Nomadic people first arrived in Norway around 10,000 years ago and by 500 B.C. had become settlers with villages dotted along the fjords and coastline of the country. As the population grew the settlers started trading and soon were influenced by the Romans.
Because of the geography of Norway much of that trading was done by boat and with the development of the longship the first Viking raids took place around 800 A.D. and continued until around 1030 A.D. During this time the Vikings travelled large distances whilst back at home the kingdoms were slowly being formed into one kingdom and Christianisation of the people took place.
By the 1200s Norway ruled over Iceland, Greenland, Shetland, the Faeroes and the Orkney Islands. This continued until around 1350 when the plague or Black Death killed more than half of the Norwegian population. A few years later, in 1380 Olaf Haakonsson inherited both the Norwegian and Danish thrones, creating a union between the two countries.
Between 1397 and 1523 the Kalmar Unions brought Norway, Denmark and Sweden together in loose unions, but in 1523 Sweden left the Union and Norway and Denmark came together once more under the rule of Frederick I of Denmark. Norway was to remain under the rule of Denmark’s monarchies until 1814.
Denmark – Norway had sided with France in the Napoleonic wars and found itself besieged by the British Royal Navy and attacked by the Swedish. Eventually, following the Battle of Leipzig, the Treaty of Kiel was signed on 14th January 1814 and Norway was ceded to Sweden.
A constitution for Norway was approved on 17th May 1814 by the Norwegian Constituent Assembly at Eidsvoll and parliamentary sessions have been held since 1866. In 1882 the Liberals (V) and Conservatives (H) were the first parties to run in the general election. By the 1880s a labour movement had also risen across the country and formed into the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions from which came the Labour Party (A/Ap).
The Michelsen Cabinet of 1905, which was formed of four parties, the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party, the Moderate Liberal Party and the Coalition Party, created a situation whereby the Swedish were forced into recognising Norway as a constitutional monarchy on 26th October 1905. The new monarch, Prince Carl of Denmark, became King Haakon VII and was the first ruler of an independent Norway for 525 years.
During World War One the Norwegians took a neutral stance although many of their merchant ships ended up working with the Allies. Between the two world wars there was much economic instability as there was politically, with nine governments between 1918 and 1935.
With the outbreak of the Second World War Norway declared itself neutral but on 9th April 1940 the Germans invaded and Norway was occupied until 1945.
Following the Second World War elections were held in 1945 at which the Labour Party continued its dominance which had started in 1927 as the largest party in the Storting or Parliament. Labour had an absolute majority from 1945 until 1965 apart from one brief period in 1963. Since 1965 it has ruled during 28 of the 42 years either as a majority party or in coalition.
In the late 1960s oil was found in the North Sea and this has defined Norway ever since as an oil and gas producing nation. In 1972 Norway decided not to join the European Union (EU) following a referendum.
King Harald V is Head of state.
The unicameral Parliament or Storting has 169 members elected by popular vote to serve four year terms.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Norway at 6th out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 85 (where 100 is least corrupt).