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The Viking Period and the Unification of Norway

It is not a coincidence that the process to unify Norway to one realm was completed during the Viking period. The development of the Viking ships let [allowed] us [to] move about the world with far greater ease than before. On these journeys we brought back home all that was needed to complete the giant project that the unification was: material resources, political ideology, military strategies, new techniques within craft and agriculture, and a new religion, to mention a few things. You can learn more about this very decisive period of Norway’s history here.

Flyfoto av Kongsgården ved Avaldsnes

The Unification Process

In Norway we’re taught at school that Harald Fairhair unified Norway to one realm at the Battle of Hafrsfjord. This is a statement that needs some qualifications.

Sverd i fjell ved Hafrsfjord

Why do we not know for certain?

When we try to find out the facts regarding things that happened 1150 years ago, we come across several problems. But, due to the efforts of archaeologists and historians, we are getting continually better at understanding our past.

Did the Battle really take place in AD 872?

Neither archaeological finds nor written sources can give us certainty that the Battle of Hafrsfjord happened precisely in the year 872. When we celebrate the Unification of Norway base don this date, we are following a tradition established in 1872. (Illustration: Anders Kvåle Rue)

Bildet av kong Harald den femte i gallauniform

The five Kings named Harald

We have in Norway had five kings named Harald, and consequently write the Roman numeral V (five) behind the name of our current king, His Majesty King Harald V. But Harald V sadly lacks something all the other Haralds have: a nickname!


Bilde av gateskilt i Stavanger. Torbjørn Hornklovesgate

The Lay of Harald

In the neighbourhood of Våland in Stavanger there is a street named after Torbjørn Hornklove. Few today know who he was, and the significance he’s had to our understanding of the Unification of Norway. So get your reading glasses, make yourself comfortable and have a go at this literary challenge.

Utsnitt av Andreas Blochs bilde Slaget i Hafrsfjord

The Battle of Hafrsfjord in Art

Romantic nationalism was an important movement within the arts in Norway in the mid 19th century, and motives from Norwegian history was highly prized. Ever since artists have tried to envision the dramatic naval battle in Hafrsfjord. But what effects has archaeological research had upon the pictorial representation of the Viking period?