Looking at cities and towns in Norway, perhaps with the exception of Bergen and Trondheim, you could easily come to believe that Norways history wouldn’t go much further back than the history of the united states. Most architecture, also in Oslo, dates back a couple of hundred years.
If you were to travel some 200 years back in time you would see that the interior parts of Norway would be almost devoid of villages and towns. With a population of approximately 800 000 in the year 1800, Norway would have been dominated by farmland and forests. Proper roads and infrastructure were almost non- existent, and Norways biggest city Bergen couldn’t be reached by horse and carriage but by boat. Most towns and cities at that time would have been dotted along the coastal regions. Interior towns would have been Skien, Kongsberg, Sarpsborg, Kongsvinger and Røros.
This was to change rapidly in the 19th century, when the population would grow faster than ever before. New towns like Lillehammer, Horten, Hønefoss, Askim and Hamar would pop up. And yet, Hamar is where we are right now among old ruins of monasteries, churches and an old castle. So the thing about Hamar is that, even though it’s a «new town» it has history going back to the middle ages. The towns history goes back to about 1050, and a diocese was established here in 1152 by Cardinal Nicholas Breakspeare who would shortly after become pope.
But after the reformation, and all the catholic institutions were shut down, it fell rapidly into decline. In 1567 it was sacked by the swedes, during the northern seven years war. The final deathblow was a royal decree in 1587 which basically shut down the market, because it threatened the trade in Oslo. So for nearly 300 years, there was nothing here. The new town of Hamar was established in 1849 just a couple of kilometers east of this old site.
The decline of Hamar illustrates the decline of the whole nation. Considering the sheer distance it is odd to think that a market in Hamar – which is situated some 126 kilometers north of Oslo – would be a threat to the market in Oslo. But the population at that time was sparse.
Two thirds of the population perished during the black plague in the mid 14th century, and it took centuries for the population to bounce back. Norways total population is estimated to have been approximately 300 000 in the late 16th century, spread thinly across a rather large country (60% or so larger than Great Britain).
Norway isn’t just on the fringes of Europe it’s on the fringes of what is climatically possible for sustaining a nation. Norway is a nation situated in a part of the world which is vulnerable to climate change, and what is often overlooked historically is that we entered into a period of colder climate at the end of the middle ages and it wouldn’t really improve until the 19th century. It put a halt to Norways progress as a nation.
Northern Europe used to be covered in a 1,8 miles thick layer of ice, so there is nothing new about climate change. it’s been a feature of this planet since its early beginnings. We should fear a colder planet, not a warmer.