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Distributed for Museum Tusculanum Press

From Viking Stronghold to Christian Kingdom

State Formation in Norway, c. 900-1350

In this seminal work, Sverre Bagge provides a detailed account of Norwegian state formation in the period from c. 900 to 1350, widening his perspective to include a discussion of the emergence of the medieval state and state formation in the Middle Ages in general.The primary objective is to examine Norway as a case that may serve to illuminate some general problems of European state formation in the period, problems related both to the formation of the European system of independent kingdoms within a common cultural framework and to the inner development of these kingdoms. The volume furthermore examines the changes that took place in the military, social-economical, ideological, legal and administrative fields between the first formation of the kingdom and the early fourteenth century which, according to common opinion, represents a peak in the development of a Norwegian state. The volume constitutes a vivid and compelling feat, offering a fresh and innovative approach to an important chapter in the history of Norway, while also casting new light on developments in the larger context of European history.

441 pages

History: European History

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Table of Contents



The Formation of the Kingdom of Norway

      The Rise of the Scandinavian Kingdoms

      From Harald Finehair to Harald Hardrada

      Unification and Division – the Moving Forces

      External and Internal Factors

      The “Civil Wars”

      Pretenders and Factions

      The Basic Factors

      The Consequences of the Civil Wars

      From the Civil Wars to the Age of Greatness

War, Military Organisation and Social Change

      From Plunder to Internal Exploitation

      The Origin and Development of the “leidang”

      “Leidang” and Elite Forces

      The Norwegian Empire and its Foreign Policy until 1319

      War Made the State, but Did the State Make War? – The Military Challenges 1240-1319

      The Social and Economic Basis of the Norwegian Military System

      The Towns – Centres of the Monarchy and the Church

      The King’s Revenues


Religion, Monarchy, and the Right Order of the World

      Old Norse Religion

      The Conversion to Christianity

      The Right Order of the World and the Christian Monarchy

      The Emergence of the Dynasty and Hereditary Monarchy     

      The Courtly Culture

      Patriotism and Secular Legitimation of Monarchy


Justice, Law and Power

      The Regional Laws

      What Was Law?

      Law and Society

      God’s Law: The Rise of Royal and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction

      Royal and Ecclesiastical Legislation: A New Concept of Law

      The Emergence of Public Justice: Intent and Evidence

      Justice in Practice

      A Legal Revolution?


Royal and Ecclesiastical Administration – a Step towards a Real Bureaucracy?     

      The Ecclesiastical Administration

      The Royal Administration

      A New Bureaucracy?

      From Oral to Written Administration

      Writing in the Royal Administration: The Quantitative Evidence

      Writing in the Royal Administration: The Qualitative Evidence

      Predictability and Distance

      The Leaders: King and Bishop

      Did Norway Become a State? Government, Obedience and Clientelism


The Division of Power and its Social Foundation

      The King and the Church: From the Foundation of the Church Province to the Death of Håkon Håkonsson

      The Conflict about Jurisdiction and the Concordat of Tønsberg

      The Conflict in the 1280s

      The Results of the Struggle – Monarchy and Church in the Fourteenth Century and Later

      The Ideological Aspect: A Brain Trust in the Service of the Monarchy

      “Regnum” and “Sacerdotium” in Norway

      The Secular Aristocracy

      The King and the Aristocracy: Ideology

      From Assemblies of the Best Men to the King’s Council

      Who Were “The Best Men”?

      The Decision-Making Process

      The Problem of Regencies

      Monarchy, Aristocracy and Union during the Reign of Magnus Eriksson

      A Strong Monarchy

      The King and the People


How, Why, When and How Much? The Extent and Character of Norwegian State Formation in the Middle Ages

The Kings of Norway, c. 900-1380

Literature, Sources, and Abbreviations


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