Norwegian history | the High middle ages | Norway

With the High middle ages came expansion and progress. But everything was about to change, in the most brutal way imaginable.
LA Dahlmann | talk NORWAY
Pesta on the stairs - The Black Death. Painted 1896. | Painting by Theodor Kittelsen - wikmedia - Public Domain.
Pesta on the stairs – The Black Death. Painted in 1896. | Theodor Kittelsen – wikimedia cc pdm.

The High middle ages | AD 1050 – 1350

After the Viking era, the local kings and chieftains turned their attention inwards, to the country’s own resources. The region of Trøndelag surfaced as the new political and financial centre, taking over from the west coast. Many churches were built, and a significant number of them – even wooden stave churches – are still standing today.

The population increased and cleared more land, also in less suitable areas. A significant portion of the populace became tenant farmers, leasing farm-units owned by either the crown, the church, or rich landowners. A tenant paid around 1/6 of the farm’s produce as rent. The keeping of slaves gradually disappeared during the AD 1200s, and the group merged into the overall population, making them the forebears of many Norwegians living today.

When King Sigurd Jorsalfar died in AD 1130, the level of conflict intensified, and a period of infighting and civil war followed. This lasted until AD 1240, when King Håkon 4 Håkonsson conquered his last rival, and initiated a century of domestic peace and expansion. Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands were conquered and incorporated into the kingdom.

In the mid-1300s, Norway was at its peak, the population grew steadily, and the society was well established. The total population was an estimated 300,000 – 450,000.

But a firestorm of destruction was on its way – the plague that forevermore was to be known as The Black Death. It was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history. The disease raged like fire through Asia, Europe and beyond. The plague reached Norway in AD 1349, and within a few months, between a third and a half of the population perished. It was a disaster of biblical proportions. Whole communities disappeared, and Mother Nature reclaimed previously cultivated land. Similar plagues returned repeatedly over the next century.

Next period: Norwegian history | the Late middle ages | Norway

Or see the full: History timeline | from stone age to modern era | Norway

BC = before Christ | AD = anno domini = after Christ
Main source: Store norske leksikon – snl.no

Our most recent posts

My Norwegian heritage

The horse no longer roams wild in the Norwegian landscape. But it still has an important place in the Norwegian psyche.
The Norwegian farm horse was a reliable and powerful companion. But by the late 1960s, they were almost all gone. Enjoy this video-collection of wonderful vintage photographs.
In Norway, the pizza appeared as an exotic newcomer in the 1970s. But bread topped with foodstuffs is nothing new in Norwegian food history.
The majestic Norwegian mountains can be treacherous - and they steal human lives every year. Study the Norwegian mountain code - and be prepared for your next journey.
Carl Fredrik Sundt-Hansen created this fascinating oil painting in 1904. It is like a window leading into the house of history. If only we could climb through.
After the Black Death, it took the Norwegian communities centuries to recover. And soon, the country also lost its independence.
In this selection of beautiful hand-coloured lantern slides from around 1900, we visit the city of Bergen - and other west coast destinations. Enjoy!
In the old Norwegian farming society, a husmann was a man who was allowed to build his home on a small section of a farm’s land, and pay with his labour instead of rent.
In 1836, milkmaid Kari Moen from the community of Sauherad in Telemark, Norway, was attacked by a bear. She almost lost her life that day.
Norway’s full independence came in AD 1905, and was the culmination of a process that had lasted for several decades.
Do you know the name of Norway’s capital city? Test yourself, friends, and family in this 10 multiple-choice questions quiz vol. 1. See the correct answer below each photo.
In the old farming society, nature dictated the flow of the working year. And farmworkers could only leave their jobs on 2 specific days during the year.
During the AD 1970s, both an increased female participation in the labour market, and the green movement, were causes firmly added to the agenda. There was a heightened focus on maternity leave, access to kindergarten, and maternity benefits.
When there were no makeshift or permanent dwellings nearby, the Sami hunters and herders sometimes slept under the open sky.
17 May 1814 is regarded as the birth of the modern-day Norwegian state. But it took almost another hundred years before the Norwegians could declare complete independence.
In a cold country like Norway, warm clothing is essential. This is a refined and old version of a woollen sweater from the district of Setesdal.
In 1942, Hans Hyldbakk wrote the history of the local cotter's holdings in Surnadal, Nordmøre, Norway. The book was updated in 1966.
It was midsummer 1895. An older man was found drifting in the fjord just outside Moss, Norway - shot in the temple with a revolver. Who was he?
In 1997, His Majesty King Harald V of Norway came to the Norwegian Sami Assembly with an essential and overdue apology.
The Fjord horse is one of today’s oldest and purest horse breeds. Its historical habitat is Norway's western coast, with its deep fjords and steep mountainsides.
In the olden days, people dressed up warmly and got out onto the fjord or lake to catch their Sunday dinner. Enjoy!

Follow us on social media

Norwegian history