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The Northern Utopia

British Perceptions of Norway in the Nineteenth Century

Peter Fjågesund and Ruth A. Symes

In the nineteenth century, the ancient ‘filial tie’ between Britain and Norway was rediscovered by a booming tourist industry which took thousands across the North Sea to see the wonders of the fjords, the fjelds, and the beauties of the North Cape. This illustrated volume, for the first time, collects together vivid – and predominantly first-hand – impressions of the country recorded by nearly two hundred British travellers and other commentators, including Thomas Malthus, Charlotte Brontë, Lord Tennyson, and William Gladstone. In a rich selection of travel writing, fiction, poetry, journalism, political speeches, and art, Norway emerges as a refreshingly natural utopia, happily free from her imperial neighbour’s increasing problems with the side-effects of industrialisation.
This is a fascinating examination of the people, institutions, customs, language and environment of Norway seen through the eyes of the British. Using the tools of literary and historical scholarship, Fjågesund and Symes set these perceptions in their nineteenth-century context, throwing light on such issues as progress, art and aesthetics, democracy, religion, nationhood, race, class, and gender, all of which occupied Europe at the time. The Northern Utopia will be of particular interest to students of British and Scandinavian cultural history, literature and travel writing. It will also enthral all those who love Norway.