Department of Scandinavian Studies
University of Washington
History of Scandinavia to 1720
(SCAND 380/HSTEU 380)
Fall Quarter, 2012
Time: MTWTh 10:30 - 11:20 pm
Room: 231 Mary Gates Hall
Professor: Dr. Terje Leiren
Office: 305U Raitt Hall
E-mail: leiren at uw.edu
Office hours: Wed. 12:00 - 1:0 pm,
This is a lecture/discussion course on Scandinavian history from the
end of the Viking Age to 1720. Covering such a long period of time,
the course will present an overview of the period. However, major
themes and events do emerge and we will focus on these from time to time.
Class time will be devoted, primarily, to lectures and discussions of
the lectures and reading material.
The Viking Age has traditionally been presented as a violent and
chaotic period in the European middle ages. Vikings have generally
been depicted as "pagans" and "barbarians" seeking to destroy
Christian culture and society. While this may have a measure of
truth in it, it is far from the whole story. In fact, Viking
society is the principle foundation on which later society is built.
The nations of Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden emerge politically
and economically during the Viking Age. With the conversion of
Scandinavia to Christianity, the North finally joined Europe culturally,
but developments throughout Scandinavia were probably more influenced by
the pre-Christian culture than that which the Christian church and its
allies were instituting, at least for several generation.
As in the rest of Europe, Scandinavia saw the rise of individual
nation states in the early middle ages (ie. after the Christian
conversion) and these states were gradually integrated into broader
European culture. Although the Scandinavian middle ages did not
reach the artistic heights of England or France, for example, it
did develop a separate identity and significant level of sophistication.
King Haakon IV Haakonsson was a major medieval monarch in the 13th
century. The Icelandic Saga tradition which reached its height in
the 13th century developed a literature unique in the world.
Scandinavia also played a pivotal role in European commerce with
contacts between the European continuent and the Arctic, largely
facilitated by the Hanseatic League.
The early 16th century ushered in the Lutheran Reformation, a
revolutionary new way of looking at the world --the temporal and
the spiritual. In its wake, political conflicts led to the breakup
of the Kalmar Union and the emergence of an independent and growing
world power in Sweden. The 16th and 17th centuries saw the struggle
for supremacy in the Baltic between Denmark and Sweden, with continuing
interest in developments by England, France, the Netherlands, Russia,
Poland, and the German states. During these conflicts, the political
philosophy of "absolutism" reached its highest form of articulation
in Scandinavia with the Danish lex regia. It defined the
constitutional role of an absolute monarch and helped formulate the
parallel development of economic, and political, mercantilism.
The year 1720 essentially marks the beginning of the decline of
Sweden as a major European power, and a new direction for Scandinavian
political and cultural development.
- Birgit and Peter Sawyer, Medieval Scandinavia
- Byron Nordstrom, History of Scandinavia since 1500
- David Kirby, The Baltic World: Europe's Northern Periphery in an Age of
- The Cambridge History of Scandinavia. Vol. 1: Prehistory to
1520. Edited by Knut Helle
- Byron Nordstrom (ed.), Dictionary of Scandinavian History
- Eric Christiansen, The Northern Crusades
- Vilhelm Moberg, History of the Swedish People
- G. J. Marcus, The Conquest of the North Atlantic
- G. M. Gathorne-Hardy, A Royal Imposter: King Sverre of Norway
- Ole Jørgen Benedictow, Plague in the Late Medieval Nordic
Countries: Epidemiological Studies
- Saxo Grammaticus, Gesta Danorum (History of Denmark)
- Michael Roberts, The Early Vasas: A History of Sweden, 1523 -
- _______________, Gustavus Adolphus: A History of Sweden, 1611 -
- _______________, Gustavus Adolphus and the Rise of Sweden
- Jason Lavery, Germany's Northern Challenge: The Holy Roman Empire and
the Scandinavian Struggle for the Baltic, 1563 - 1576
- Paul Lockhart, Denmark and the Thirty Years War, 1618 - 1648
- Ragnhild Hatton, Charles XII
- Voltaire, Historie de Charles XII translated into English by
M.F.O. Jenkins as
Lion of the North, Charles XII of Sweden
There will be two exams and a short paper.
1. The exams will consist
of an identification section and a short-answer section.
2. A short (3-5 pages) paper will discuss and evaluate the content and
subject matter of an internet site specifically relevant to Scandinavian
and Baltic history and culture in the period from 1100 to 1720. (See the
official course syllabus distributed in class for specific requirements.)
Paper is due, in hard copy, on Thursday, May 19.
Weekly Schedule of Topics/Lectures
A. Medieval Period:
First Examination (April 26, tentative)
- Week 1: Introduction: The Viking Background
- Week 2: Christianization; Life in Medieval Scandinavia
- Week 3: Rise of National Monarchies: Denmark, Norway, Sweden
- Week 4: 14th Century Decline and the Hanseatic League;
- Week 5: The Kalmar Union and the Swedish War of National
B. Early Modern Period:
Second Examination: June 2.
- Week 6: The Lutheran Reformation in Scandinavia
- Week 7: Changing World Views in Politics and Science
- Week 8: The Rise of the Vasa Dynasty and the struggle for
supremacy in the Baltic
- Week 9: Mercantilism and Absolutism in Scandinavia
- Week 10: The Great Northern War. Review
Copyright © 2011 Department of Scandinavian Studies, University of Washington, Seattle, WA