Oslo is Norway’s capital city. Oslo came from the Old Norse word “…os meaning mountain and lo meaning plain or river “. In other words, Oslo can be described as a place beneath the mountains (“Oslo” 2006). People of German origin may have settled in the settlements along the Oslo Fjord who moved up to the north from mainland Europe (Zelko 63). The first evident settlement in Oslo was in the 8th century. (“Oslo” 2006). The first people of who inhabited Oslo lived in “humble wooden houses with turf roofs” that was surrounded with pens or sheds for goats, sheep and cows (“Oslo: City” 2006).
Like all the other settlers of Norway, the people were grouped together in the form of a tribe and those who were landowners met with his other landed neighbors in a public assembly called Thing. Legislative assemblies were called Lagtings (Zelko 63). During the Viking age, AD800-1000 Oslo settlers grew rapidly as it had become the center for trade and shipbuilding activities and later it earned the name the” Viking Capital” (“Oslo” 2006). Viking means “a man from “Vik”, a huge bay between the Cape Lindesnes in Norway and the mouth of Gota River in Sweden (Britannica 1033).
Norwegian Vikings, like other Vikings of Denmark and Sweden, were feared all over Europe as they had “superior ships and weapons as well developed military organization”. They were basically endowed with extraordinary hunger for adventure (Britannica 1034). Norwegian Vikings were known to be ruthless and brave fighters who killed their victims and greedily loots their conquered settlements and when they were done plundering destroyed the place with fire.
They changed the face of Europe as they engaged in raiding and trade and then finally attracted by their conquered lands settled to live there. Their target places were mostly western European countries such as England, Scotland, and Iceland. Their active participation in trading had renewed the neglected European commerce of the middle Ages. Their contact with Western Europe was instrumental for their Christianization and eventually unification of Norway (Britannica 1033). In 885 the first Viking Monarch, Harold the Fair-haired united Norway (Halsey 239).
During his reign the settlers of Norway, including Oslo, were commonly engaged in blood feuds, fightings that involve almost, if not all, disagreeing families. Even minor disputes can trigger the killing and maiming of both members of the quarreling families and if not settled can start an endless round of retaliation. The violence can be finally stopped when offending families pay the wronged families which they called “bot”. Sometimes family feuds were brought to the attention of the Lagtings who will decide the outcome of the disputes and impose penalties.
The worst penalty they can give at that time was known as outlawry—a sentence that regarded the offender as if he died already. All his goods were taken away from him and he cannot exercise or claim any legal rights. In fact, anyone can kill him without facing the risk of penalty. These condemned people were left with no choice but to leave their homeland or live in the forest as an outlaw (Tseng 24). In 1050 Harald Hardrade or King Harald III officially founded Oslo and made it the center of southern Norway.
This site was located at the eastern side of the harbor on the left bank of the small Akers River (Halsey 239). Harald died in 1066 and his death ended the Viking period as raidings stopped (“Norway” 2007). Oslo experienced a great era during the reign of Haakon V who was crowned in 1299. He decided to build the Akershus fortress in Olso to serve as his home with his wife Euphemia of Rugens, a Northern German princess (“Oslo” 2006). He made Oslo the capital of Norway replacing Bergen. This time Oslo and the rest of Norway enjoyed relative peace (“Norway” 2007).
In 1318 Norway was united with the kingdom of Sweden when Duke Erik of Sweden married Princess Ingebjorg, daughter of Queen Euphemia and Hakon V Magnusson. The unification of both countries was officially signed in the Bishop’s castle; now presently know as Oslo Ladergard (“Oslo: City” 2006). The saddest event that occurred in the early history of Oslo was the Black Death that terrorized the world in 1349. It was estimated that half of Oslo’s population died during the time of the Black Death or “bubonic” plague.
Bubonic plague was carried by fleas in rats from England (“Oslo” 2006). Because of the loss of its inhabitants and damage to agriculture Norway united together with Denmark and Sweden via the Union of Kalmar 1397(“Norway” 2007). During this time Copenhagen, instead of Oslo, was selected as the actual capital of Norway. Consequently Oslo lost it political importance and was only regarded as a provincial administrative center while the kings lived in Copenhagen and Stockholm from 1400-1500 (“Oslo: City” 2006).
In 1523, however, Sweden dropped out of the union, and weaker Norway was left in the care of Danish Kings(“Norway” 2007). Part 2-Modern Era Reformation Period Like the rest of mainland Europe, Oslo was greatly affected by the Lutheran Protestant Reformation of 1537 when the German Monk Martin Luther questioned the laws of Roman Catholic Church and sought to reform the religious beliefs of the Europeans. Oslo citizens were engaged in religious conflicts(Thodock 2003). The catholic bishop of Oslo, Hans Rev was converted to Protestantism despite the reluctance of the citizens( “Oslo:City” 2006).
Since Oslo had slightly lost its political and economic importance as a city at this time as it was being ruled by Denmark most of the buildings constructed there was only made of wood so that the city was easily destroyed by fire in 1624. King Christian IV of Denmark and Norway decided to move the town to the right bank of the Akers River and rebuild it near the Akershus Fortress. The city buildings were constructed in a Renaissance city style with rectangular blocks and renamed it Christiania (Halsey). Enlightenment
During the 1700’s the Age of Reason or the Enlightenment flourished in Europe particularly to the Norwegian trading partners of Great Britain and Holland. In these places people were trying to improve their lives with the use of reason instead of following traditional religious or accepted beliefs. Contact with the “enlightened” British and Dutch affected the daily life of the inhabitants of Christiania. Norwegian traders brought home with them not only the prized cargoes of tobacco, coffee, tea and spices but also enlightened ideas.
They constructed luxurious houses with magnificent gardens in accordance with the style western Europe (“Oslo: City” 2006). Napoleonic wars At first, Denmark and Norway attempted to remain neutral in the Napoleonic wars between France and England and their respective allies in 1805. However, England attacked the entire Danish fleet in 1807 as a result Denmark joined with France against Britain (Britannica 1034). Britain cut-off trading with Norway and set up a continental blockade against Denmark and Norway wherein British navy prevented the goods from both Norway and Denmark in reaching its trading partners .
This action greatly affected the economy of Norway. The export of fish and timber from Christiania as well as the import of grain from Denmark were blocked. As a result, citizens of Christiania faced an economic crisis and suffered hunger. To end their trouble, Britain loosened up its blockade against Norway in 1810-13(“Oslo” 1991). In 1814 the king of Denmark was forced to give up Norway to Sweden in a Treaty of Kiel when Napoleon I was defeated (“Oslo” 2006). Eager to rebuild their government the Norwegian created its first constitution on May 17 the same year and Christiania became the capital city.
In time, Christiania replaced its rival Bergen as Norway’s largest city. The people celebrated with joy as Christiania was expected to reclaim its old glory without giving much thought at first that they were still under the control of a foreigner, Sweden. As a capital city, Christiania once again becomes important politically and economically. For its newly acquired role, new monumental buildings were erected as a venue for important functions. . They were the Royal Palace, Bank of Norway and the stock exchange Oslo Bors.
Later, most Christiania citizens joined with the rest of Norway in demanding for a complete control of their own affairs. They did not want to recognize the provisions of the Treaty of Kiel and instead preferred a Danish King to rule them. Because of the political unrest , Sweden was forced to make the Act of Union of 1815,that gave Norway the privilege of having its own army, navy and parliament(Storting) and was permitted to control their own internal affairs in exchange for their strict compliance to the Treaty of Kiel(“Oslo” 2006).