The themes of this article are the norms for presentation, form and mediation in local history research in Norway. A difficulty has been that local history, for example local community history, tries to ride many horses at one time. These histories have been supposed to serve several functions: as an encyclopedia, a historical tale and a scholarly, analytical function. It has not always been easy to balance these expectations, and there has been a tendency for the encyclopedic function to dominate, at cost to the others. Additionally, the text is often written with a godlike outlook, an authorial view that apparently mediates the past objectively and neutrally. Thus, an illusion of realism is created.
On the basis of my newly published book on Skedsmo’s history, I discuss whether it is possible to find a better balance between local community history’s differing functions. To meet the requirements of readability, I have made use of fictional tropes as a mediatory technique. Furthermore, I discuss how experimentation with the form of presentation can «open» the interpretations of local history. I gain particular inspiration from Bertolt Brecht and his ideal of fracturing illusion. Using these approaches, I seek to write a history book that not only imparts knowledge of the past but also gives the reader an appreciation of how history is written.
In 1860, a religious revival took place in Vrådal in West Telemark, inspired by a young peasant girl, Gunhild Sveinsdotter. The was attributed with visionary capabilities. The revival had a powerful effect on the rural community, where thereafter pietistic beliefs shaped ways of thinking and living. The article discusses how the revival affected the local society, how the wider society reacted and how a local narrative has transmitted the memory of these incidents to later generations. Gunhild’s role as a visionary messenger and revivalist leader is interpreted in the light of the gender roles of the time, emphasising the access she had to the cultural and social resources of the rural community. Stories about the visionary in Vrådal are also considered in relation to similar stories from other parts of the country, and concepts of the visionary messenger are viewed in a wider European tradition.
The historical population register for Norway (HBR) will link all public information on people in Norway and where they lived. It is to be constructed in the main from church records and population censuses, but will in due time include other sources. The construction of the database has begun, in the first instance for the period 1801 to 1815. The aim is to reconstitute Norway’s population around 17th May 1814 and to construct a nominative census to supplement the statistical census of 30th April 1815. At completion in time for the bicentenary of the Constitution in 2014, it will be the world’s first publically accessible and country-wide population register and cover the years 1801–1815. This sub-project has been called «The Norwegian people in 1814» (DNF1814). The reason why Norway can lie so far ahead in this field is that we, together with the other Nordic countries, have complete church records that fill the gaps between the censuses. The aim of the HBR is to cover the entire Norwegian population until 1930. Also planned is a restricted-access register for the period 1930 to 1963 linked to the national population register that was established in 1964. The article discusses in particular how information about individuals and groups in different sources can be linked together using automatic and manual methods. It will be possible to use DNF 1814 and later extensions of the HBR in a range of local, regional and national studies and provide a basis for international comparison, particularly with longitudinal registers in Sweden, Iceland and the Netherlands.
This article aims to throw light on trade and economic interdependence between the coast and inland areas in Helgeland in the period between 1850 and 1950. Trade and the exchange of products were a basic strategy for survival. Until the latter part of the 19th century, trade was organised without the additional expense of middlemen and commodity exchange took place according to fixed standards and prices. Through a three-way exchange, based on trade between Norwegian and Swedish smallholders and the coastal population, Hans A. Meyer laid the ground for extensive economic activity. His suppliers lacked cash and were therefore bound to deliver primary products and handicrafts in order to obtain other necessities of life. However, financed by foreign capital, mining enterprises and industrial forestry led to major economic changes. A money economy grew rapidly, while fishermen and smallholders gained access to credit from local banks. Meyer and other traders gradually lost their economic advantage. Their dominance declined even more during the inter-war years as trade was spread among more participants. During the Second World War, product exchange flourished throughout the county thanks to rationing and scarcity, but disappeared again during the 1950s. New goods of new materials could be bought from local tradesmen and wooden products had had their day. They came therefore to serve only as nostalgic symbols for emigrants and tourists, without any further utility.
Through history, the Norwegian society has dealt with serious crime in different ways. The death penalty has been used to a varying extent for the most serious offences. This article will discuss a murder that ended in a death sentence and execution in 1862.
One Sunday at the end of October 1861, a cottar’s wife died under suspicious circumstances at Elvål in Rendalen. It transpired that she had been poisoned by her son Per, who had given her a honey-cake laced with strychnine. Six months later, Per Marken was sentenced to execution by beheading.
Throughout the 19th century, capital punishment was a matter for discussion, both in Norway and elsewhere in Europe. There was a strong body of opinion that mankind had reached such a stage of civilization that the death penalty could no longer be defended. Most of those who were sentenced to death in the latter part of the 19th century were reprieved. But not all. Between 1859 and 1885, ten death sentences were executed. The sentence against Per was one of these. Capital punishment was finally abolished for civil crimes in Norway in 1902.