The history of Norway has been influenced to an extraordinary degree by the terrain and the climate of the region. About 10,000 BC, following the retreat of the great inland ice sheets, the earliest inhabitants migrated north into the territory which is now Norway. They traveled steadily northwards along the coastal areas, warmed by the Gulf Stream, where life was more bearable. In order to survive they fished and hunted reindeer (and other prey). Between 5,000 BC and 4,000 BC the earliest agricultural settlements appeared around the Oslofjord. Gradually, between 1500 BC and 500 BC, these agricultural settlements spread into the southern areas of Norway - whilst the inhabitants of the northern regions continued to hunt and fish.
The Neolithic period started 4000 BC. The Migration Period caused the first chieftains to take control and the first defenses to be made. From the last decades of the 8th century Norwegians started expanding across the seas to the British Isles and later Iceland and Greenland. The Viking Age also saw the unification of the country. Christianization took place during the 11th century and Nidaros became an archdiocese. The population expanded quickly until 1349 (Oslo: 3,000; Bergen: 7,000; Trondheim: 4,000) when it was halved by the Black Death and successive plagues. Bergen became the main trading port, controlled by the Hanseatic League. Norway entered the Kalmar Union with Denmark and Sweden in 1397.
After Sweden left the union in 1523, Norway became the junior partner in Denmark–Norway. The Reformation was introduced in 1537 and absolute monarchy imposed in 1661. In 1814 Norway was ceded from Denmark to Sweden and a constitution was passed. Norway declared its independence but was then occupied by Sweden, although the Parliament was allowed to continue to exist. Industrialization started in the 1840s and from the 1860s large-scale emigration to North America took place. In 1884 the king appointed Johan Sverdrup as prime minister, thus establishing parliamentarism. The union with Sweden was dissolved in 1905. From the 1880s to the 1920s, Norwegians such as Roald Amundsen carried out a series of important polar expeditions.
Shipping and hydroelectricity were important sources of income for the country. The following decades saw a fluctuating economy and the rise of the labor movement. Germany occupied Norway between 1940 and 1945 during the Second World War, after which Norway joined NATO and underwent a period of reconstruction under public planning. Oil was discovered in 1969 and by 1995 Norway was the world's second-largest exporter. This resulted in a large increase of wealth. From the 1980s Norway started deregulation in many sectors and experienced a banking crisis.
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