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SCAND 381 A: History of Scandinavia Since 1720

Meeting Time: 
MW 1:30pm - 3:20pm
THO 134
Joint Sections: 
Terje Leiren
Terje I. Leiren

Syllabus Description:


(SCAND 381 / HSTEU 381)

Winter Quarter, 2020 - 5 credits, (I & S)


Time:  Monday & Wednesday 1:30-3:20 pm

Classroom:  Thomson 134

Instructor:  Professor Terje Leiren

Office:  305T Raitt Hall

Office hours:  Mondays 11:30 - 12:30 pm and by appointment


Course Description:

This is a lecture/discussion course covering Scandinavian history since 1720. At the beginning of the 18th century, Scandinavia was dominated by Sweden and Denmark from their capital cities of Stockholm and Copenhagen.  Finland was a province of Sweden while Norway and Iceland were part of the "dual monarchy" of Denmark-Norway. The Scandinavian countries developed fairly sophisticated absolutist regimes during the 17th century, but the loss of empire by 1720 helped to discredit the Swedish monarchy.  In Denmark, on the other hand, the absolutist constitution, the Lex Regia, remained in effect until 1849.  In the early 19th century, absolutism was conceived by some as the only constitutional form which could guarantee the continuation of Slesvig and Holstein as a part of greater Denmark.

As in the rest of Europe, the 18th century in Scandinavia witnessed the emergence of new intellectual currents during what came to be known as the "age of enlightenment." Although primary emphasis was on classical traditions of form and reason, a religious revival also swept Scandinavia, largely influenced by the pietistic movement which ran counter to the rational emphasis of the day.

Although the French Revolution spread its influence in Scandinavia, revolutionary fervor did not manifest itself greatly. Ideas of liberty and national identity, however, did emerge, most notably in Finland and Norway, two satellite states dominated by Sweden and Denmark respectively.  During the early 19th century, the Scandinavian countries were most notably influenced by the Romantic movement and its emphasis on nature, emotion and a rising nationalism.  Romanticism was, to a large extent, a reaction to the Enlightenment.  During the course of the 19th century, too, social issues emerged in Scandinavia to play more prominent roles in people's personal consciousness and the broadening political participation by ordinary people.  During the first half of the 19th century, there emerged movements to define specific national characteristics and the essence of a nation.  Building on perceived unique national and folk traditions, there emerged in Scandinavia movements to establish national identities which, in turn, came to influence literatures, languages and political developments.

With the industrialization of Scandinavia in the latter half of the 19th century, came growing popular support for social democracy and an increased emphasis on economic and material forces determining social and political development. The trend continued in the 20th century as Scandinavia followed a social democratic, evolutionary reformist style of political engagement.  The 20th century can be characterized as "the century of social democracy" with the welfare state as its natural offspring.  The German invasion of Denmark and Norway in 1940 was a watershed event which challenged and changed Scandinavia significantly and influenced its politics for the rest of the 20th century. 

In the 21st century, the Scandinavian states exemplify a moderate blend of state ownership and private capital, balanced and functioning within the context of strong parliamentary traditions built on a fascinating history.


Learning Objectives:

This course has essentially two learning objectives: (1) to develop fundamental knowledge of the Scandinavian region since the "age of Enlightenment," and (2) to develop a critical understanding of the modern history, cultures and broader influence of the Scandinavian countries.  Students should be able to understand and compare Scandinavian history and culture with other people and regions, including their own, and be able to speak and write accurately about Scandinavia in the period since 1720.


Texts / Required Reading: There are two principal readers:

Byron Nordstrom,  Scandinavia Since 1500.  University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

Gunnar Sønsteby, Report from #24.  Barricade Books, 2017.


Exams / Essay/ Grades:

Three essay-type exams (30 percent each), and a 3-4 page essay (10 percent).  The exams are scheduled for the end of weeks 3, 6, and 10 respectively. 

A short (3-4 pages) essay on a significant individual or event in Scandinavia between 1720 and 1950.   The essay is due in the 8th week.  Essay requires an additional page listing works consulted in the preparation of the essay.  

The final grade will be calculated as follows: Each exam will be worth 30 percent of the final grade;   The essay will be worth 10 percent of the final grade.    


Course Structure: 

In class lectures are a major component of this class . Lectures will consist of the presentation of topics and themes relating the main subject of the course - the history of Scandinavia since 1720.  It is strongly recommended that students attend class regularly as some exam questions will come directly from various class lectures.  In addition to in-class lectures, some films will be shown.


Texts/Required Reading:   

Byron Nordstrom, Scandinavia Since 1500  University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

Gunnar Sønsteby, Report from #24.  Barricade Books, 2017. 

In addition, there will be occasional class handouts.


Course Schedule:

Week 1:  Introduction: Scandinavia in 1700; The Great Northern War and its aftermath.

Weeks 2 & 3:  Life in 18th century Scandinavia. Politics, Religion, Science and Culture

First Exam (30% of final grade)

Week 4:  The Napoleonic Wars - Finland and Norway seek an identity.

Week 5: National Romanticism.  Rise of political democracy.

Week 6: Industrialization.  Economic changes. Emigration.

Second Exam (30% of final grade)

Week 7: Norway and Finland become independent states. World War I

Week 8: The Interwar Years. Economic and political struggles. Rise of social democracy.

                    Essay is due this week. (10% of final grade)

Week 9:  World War II in Scandinavia

Week 10 Scandinavia Today.  "Happy and Rich?"

Third Exam (30% of final grade)





Catalog Description: 
Scandinavian history from the Enlightenment to the Welfare State with emphasis on the political, social, and economic development of the modern Scandinavian nations of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. Offered: jointly with HSTEU 381.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
November 18, 2019 - 9:22pm