Sweden and Visions of Norway: Politics and Culture, 1814-1905

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H. Arnold Barton investigates Norwegian political and cultural influences in Sweden during the period of the Swedish-Norwegian dynastic union from 1814 to 1905.

Although closely related in origins, indigenous culture, language, and religion, Sweden and Norway had very different histories, resulting in strongly contrasting societies and forms of government before 1814. After a proud medieval past, Norway had come under the Danish crown in the fourteenth century and had been reduced to virtually a Danish province by the sixteenth.

In 1814, as a spin-off of the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark relinquished Norway, which became a separate kingdom, dynastically united with Sweden with its own government under a constitution independently framed that year. Disputes during the next ninety-one years caused Norway unilaterally to dissolve the tie.

Seeing the union a failure, most historians have concentrated on its conflicts. Barton, however, examines the impact of the union on internal developments, particularly in Sweden. Prior to 1814, Norway, unlike Sweden, had no constitution and only the rudiments of higher culture, yet paradoxically, Norway exerted a greater direct influence on Sweden than vice versa.

Reflecting a society lacking a native nobility, Norway's 1814 constitution was--with the exception of that of the United States--the most democratic in the world. It became the guiding star of Swedish liberals and radicals striving to reform the antiquated system of representation in their parliament. Norway's cultural void was filled with a stellar array of artists, writers, and musicians, led by Bjørnsjerne Børnson, Henrik Ibsen, and Edvard Grieg. From the 1850s through the late 1880s, this wave of Norwegian creativity had an immense impact on literature, art, and music in Sweden. By the 1880s, however, August Strindberg led a revolt against an exaggerated "Norvegomania" in Sweden. Barton sees this reaction as a fundamental inspiration to Sweden's intense search for its own cultural character in the highly creative Swedish National Romanticism of the 1890s and early twentieth century.

Thirty-three illustrations of art and architecture enhance Sweden and Visions of Norway.

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About the author

H. Arnold Barton is a professor emeritus of history at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He is the author of Northern Arcadia: Foreign Travelers in Scandinavia, 1765?1815; A Folk Divided: Homeland Swedes and Swedish Americans, 1840?1940; and The Search for Ancestors: A Swedish-American Family Saga all available from Southern Illinois University Press. In 2000, His Majesty Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden bestowed on Barton the insignia of Commander of the Royal Order of the Polar Star.

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Additional Information

Publisher
SIU Press
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Published on
Dec 31, 2003
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Pages
227
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ISBN
9780809324415
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Europe / Scandinavia
Political Science / History & Theory
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Northern Arcadia

is a comparative study of the accounts of foreign visitors to the Nordic lands during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Before the late eighteenth century, few foreigners ventured as far as Scandinavia. The region seemed a cold hyperborean wilderness and a voyage there a daring adventure. From the mid-1760s on, however, foreigners arrived in the Nordic lands in increasing numbers, leaving numerous accounts that became increasingly popular, satisfying a growing curiosity about regions beyond the traditional grand tour.

The pre-Romantic mood of the period?with its predilection for untamed nature and for peoples uncorrupted by overrefined civilization?further stimulated fascination with the North. European titerati discovered the Nordic sagas, finding them exhilarating, passionate, imaginative, and original. The French Revolution and the ensuing European wars effectively closed off much of the Continent to foreign travel, turning attention to the still neutral northern kingdoms.

Travel literature about Scandinavia thus illuminates the shift in the European intellectual climate from the enlightened rationalism and utilitarianism of the earlier travelers in this period to the pre-Romantic sensibility of those who followed them. In a Europe torn by war and revolution, sensitive souls could find their new Arcadia in the North?at least until the Scandinavian kingdoms themselves became engulfed by the Napoleonic wars after 1805.

The first scholar to examine as a whole the travel literature dealing with Denmark, Schleswig-Holstein, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and the Færø Islands, H. Arnold Barton discusses accounts left by both the celebrated and the obscure. Well-known travelers include Vittorio Alfieri, Francisco de Miranda, Mary Wollstonecraft, Thomas Malthus, and Aaron Burr. Literary travelers of the day included Nathanael Wraxall, William Coxe, Charles Gottlob Küttner, Edward Daniel Clarke, and John Carr.

Northern Arcadia

brings out contrasts: among the various Nordic lands and regions; among the reactions of travelers of differing nationality; between the earlier as opposed to the later travelers of the time; between native Scandinavian and foreign perceptions of the North; between conditions in Scandinavia and those in other parts of the Western world; between then and now. It incorporates continuity and change, reality and mentality.

Essays on Scandinavian History examines important aspects of the history of Sweden and its Nordic neighbors between the later eighteenth and the beginning of the twenty-first century. Historian H. Arnold Barton has selected thirteen of the numerous essays he has published over the past forty years on the history of Scandinavia.

This is a companion volume to Barton's The Old Country and the New, an essay collection on Swedish emigration and the Swedes in America. Included here are studies of the special significance of the eighteenth century in Sweden's history and culture, the relationship of King Gustaf III to the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, the impact of the American Revolution in Sweden, and Gustaf III's ambitions in the East Baltic region. Also detailed are the king's early reaction to the French Revolution and his efforts to organize a European coalition to crush it, a reassessment of the reign and internal reforms of Gustaf IV Adolf, and the Swedish succession crises of 1809 and 1810.

In addition, Barton examines the increasing tension between the Pan-Scandinavian movement and the rising Finnish national movement. He deals with the historians of the Danish Agrarian Reforms of 1784-1814, parallel developments in Finland and Norway between 1808 and 1917, the discovery of Norway abroad, Swedish national romanticism, and Sweden's transition from a warfare state to a welfare state, now exemplifying the rational and humane ideals of the twentieth century.

Essays on Scandinavian History highlights important topics in the history of the Scandinavian region, which has remained all too little known outside the Nordic lands themselves, while also offering broader perspectives on Europe since the mid-eighteenth century. Twelve keyed-to-text illustrations, a bibliography of Barton's publications on Scandinavian history, essay endnotes, and an index augment this work.

In this unique longitudinal study of how a divided people relate to one another, H. Arnold Barton outlines dilemmas created by the great migration of Swedes to the United States from 1840 through 1940 and the complex love-hate relationship that resulted between those who stayed and those who left. During that hundred-year period, one Swede out of five voluntarily immigrated to the United States, and four-fifths of those immigrants remained in their new country. This study seeks to explore the far-reaching implications of this mass migration for both Swedes and Swedish Americans.

The Swedes were a literate, historically aware people, and the 1.2 million Swedes who immigrated to the United States offer a particularly well-documented and illuminating case study. Barton has skillfully woven into the text translations of little known published and unpublished Swedish sources from both sides of the Atlantic, to embody—in haunting human terms—both what was gained and what was lost through emigration.

Past studies have traditionally shown ethnic mobilization to be a defensive reaction against the exclusive nativism of resident Americans. Barton convincingly demonstrates, however, that the creation of a distinctive Swedish-American identity was at least equally an expression of the immigrants’ need to justify leaving their homeland to their former compatriots and to themselves by asserting a rightful and unique place within the Swedish national community. He concludes that the relationship between Swedes and Swedish Americans was essentially similar to that experienced by other peoples divided by migration, and that the long debate over the United States and emigration at its deepest level reveals both hopes and fears most conspicuously symbolized by America and "Americanization" in an increasingly integrated world undergoing the relentless advance of modernization.

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