Thursday, 25 June 2009

New books: 1807 – Prelude to Norwegian independence

With the bicentenary of Norway’s independence just five years away, the University of Oslo’s 1814 project earlier this month released its first publication. The book, 1807 og Danmark-Norge – På vei mot atskillelsen is an anthology edited by Bård Frydenlund and Rasmus Glenthøj and is published by Unipub.
As the title indicates, the events of 1807 and their consequences are at the book’s focus. In September 1807 Britain bombarded Copenhagen and stole the Dano-Norwegian fleet, something which pulled the Danish realm into the Napoleonic War on the French side. As a result of this, Norway suffered particularly severely from the British blockade and in 1814 the ties between Denmark and Norway were broken.
As usual with anthologies, some articles are better and more interesting than others. Søren Mentz writes on the events of 1807 and Jens Rahbek Rasmussen rejects the oft-repeated myth that the bombardment of Copenhagen was the first terror bombardment of civilians in history. Michael Bregnsbo takes a closer look at how the Napoleonic Wars influenced what he likes to call the “Danish Empire”, arguing that Danish historians far too often see the events of the early 19th century in the perspective of the small Danish state which has existed after the defeat in 1864. If Norway and the other possessions which made up the Danish “empire” in 1807 are taken into consideration, Frederik VI’s actions are more understandable, Bregnsbo argues.
Also in the book are articles dealing with, among other topics, patriotism in Norway and the Norwegians’ loyalty to the Dano-Norwegian king, the first proper Norwegian newspaper and the foundation of a Norwegian university.

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