Kings, Heroes and Ships
: The Use of Historical Characters in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Perceptions of the Early Medieval Scandinavian Past

  • Karl Alvestad

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

The Norwegian re-imagining of an independent Norway in the long nineteenth century (1770-1940) drew on the Viking age and the Fairhair dynasty to create a foundation myth for Norway. Manifestations of this appears in academic texts, museum exhibitions, archaeological interpretations of the Oseberg and Gokstad ships, and in the public sphere through commemorations, celebrations and textbooks in the long nineteenth century. This study examines these manifestations as part of the cultural construction of an independent Norwegian nation by drawing upon ideas about medievalism, memory studies, commemoration(s), and nationalism to examine medieval sentiment of Norwegian nationalism. This use and presentation of the Viking age in Norway 1770-1940 is extensively nationalistic, through which this medievalism aimed to highlight and legitimise the antiquity of the Norwegian people and its state with kings, heroes and ships of the Viking age. The presentation and celebration of Harald Fairhair, Olaf Tryggvason and Olaf Haraldsson during the long nineteenth century as explored in this study demonstrates both a democratisation process of historical knowledge and the reinvention of a national cultural and social memory in Norway. Through these lines of evidence, the study assessed the relationship between nationalism and medievalism in this material, and between academic and popular involvement in this process. This thesis thus highlights how Norwegian medievalism in form of this use of the Viking age was an intrinsic part of Norwegian nation building 1770-1940.
Date of Award29 Jun 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Winchester
SupervisorRyan Lavelle (Supervisor), Barbara Yorke (Supervisor) & Emiliano Perra (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • Nationalism
  • Medievalism
  • Vikings
  • Norway
  • Nineteenth Century
  • history
  • anniversaries
  • memory

Cite this

Kings, Heroes and Ships: The Use of Historical Characters in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Perceptions of the Early Medieval Scandinavian Past
Alvestad, K. (Author). 29 Jun 2018

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis