Work on Volume 4 of the history of Stavanger gave an inspiration to learn more about other oil towns in Norway. The cases chosen are Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim, Kristiansund, Harstad, Hammerfest and Kongsberg. My purpose is to explore the development of the oil industry in these towns and, further, to compare the towns in regard to which “oil town characteristics” are prevalent. Oil town characteristics include: Management Agencies, public agencies that act as a political and administrative control agency in relation to the oil industry; Economic specialisation (including industry and infrastructure), support bases, company offices and/or engineering or supply industries; Cultural functions, which are limited to oilrelated education and research. These characteristics derive from a knowledge of Stavanger city history and are inspired by the town history model proposed in Knut Helle’s article in «Norsk byhistorie. Urbanisering gjennom 1300 år» (Norwegian town history. Urbanisation through 1300 years).
The historical review of the petroleum industry in the eight towns demonstrates that while some of the towns have established a broad range of activities throughout the entire chain of oil and gas production, others have become more specialised. The explanation may be found in proximity to the fields, local politics, state control and terms of license. The Establishment Act of 1978 and the opening given for oil exploration north of the 62nd parallel in 1980 drew the industry northwards along the coast. The technology agreements in 1980 gave an impetus to the research and development agencies. Further, oil and gas discoveries, oil price and technological improvements were important for the development of fields further north, with support facilities on land.
Further analysis of Norwegian oil towns can give a deeper understanding of the processes that have made towns into oil towns and of what changes have taken place in the towns’ inner structures and their functions in relation to their hinterlands.
During the Seven Year’s War of the North (1563–1570), Jemtland was occupied by the Swedish king from 1564 until 1571. The Swedes installed themselves in the province with several kinds of officials, from highranking bailiffs to low-level officials in the local communities. In other studies, the occupation has been treated as a period characterized by terror. This impression rests on a number of misconceptions, the author claims. Jemtland was occupied by the Swedes several times during the early modern period and features of later occupations have been projected “backwards” to the earlier. Using fiscal sources, the author provides a quite different account. There are two reasons as to why the author paints a different picture:
Firstly, the Swedes had no intention of impoverishing the Jemtlanders further. During the occupation the taxes were kept on the same level as before and after the war. Rather, the ultimate goal was to gather as many furs as possible. The income from the sale of these furs on the international market was higher than all the taxes collected in the province.
Secondly, the Jemtlanders did not resist the Swedish rule. Some left during the first year of the occupation, but people were moving away before the occupation as a response to difficult agricultural conditions. There are a few traces of Jemtlanders behaving in a negative fashion towards the occupiers but generally they cooperated with the Swedes. The Jemtlanders were against the war that broke out between the kings of Denmark-Norway and Sweden in 1563. Their resistance towards the war resulted from their wish to have their lensherre to negotiate peace between the two kings! Such pacifism is rare during the ancient regime.
The position as lensmann goes back to the Middle Ages, when the lensmann’s main task was to collect taxes on behalf of the sysselmann (the leading crown-officer in the county). In the Late Middle Ages, the lensmann’s main responsibility was the local administration of justice. Amongst other tasks, he played a central role in taking evidence and documenting property dispositions. In respect of Trøndelag, the source material from around the time of the Reformation is thin. A recently published witnessed document from 1547 that names 13 lensmenn is therefore an important addition. With this source as a starting point, central issues pertaining to this office are discussed. These concern the numbers of lensmenn, their social status, their function in the local society and their remuneration. The investigation shows that the number of lensmenn increased sharply around 1600, which is probably related to the introduction of a professional district judge, called sorenskriver (sworn writer) and the development of a stronger state administration. Generally, the lensmenn of the 1500s were relatively wealthy and lived on good farms. Their remuneration was primarily negative in that the lensmenn were exempted from paying tax and probably also tithes. The exemption from tax became of greater economic significance as heavier taxes were levied over the course of the 1600s. In the 1500s, it was not usual for the office to be passed down from father to son.
Tax rolls from the first half of the 1600s show that the Vesterålen archipelago in northern Norway had a large population of cotters (“husmenn”) at that time, probably also in the preceding century. The cotters were especially numerous in two large fishing villages, Andenes Vær and Langenes Vær, where they, before 1640, constituted a majority of the population.
After 1650, the population in the region decreased, the cotter group more than the farmers and the “værmenn” (the farmers’ counterpart in the largest fishing villages). This coincided with reduced catches in the main fisheries. The cotters as a group fell more in numbers than the farmers and the “værmenn”. On farms in areas farther from the coast, the cotter group was more stable before and during this crisis, but also smaller.
This paper discusses the concepts of “værmann”, “strandsitter” and “husmann”, and takes a closer look at various economic adaptions the Vesterålen cotters, both Norwegian and Sami, undertook. For most of the cotters, the fisheries seem to have been of great importance.
Together with a rise and fall in absolute and relative numbers of cotters coinciding with the harvest at sea, the high proportion of cotters in the fishing villages leads to the conclusion that most of these cotters had fisheries as a main part of their way of life. This is at odds with the prevailing understanding of the cotters way of living. However, this paper covers only a small part of the coast. More research is needed to assess the validity of these conclusions on a broader scale.