At the beginning of the Napoleonic era, Norway was not its own country, but rather the junior partner in the unequal combination of Denmark-Norway. Just before Bonaparte was defeated and exiled (for the first time), somehow Norway ended up detached from Denmark and "unified" with Sweden, in an act of diplomatic legerdemain that left the Norwegians fuming, the Swedes boastful and just about everyone else bewildered. As it turned out, the Norwegians decided not to take their wholesale selling-out lying down, and in 1814 an independence movement blossomed which, 91 years later, would become the basis of the modern nation of Norway that we know today. The story of this process is supremely complicated but quite interesting, featuring war at sea and on land, the intrigues of kings and princes, and a fundamental sea change in how nations are built and defined.
In this episode of Second Decade, the first of a two-part series, historian Dr. Sean Munger takes you into the convoluted backdrop of Scandinavian politics in the Napoleonic era and how Norway came to be a distinct national and cultural entity. In this episode you'll learn a bit of European geography and medieval history; you'll find out what kind of craft the Danes decided to build to challenge the British Navy in a war that might otherwise have seemed hopeless; you'll meet a French field marshal who dreams of becoming Swedish royalty, a Danish crown prince who fancies the Norwegian throne, and a timber merchant and part-time diplomat who designed an independence movement from the ground up. Various other characters from the long story of the Napoleonic era make cameo appearances, including one-eyed, one-armed Lord Nelson submerged in a coffin of brandy and the little Corsican upstart himself, on his way down after the epic clowning he took in Episodes 10 through 12 of this podcast.
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