway were attacked by the United Kingdom during the Battle of Copenhagen in 1807. Norway entered an alliance with Napoleon which led to mass starvation in 1812. The war was lost in 1814 and the Treaty of Kiel forced Norway to be ceded to the king of Sweden. This split divided Norway and Denmark, ending a coalition of 436 years.

Norway adopted a constitution on May 17, 1814 and the crown prince of Denmark-Norway Christian Frederik was declared king. This day is celebrated as the Syttende Mai (Seventeenth of May) and is also known as Norwegian Constitution Day.

Christian Michelsen became the Prime Minister of Norway in 1905 and was vital in the peaceful separation of Norway from Sweden on June 7th, 1905. A national referendum confirmed the people wanted a monarchy and the throne was offered to the Danish Prince Carl. He took the name Haakon VII, the first king of a fully independent Norway in 586 years.

During World War I and World War II, Norway was a neutral country. True neutrality was not possible in WWII however. The Germans invaded on April 9th, 1940. The country was unprepared for the attack and fell quickly. Eventually, a collaborationist government under German control was set-up and 15,000 Norwegian's volunteered to fight in German units. For five years, the Nazis occupied Norway and a resistance movement was formed. Norwegian's who co-operated with the Nazis were called "quislings" after Vidkun Quisling who assisted Nazi Germany after it conquered Norway so that he could rule the collaborationist Norwegian government. The most important piece of the resistance was the Norwegian Merchant Marine which took part in the evacuation of Dunkirk and the Normandy landings. In thanks for this collaboration, each December Norway gives a Christmas tree to the United Kingdom.

Norway remains aligned with Western powers. It became a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949. It is also a founding member of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA). However, Norway has turned down two referendums on joining the European Union.


There is evidence of Christian burials in the area before 1000, but Oslo was officially founded around 1049 by King Harald Hardrafade. Oslo has been the capital since the reign of Hafakon V starting in 1299. Hakon V was also the first king to reside permanently in the city. When joined with Denmark, Oslo was reduced in stature to a provincial administrative center.

The city was moved from its original site after being destroyed by fire several times. Along with the move across the bay, it was given a new name, Christiania . In 1814, Christiania became the capital again as the union with Denmark was dissolved. On January lst, 1925 the city reclaimed its original Norwegian name, Oslo.

Oslo is a global city, ranked "Beta World City" (major world cities) in studies performed by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network in 2008. It has also been consistently named as one of the most expensive cities for expats (ECA) and one of the best cities to live in.

Update 28/08/2010

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