Nordic Spirit Seminar explores 200 years

California Lutheran University’s symposium delves into the history of Norway’s constitution

Photo: Wikimedia Commons The framers of Norway’s constitution gather at Eidsvoll in this famous painting by Oscar Wergeland.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The framers of Norway’s constitution gather at Eidsvoll in this famous painting by Oscar Wergeland.

Knut Oxnevad
Seminar Organizer, Thousand Oaks

The Scandinavian American Cultural and Historical Foundation, in collaboration with California Lutheran University, has organized a half-day seminar on the Norwegian Constitution after 200 years, focusing on its inspiration, drama and lasting legacy. Norway marks this year, 2014, the 200-year anniversary of its Constitution, and we are delighted to invite you to take part in a celebratory seminar. The seminar will feature prominent speakers from California, Washington, and Norway; and include Dr. Hilde Skorpen, Royal Norwegian Consul General in San Francisco; Professor Frank Aarebrot, Department of Comparative Politics, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Bergen; and Professor Terje I. Leiren, Sverre Arestad Endowed Chair in Norwegian Studies, Department of Scandinavian Studies, University of Washington.

The seminar will take place Friday, October 3, on the campus of California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California, from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. It will be followed by a reception/buffet in the Lundring Events Center on campus.

The objective of the seminar is to learn about the main players, explore the inspirations for the Norwegian Constitution (“Grunnloven”), the high drama around it, its lasting legacy, and the implications of the Norwegian Constitution both inside and outside Norway—including the U.S. These topics will be discussed in a set of talks, followed by a panel discussion.

The Constitution was signed at Eidsvoll on May 17, 1814, in an effort to stave off a forced union with Sweden (the Kiel Treaty) after the Napoleonic wars. This was not successful. However, the Constitution granted rights to the Norwegian people, and power to the Norwegian Parliament (“Storting”), that eventually made it possible for Norway to peacefully gain its independence in 1905.

A Danish Crown Prince, Christian Fredrik, Crown Regent of Norway, and King of Norway from May to October (1814), played a central role in drawing up the Constitution. The document drew inspiration from the big names of the Enlightenment in Europe, starting in 1562 with Francis Bacon, Baruch Spinoza, John Locke, and continuing on to the great French thinkers Voltaire, Rousseau, and Montesquieu; and especially from the US and French Constitutions. It in turn inspired other movements!

After the Napoleonic Wars, in 1815, at the Congress in Vienna, Europe was divided up among the winning parties. We saw a rollback of liberties, return of the single rule Kingdoms, and of the old families: the Habsburgs in Austria and the Bourbons in France and Spain. In this new landscape, the Norwegian Constitution kept to its liberal roots, and it came to be a lonely beacon for liberal movements throughout Europe.

In the panel discussion, we seek to explore where, how, and to what extent the Norwegian Constitution inspired these liberal movements in Europe, as well as the early politics of U.S. states, especially those with large Norwegian/ Scandinavian Populations. In other words, its lasting legacy! This is a challenging topic, and we should be looking forward to an exciting afternoon.

The afternoon seminar is free to the public. For the evening reception/buffet, the general entrance fee is $23. For further information please contact (805) 669-7032 or visit The deadline for reception/buffet reservations is September 25.

This seminar is a joint effort by the Scandinavian American Cultural and Historical Foundation (SACHF) and California Lutheran University. It is sponsored by the Royal Norwegian Consul General’s Office in San Francisco, Moods of Norway, the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce Southern California (NACC SoCal), and Sons of Norway HQ; and supported by Sons of Norway—Norsemen Lodge and the Association for Norwegian Students Abroad (ANSA)—Los Angeles.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 26, 2014 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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