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Norway, country in northern Europe, in the region called Scandinavia. A long and mostly narrow country, Norway occupies the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula. Norway’s extensive coastline is washed on three sides by seas. To the north is the Barents Sea, an arm of the Arctic Ocean; to the west is the Norwegian Sea; and to the south are the Skagerrak, a strait separating Norway from Denmark, and the North Sea. Norway shares a long eastern border with Sweden, and in the far northeast Norway shares a frontier with Russia and Finland. Oslo, in the southeast, is Norway’s capital and largest city.

Norway has several overseas possessions. In the Arctic Ocean are the Svalbard archipelago and Jan Mayen, a volcanic island northeast of Iceland. Norway’s possessions also include Bouvet Island, an uninhabited island in the South Atlantic Ocean, and Peter I Island, off Antarctica. Norway also claims the portion of Antarctica known as Queen Maud Land.

Norway is a land of rugged, pine-topped mountain ranges, valleys gouged out by glaciers, and narrow deep-sided inlets from the sea known as fjords. A line of offshore islands called the skerry guard shields the coastline and forms a protected inland waterway. Norway’s name, which means “northern way,” reflects the importance of this waterway in linking the many small fjord and valley communities that are otherwise separated by rugged terrain.

As one of the world’s northernmost countries, Norway is sometimes called the Land of the Midnight Sun. One-third of Norway lies north of the Arctic Circle, where there is almost continuous daylight from May through July. In midwinter the far north is dark almost all of the time. The beauty of the land inspired musical works by Norway’s most famous composer, Edvard Grieg, who attempted to capture the changing mood created by the alternately light and dark seasons.

Today, as in the past, most of Norway’s people live along the shores of the fjords in the south. For many centuries, as fishers and traders, they lived off the sea. It was from Norway’s coast that the Vikings—skilled sailors who built a vast maritime trading network—ventured across the Atlantic Ocean to Iceland, later becoming the first Europeans to reach Greenland and North America in the late 10th century. The lure of the sea has remained strong into modern times. Norway retains a vigorous fishing industry and its merchant marine fleet is one of the world’s largest. During the late 20th century, the discovery of vast reserves of petroleum and natural gas in Norway’s portion of the North Sea brought an important new source of prosperity to the country. Today, Norway is among the world’s largest exporters of fossil fuels.

The first unified Norwegian kingdom emerged in the 9th century ad. In 1397 Norway became a province of Denmark and was dominated by that country until 1814, when Denmark ceded Norway to Sweden. A surge of Norwegian nationalism in the 19th century led to the dissolution of the union with Sweden. Norway became an independent nation in 1905, with a constitutional monarch as head of state and a democratically elected government. Norway’s official name is the Kingdom of Norway (Norwegian Kongeriket Norge).


For younger readers

Blashfield, Jean F. Norway. Children's Press, 2000. For readers in grades 4 to 7.

Charbonneau, Claudette, and Patricia S. Lander. The Land and People of Norway. HarperCollins, 1992. For middle school readers.

Corona, Laurel. Norway. Lucent, 2000. For readers in grades 5 to 8.

Kagda, Sakina. Norway. Marshall Cavendish, 1995. For readers in grades 4 to 7.

Scandinavian literature

Budd, John, ed. Eight Scandinavian Novelists. Greenwood, 1981. Criticisms and reviews of selected Scandinavian novelists.

Faowens, Lily, ed. The Complete Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales. Grammercy, 1993. Stories from the Danish master storyteller.

Lonnrot, Elias, trans. The Kalevala: An Epic Poem After the Oral Tradition. Oxford University Press, 1989. The national epic poem of Finland.

Naess, Harald S., ed. A History of Norwegian Literature. University of Nebraska Press, 1993. From the Vikings to the 1980s.

Rossel, Sven H., ed. A History of Danish Literature. University of Nebraska Press, 1992. From the ancient runic inscriptions to post-World War II trends.

Schoolfield, George C., ed. A History of Finland's Literature. University of Nebraska Press, 1998. Surveys Finnish-language literature and Finland's Swedish-language literature.

Warme, Lars G., ed. A History of Swedish Literature. University of Nebraska Press, 1996. From the Middle Ages to the 20th century.


Clare, John D., ed. The Vikings. Harcourt Brace, 1992. Color photographs bring the Viking era to life; for younger readers.

