Masteroppgåva om nordmenn i slavehandelen

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Dissertation Maria Lavik

My dissertation “Small players in the big game – Norwegians and the slave trade” was written as a part of the MSc-degree in Economic History, London School of Economics and Political Science.

The dissertation focuses on three Norwegians that got entangled in the slave economy: Jørgen Thormøhlen, Severin Schjelderup and Engebret Hesselberg. These individuals have been given three roles in this narrative, and they cover three different time periods and geographical areas. This approach of writing micro-history leads to a deeper understanding of the difficulties and advantages that small players possessed when entering the slave trade.

Another motivation behind focusing on Norwegians is to highlight the colonial and exploitative part of Norwegian history. While Norway only became an independent state in 1814, its history as a nation has deep roots. Regrettably, this perspective seldom emerges in popular discourse or in public memory. This again can lead Norwegian politicians to conclude that the country does not have “a past as a colonial power” as part of “Norway’s merits”, useful in promoting Norway as an agent for conflict resolution.

The dissertation was finalized in september 2013 and was awarded a Distinction.

If you find this topic interesting, you might also like the article “A Peace Nation with Corpses in the Cargo” by Stian Eisenträger. It provides a good overview of Norwegians involved in the slave trade, and on the distinction between “state” and “nation” which is vital when discussing this era of Norwegian history. The article can be found in this journal: UMB Student Journal.

Also, this master thesis in history written by Øystein Røstum might be of interest. It is written in Norwegian and covers the bankruptcy of the sugar refinery in Bergen in the 1760’s. It highlights the connection between the sugar plantations on the Caribbean island St. Croix and the sugar refineries in Norway.

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