Peasants and the Political Culture in Norway (c. 1400–1700)
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This chapter looks at the major confrontations between the state and peasants in Norway during the period 1400–1700. These have variously been described as rebellions, riots and insurrections. Indeed, one could argue that none of these were full-scale revolts as such, if by that we mean a massive threat to the regime and social order. The peasants and their leaders would never declare that they were seeking to abolish the regime or attack the king nor that they intended to implement a new social or political order. In most cases, they would address oral or written protests or sabotage the collection of new taxes or other burdens that the state had imposed. Their protests would primarily be directed at royal officials on the local or, at best, regional level, who they felt had violated the law, abused their power, or were corrupt in some way. Their complaints might be combined with appeals to the king or the central administration in Copenhagen to intervene in order to restore law and justice, to protect their rights, and to fulfil the punishment of crimes. Furthermore, the interests and interaction involved were as a rule concentrated in a single community or a restricted region. Yet the peasants were seldom referring to interests and issues that spanned many localities or affected centres of power. On the other hand, the peasants all around Norway shared a common perspective or understanding of anchoring claims and complaints in legalism.