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.
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.

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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

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