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NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN STUDIES
Volume XXIX

1983
The Norwegian-American Historical Association
NORTHFIELD MINNESOTA
Copyright 1983 by the
NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION
ISBN 0-87732-068-3

Printed in the United States of America at the North Central Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota

Preface

WHEN INTRODUCING the first volume in the Studies series in 1926, Theodore C. Blegen commented on "the marked tendencies of present-day American historiography" toward increasing study of "population movements and their Old World backgrounds." This volume, the twenty-ninth in the series, amply illustrates a continuous and growing interest in migratory patterns and their causes. Historians and social scientists have in recent times focused ever more attention on the delivering countries; the efforts of these scholars have provided new insights into migrational phenomena.

Seven of the twelve essays in the present collection are devoted to the Norwegian background, based on investigations of local communities throughout Norway. In total the articles reveal the varied characteristics, motivations, and responses, as well as the intensity, of geographic mobility.

Andres A. Svalestuen and Rasmus Sunde treat regions which were affected early by America fever, the first the upland area of Tinn in Telemark and the second the fjord community of Vik in Sogn. Both districts saw their populations outstrip available resources, making America an attractive alternative to remaining at home. An established internal migration might, however, resist the pull of America, as Leiv H. Dvergsdal shows in his detailed study of emigration from Sunnfjord. How opportunities offered by rich codfishing operations delayed emigration from coastal communities in Sunnmøre is analyzed by Ragnar Standal; Arnfinn Engen in his study of the overseas movement from Dovre brings out the role of family connections in the emigration drama.

Sverre Ordahl describes how a tradition of going to sea and a crisis around the turn of the century in the economic activity associated with sailing ships combined to produce a mass exodus from the Agder districts. In his article on emigration from Brønnøy and Vik in Helgeland, Kjell Erik Skaaren explains how a growing restlessness and worsening economic and social conditions encouraged people to leave that part of Norway and settle in America.

In the lead article Ingrid Semmingsen discusses the emigrants of 1825 and their contacts with German pietists in Norway and in America, convincingly placing communitarian aspects of the pioneer emigration within a Norwegian peasant tradition. Harold P. Simonson reflects with sensitivity on the psychological and emotional toll of the westward movement, a trauma experienced by Beret in O. E. Rølvaag's classic novel Giants in the Earth as well as by countless immigrants in the nineteenth century.

The letters of the Norwegian poet Sigbjørn Obstfelder written during his sojourn in America, translated and introduced by Sverre Arestad, lay bare with disturbing clarity the anguish and sense of alienation felt by one immigrant who could not reconcile himself to the new environment. Odin W. Anderson draws on family ties in a Norwegian settlement in western Wisconsin to relate and interpret the chilling tale of a lynching - an unusual occurrence among Norwegian immigrants, yet not an unknown measure under frontier conditions. Finally, John Weinstock tells the story of a Norwegian folk hero - the father of modern skiing - Sondre Norheim from Morgedal in Telemark, who in his later years exchanged his challenging mountain slopes in Norway for the flat prairies of North Dakota.

In this volume we present a complete index to volumes 1 through 29 of Studies prepared by the Association's archivist, Charlotte Jacobson. It will serve as a valuable guide to the vast body of literature contained in the series. I wish to acknowledge with gratitude the work of C. A. Clausen, who not only translated the articles originally written in Norwegian but also compiled the bibliography of recent publications. Johanna Barstad, librarian in the university library in Oslo, assisted in listing Norwegian titles. We are grateful to Det Norske Samlaget in Oslo for permission to publish the articles by Sverre Ordahl and Kjell Erik Skaaren. Again, I am much indebted to Mary R. Hove for her competent, dedicated, and congenial assistance in preparing volume 29 for publication, which because of the many translated contributions placed additional demands on editorial skills and judgment. Dorothy Divers, associate professor of art at St. Olaf College, drew the maps for the articles on the Norwegian background. Elaine Kringen, assistant secretary of the Association, typed the edited manuscript.

ODD S. LOVOLL
St. Olaf College

 

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