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SCANDINAVIA: AN INTRODUCTION GUNNAR BROBERG Scandinavia is often looked upon as a unit, yet surprisingly little has been written about the common history of its various countries. Historically and ethnically, the area is comparatively homogeneous, in part because the Scandinavian peninsula provides natural borders. It also gives rise to separate centers: the Norwegian population looks out on the Arctic Ocean, while the Swedish face the Gulf of Bothnia; between Norway and Sweden lies a range of mountains. Contacts between towns on the east coast of Sweden and those on the west coast of Finland have occurred, with the sea forming a link-and for hundreds ofyears Finland was a part of Sweden. A large number of Swedes (or Finnish Swedes) also live in Finland, where they often have had eminent positions . Denmark, projecting southward from the mainland, took part in the culturallife of the continent earlier than did its neighbors to the north. Ethnically, the population has remained relatively homogenous, especially in Sweden and Norway; the exception in those countries, as in Finland, has been the Sami, who live in the north and number 30,000-40,000 people. Finland also has had its Swedish community, which sometimes was compared with the "Asiatic" Finns. Denmark's ethnic profile has been rather unmixed, and possibly that is why eugenic endeavors never came to play the same role there as in other Scandinavian countries. In Iceland-which lies outside this survey-the Nordic idea was at least equally prominent, a result, in part, of the country's Viking history. The notion of a "pure" Nordic race was a myth exploited with great persistency in propaganda. Historically, however, Scandinavia, particularly Sweden and Denmark, has seen a great deal of immigration. Germans, Walloons, Scots, and many other groups have settled there from the Middle Ages to the present. German immigrants and trade with German cities were especially important factors in determining the development of Scandinavian culture. The large number of borrowed German words is evidence of those links; even so, Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian can be seen, basically, as dialects of the same 1 2 EUGENICS AND THE WElFARE STATE language. There have been viable Jewish minority groups in Denmark since the seventeenth century and in Sweden since the end of the eighteenth century. Nevertheless, with few exceptions, the impression of Scandinavia until recently is one of relative ethnic homogeneity. Politically, the countries have been allied in a number of different ways, with Denmark dominating during the Renaissance and Sweden taking over during the seventeenth century. Denmark, Norway, and Sweden formed a union from 1389 to 1521, with some interruptions. Finland and Sweden had been joined since the early Middle Ages; Denmark-Norway was one country until Norway became Swedish through the Congress ofVienna in 1815, a union that was dissolved after a referendum in Norway in 1905 (368,200 Norwegians voted for dissolution and 184 against). Pan-Scandinavianism was strong around the middle of the nineteenth century, but it met with a severe setback when Bismarck's Prussia seized the Danish provinces of Schleswig and Holstein in the 1864-65 war. With the celebration of a "Gothic" past, a significant patriotic ideology emerged during the era of the great wars of the seventeenth century and, mutatis mutandis, developed into speculations about a German or Nordic "master race." Racism is partly the consequence of colonial struggle, but only Denmark had colonies in the modern era; the last one, in the West Indies, was relinquished in 1917. Greenland, however, is still a Danish dominion. By the twentieth century, nationalism and racism had become intricately interrelated concepts. In regard to religion, Scandinavia as a whole has been primarily Lutheran. Beside the faith of the majority, Finland also harbored the Greek Orthodox church, unlike the other countries. The Protestant churches are state establishments , a fact of vital importance for an understanding ofScandinavian history. The development of an efficient state organization was made possible by the cooperation of spiritual and secular authorities. In the context of this book, it is important to note that consensus and cooperation are paramount in medical affairs as well as in other areas. The church has favored literacy, insisting that the whole population should be able to study the Holy Writ. Over a period of time this has resulted in the attainment of a high level of education in secular areas as well. Around the year 1900, typical Scandinavian plans for popular education (Swedish folkbildning) were in evidence with roots in the Danish...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781609170028
Related ISBN
9780870137587
MARC Record
OCLC
933516327
Pages
312
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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