Clarke, Helen. Towns in the Viking Age. St. Martin's, 1991. Informed by archeological research, this study reconstructs the Viking towns of the Baltic coast.

Jones, Gwyn. A History of the Vikings. Rev. ed. Oxford University Press, 1984. Scholarly history of the Nordic peoples.

Margeson, Susan M. Viking. Knopf, 1994. Illustrated overview of Viking culture; for younger readers.

Roesdahl, Else, and David M. Wilson, eds. From Viking to Crusader: The Scandinavians and Europe, 800-1200. Rizzoli International, 1992. Illustrated catalog of objects from Viking culture.

Vikings: Raiders from the North. Time-Life, 1993.


Adams, Jack. Doomed Expedition: The Campaign in Norway, 1940. Shoe String, 1989. The story of Norway's brief role in World War II before German occupation.

Arneson, Ben A. The Democratic Monarchies of Scandinavia. Greenwood, 1975. The role of the monarchs in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark; reprint of 1949 edition.

Derry, Thomas Kingston. A History of Modern Norway, 1814-1972. Oxford, 1973. Political developments and nationalism in the 19th century; economic, social, and cultural evolution to 1972.

Galenson, Walter. A Welfare State Strikes Oil: The Norwegian Experience. University Press of America, 1986. The impact of North Sea oil wealth.

Gjelsuik, Tore. Norwegian Resistance: 1940 to 1945. Toronto, 1979. Opposition to German occupation during World War II.

Lovoll, Odd S. The Promise of America: A History of the Norwegian-American People. Minnesota, 1984. Norwegian immigrants in the United States.

2nd. ed.. Hunter, 1991. Guide for the visitor to Norway.

Selbyg, Arne. Norway Today: An Introduction to Modern Norwegian Society. Oxford, 1987. Social life and mores in contemporary Norway.

Tammes, Rolf. The United States and the Cold War in The High North. Gower, 1991. Norway's role in NATO.

Vanberg, Bent. Of Norwegian Ways. HarperCollins, 1984. Social life and customs in Norway.

Norway History

Claasen, Adam R. A. Hitler's Northern War: The Luftwaffe's Ill-Fated Campaign, 1940-1945. University Press of Kansas, 2001. A study of Hitler's failed campaign to hold Norway.

Cole, Wayne S. Norway and the United States, 1905-1955: Two Democracies in Peace and War. Iowa State University Press, 1989. Study of diplomatic relations between the United States and Norway during the first half of the 20th century.

Derry, Thomas Kingston. A History of Modern Norway, 1814-1972. Oxford University Press, 1973. Political developments and nationalism in the 19th century. Covers economic, social, and cultural evolution to 1972.

Kagda, Sakina, and Rudolf Steiner. Norway. Benchmark, 1996. Geography, history, and culture of Norway; for middle school readers.

Kersaudy, Francois. Norway 1940. St. Martin's, 1991, 1998. Britain and France's attempts to defend Norway against Germany in 1940.

Zickgraf, Ralph. Norway. Chelsea House, 1997. Geography, history, and culture of Norway. For middle school readers.

Norway: Politics, Society, and Culture

Heidar, Knut. Norway: Center and Periphery. Westview, 2000. Discusses Norway's strong social-democratic political tradition.

Kagda, Sakina, and Rudolf Steiner. Norway. Benchmark, 1996. Geography, history, and culture of Norway; for middle school readers.

Kent, Neil. The Soul of the North: A Social, Architectural and Cultural History of the Nordic Countries, 1700-1940. Reaktion, 2000. A study of the Nordic countries, including Norway, that covers spiritual values and attitudes toward family life.

Naess, Harald S., ed. A History of Norwegian Literature. University of Nebraska Press, 1993. History and criticism of Norwegian literature.

Stewart, Janice S. The Folk Arts of Norway. 3rd ed. Nordhus, 1999. Covers the Norwegian folk arts of carving, metalwork, weaving, and embroidery.

Zickgraf, Ralph. Norway. Chelsea House, 1997, 1999. Geography, history, and culture of Norway; for middle school and high school readers.


Leiren, Terje 1., B.A., M.S., Ph.D. Professor of Scandinavian Studies, University of Washington. Author of Marcus Thrane: A Norwegian Radical in America and Stage and Screen: Studies in Scandinavian Drama and Film.

Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

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