Saved by the King. The construction of granaries provided an adaptation to climatic stress during the 18th century

How to deal with failed crops and the resulting starvation in Norway was an important social issue for local and central authorities during the 18th century. Establishing granaries was an effective strategy for adapting to the challenges following short-term climatic fluctuations (climatic shocks, i.e. short, cold periods, which occurred often during this part of the Little Ice Age). The food reserves in granaries could provide, when necessary, swift and effective relief in areas affected by famine, and reduce suffering.

The first part of the article examines the contemporary debate concerning how granaries should be organized. The debate focused around the question: should the central authorities, the local authorities or the farmers carry the burden of administering and building the granaries? The latter part of the article is concerned with how the granaries were actually established. During the 1770s and 1780s, the central government implemented an expansion of the royal granaries, which were originally constructed for military purposes, but which were now also organized for civil use. Facing great costs and harsh criticism, this strategy was replaced around 1790, by the establishing of granaries organized by the local communities. The article also focuses on to what extent the granaries were able to reduce suffering during periods of short food supply, and argues that the amount of grain in the granaries was enough to reduce mortality during the period.