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The Constitution and the regions: hegemony, continuity and rupture
In this article, an argument is made for applying the term «region» as a technical term to the conterminous geographical area of the administrative jurisdictions of the diocese (stift) and the county governor (stiftamt, stiftamtmann) in Norwegian history in the period 1662-1814. These regions increased in importance through the 18th century at the expense of the national administrative level to the point that, at the turn of the century, there were very few national administrative functions left. As a consequence, the Norway which, as part of the Oldenburg monarchy, entered the Napoleonic wars in 1807 was a nation of strong regions.
In what way did these regions influence the course of events leading up to the dissolution of the union with Denmark in 1814, and how was the «Norway of regions» affected by the new Constitution?
At the instigation of the Society for Norway’s Welfare, a so-called national celebration was held across the country on 11 December 1811. It was to be a jubilatory and thanksgiving celebration of the resolution of 2 September that Norway should have its own university. Reports of the arrangements were sent in and published in book form. On the basis of the printed material, the article discusses whether this really was a celebration for the whole nation, for high and low, rich and poor, and for people in all corners of the land. Was it a manifestation of community or were internal tensions also displayed? The conclusion is that though there are indications of internal tension between both individuals, institutions and regions, the celebration nonetheless demonstrated a new kind of national solidarity. Perhaps it can be seen as a prelude to the later 17th of May celebrations?
In the first years of the 17th century, Eastern Norway was ravaged by plague and famine. The use of tax returns has made it possible to quantify the severity of the demographic crisis, showing how it spread quite unevenly, its local impact ranging from catastrophic to negligible. In spite of the epidemic’s catastrophic potential, the epidemic and famine together, on a regional level, only resulted in the desertion of 2,5 % of the holdings. The demographic impact was possibly of the same order. Actions to prevent the spread of the famine seem to have worked against measures on a governmental and social level to prevent the spread of epidemic disease. Nevertheless, the success many places achieved in containing the epidemic disease seems to demonstrate a social discipline more efficient than the one demonstrated in the better documented last plague epidemic to reach Scandinavia in 1710-11, when people felt themselves more removed from the shadow of the plague.
The article takes the annual fairs in Levanger as a point of departure for asking what kind of historical context regional fairs can be seen within. As a theoretical framework, Fernand Braudel’s portrayal of the development of capitalism in early modern times is used, with people’s local daily economy as the basis, supplemented by the market economy with developed mechanisms linking producers and consumers. The final and highest level in the development introduces international capitalism, with merchants connecting to international economic centres. The time of origin for the Levanger market is uncertain: its existence is established in the 16th century, and it may date back before the 15th century. The Levanger market had its origin in barter between the fishing population, peasants and mountain dwellers, each with different products to offer. Jemtland, which from 1645 belonged to the Swedish kingdom, was part of the region where people regularly visited Levanger, and represented a link to larger regions in Sweden. The article discusses how urban merchants incorporated the regional fairs in their economic activities and how a permanent urban community developed with the market as a basis.
In this article I present and discuss a life-history from the 19th century. A peasant woman, daughter of a village constable and married to a constable herself, experienced the death of both her husbands and the majority of her children at a young age. She survived to live in straightened circumstances. After her death, a rumour that she had murdered her husbands arose; one of them with the aid of a dish of poisoned sour cream! I present the information that is usually available to give a portrait of a person, information based on official documents, written sources of a personal kind and oral tradition. The article discusses the information that it has been possible to gather on this particular person, and analyses the peculiar tradition that points to her being a poisoner, the story of the poisoned sour cream. This tradition is inspired by melodramatic and popular conceptions, and the woman who was thought to be a poisoner is presented in the light of the melodrama.