Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Difficult Life of the 19th Century Scandinavian Essay -- History,

In the present day, Scandinavian countries are generally viewed as prosperous, progressive, and egalitarian societies. The citizens of these nations are largely urbanized and receive significant social assistance from the welfare state. However, life in 19th century Scandinavia was markedly different. Scandinavian social life in the 1800s was defined by its provincial character, as the majority of inhabitants resided in rural agricultural communities. Society as a whole was heavily stratified: women had very limited social and economic opportunities and poverty was widespread among Scandinavia’s common citizens. Thus, life in 19th century Scandinavia was generally difficult, and this fact is revealed in the books and films that chronicle social life during this time period. Though Scandinavian nations are currently considered to be some of the most equitable countries in the world, 19th century Scandinavian societies were characterized by rigid social hierarchies. As Nordstrom depicts in his history of Scandinavia, those who lived during this time period rarely advanced beyond the social and economic positions that they were born into (Nordstrom, 2000: 166). Vilhelm Moberg’s novel The Emigrants further illustrates this point through its portrayal of a rural Swedish parish in the mid 1800s. Moberg describes how generation after generation within a single family labored as farmers on the same land. He suggests that this pattern persisted for centuries, only to be disrupted by the mass migrations that took place in the middle of the 19th century (Moberg, 1949: xxvii). The information presented in Nordstrom’s book echoes the localized and provincial nature of Scandinavian villages described by Moberg. Before the technolog... ...en and the common laborer. Wealth and privilege were mainly dictated by birth and enjoyed by a select few. The agrarian masses, on the other hand, generally endured poverty and extreme hardship. Women’s lives were also tremendously difficult, as they had essentially zero social or economic independence from men and minimal opportunities for education. The generally poor quality of life faced by most 19th century Scandinavians inspired many of these citizens to seek a better existence by immigrating to America. Ironically, the countries that were left behind by these suffering immigrants are generally considered to have achieved a far higher quality of life than is experienced by the average American. Considering the hard lives endured by most Scandinavians in the 1800s, the progress that has been made in this region over the past century is truly remarkable.

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