Author: Tony Griffiths
A timely study of Scandinavian History. In the context of the changes in central Europe and the Soviet Union, the appearance of a popular history of Scandinavia is timely. This work was supported by various government bodies, as well as universities and businesses dealing with the Scandinavian countries. The idea behind the book is a good one. Australian academic Tony Griffiths presents a "package" of Scandinavian history and culture from the Napoleonic period onwards. Scandinavia exists as a geographical and perhaps cultural concept for many of us. Scandinavia shows us how Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland have developed both internally and in their relationships to each other. Since the Napoleonic era the Scandinavian countries have played an important role in the politics and culture of northern Europe. The question of national identity dominates the history of the Scandinavian lands in the 19th century. Pan-Scandinavianism was soon replaced by the romantic nationalism which swept through Europe at the time of the 1848 revolutions. Territorial disputes broke out between Denmark and Prussia over Schleswig and Holstein, and Finnish nationals fought against Russian imperialism. Sweden and Norway developed the love-hate relationship that has lasted into our own time. Particularly interesting for me, in view of the present problems in the Soviet Union, was Griffiths' description of the struggle of the Finns against Russian dominance during the 19th and early 20th centuries. In addition to mapping political developments, Griffiths ties in social and cultural movements and shows how figures such as Ibsen, Strindberg, Kierkegaard, Munch, Grieg, Sibelius and Nielsen influenced and were influenced by the history of their lands.
Many histories go into the writing of "history" - and simplification proceeds at the expense of accuracy. Griffiths provides a great deal of information. But the reduction of a complex history into 200 pages is a daunting task.
Occasionally coherence is stretched when the author tries to bring too broad a sweep of history into one or two sentences. Nevertheless, Griffiths manages to write history which is informative, interesting and readable.