Professor: Dr. Terje Leiren
Office: 305U Raitt Hall
E-mail: leiren at uw.edu
Office hours: Wed. 10:00 - 11:00 am,
and by appointment
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.
B. Early Modern Period:
Copyright © 2011 Department of Scandinavian Studies, University of Washington, Seattle, WA