The Scandinavian Countries, 1720-1865: The Rise of the Middle Classes - Vol. 1

The Scandinavian Countries, 1720-1865: The Rise of the Middle Classes - Vol. 1

The Scandinavian Countries, 1720-1865: The Rise of the Middle Classes - Vol. 1

The Scandinavian Countries, 1720-1865: The Rise of the Middle Classes - Vol. 1

Excerpt

Archibald Carey Coolidge, in the second volume of the American Historical Review, made "A Plea for the study of the History of Northern Europe," and it was he who founded the excellent Scandinavian collection in the Harvard College Library. Comparatively few American scholars responded, however, and as late as 1932 the Committee of the American Historical Association on the Planning of Research pointed to Scandinavian history as a neglected field. The book here submitted to the public is the result of eight years' study in an effort to sketch the outlines of Scandinavian history since 1720 and to present a guide for the more specialized work without which a satisfactory understanding of these peoples will remain impossible.

In spite of the inadequacy of historical literature on this subject, the Scandinavian countries are today the cynosures of believers in democratic procedures. There more truly than anywhere else, it is often maintained, evidence may be found that when honestly and sincerely applied the democratic way of life is capable of solving the most acute problems of modern society. Enthusiastic visitors return to the United States every year with fulsome praise for the neatness and orderliness of Scandinavian institutions and for the practical sense with which these countries attack the perplexing issues of our time. They are pointed to as proof that neither Communist nor Fascist extremes are necessary. But when these admirers are asked why the Scandinavian countries seem to be more successful than others in making democracy work the answers usually refer to some mysterious virtue denied to other nations. The historian will never accept so specious an explanation. He will seek tangible facts, discoverable only in history. I hope that the present volume will contribute toward an understanding of the real Scandinavian, a human being with his full share of vices as well as virtues, who has been an equal participant in the development of modern civilization, subject to a somewhat peculiar material environment, and blessed with a long period of peace.

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