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The Scandinavian History Podcast
27 minutes | Sep 23, 2022
050 Lock and Law
The Swedish usurper king Magnus Birgersson won the acceptance of the Church and the aristocracy by granting them tax exemptions and other privileges. Paradoxically, he’s also remembered as a friend of the common man for trying to limit greedy noblemen’s ability to abuse peasants. He had three sons, and to say that they didn’t get along would be an understatement.
36 minutes | Sep 2, 2022
049 The Jarl and the King
Even though he never became king, Jarl Birger Magnusson dominated Swedish political life (and the actual king) for many years. He led a crusade, gave women the right to inherit and founded the city of Stockholm. Maybe.
37 minutes | Aug 12, 2022
048 A New Dawn
After years of decay and foreign control over Denmark, a new king was elected in 1340. Valdemar IV had his mind set on regaining control over the kingdom–no matter what. And he didn’t let German aristocrats, peasant rebellions or the Plague stand in the way of achieving his goal. For his efforts, he was given the nickname Valdemar Dawn.
28 minutes | Jul 22, 2022
047 The End of Denmark?
As the descendants of Valdemar the Victorious fought each other, Denmark descended deeper into decay. To raise money, the king pawned off bits of the kingdom to German aristocrats, gradually losing control over the country.
33 minutes | Jul 1, 2022
046 Chaos and Decay
The years following the murder of Erik Plowpenny saw bitter fighting between the Danish kings, who kept getting killed, and the Church and the nobility. The once mighty kingdom was fast losing its position as the leading power in Scandinavia, and no one seemed able to stop the decay.
32 minutes | Jun 17, 2022
045 Law Mender and Sons
King Magnus Law Mender is famous for having established one unified law code for all of Norway. Except cities and towns, which had their own laws. And Iceland, obviously. His sons focused more on fighting Denmark and trying to produce legitimate male heirs.
33 minutes | Jun 3, 2022
044 Peak Norway
Haakon Haakonsson was king of Norway for a very long time. 46 years to be exact. His long reign is considered the zenith of medieval Norway: he put an end to the Norwegian civil war by defeating his father-in-law, he built multi-story stone buildings, had fashionable fiction translated and expanded Norway to its largest size ever when he took control over Iceland and Greenland.
36 minutes | May 20, 2022
043 Commonwealth in Crisis
Fighting among the richest and most powerful clans in Iceland weakened the Commonwealth and opened the door for a Norwegian takeover. In the end, Iceland lost its independence and wouldn’t regain it until 1944.
33 minutes | May 6, 2022
042 Swedish Finland
Through the second and third crusades (that definitely did happen), Sweden took control over Finland, making it a part of Scandinavia from a political, religious, economic, and cultural–if not geographical–perspective.
30 minutes | Apr 22, 2022
041 The Crusade That Maybe Never Was
In the 1150s, king Erik and bishop Henrik went on the First Swedish Crusade to Finland. Maybe. The mission was a success and Finland was won for Christ and for the Swedish crown. Maybe. Erik and Henrik were both rewarded with sainthoods, but only after they met their rather grisly deaths.
32 minutes | Apr 8, 2022
040 V for Valdemar
The Golden Age of the Valdemars continued with the reign of a second king called Valdemar. During a crusade in the Baltic region, he established Danish control over Estonia and brought back the flag still used by the Danes today.
31 minutes | Mar 25, 2022
039 Denmark Rises
The reign of King Valdemar, the sole surviving king of the Danish civil war, is seen as the beginning of a Golden Age in Danish medieval history. Valdemar was aided by his foster-brother and BFF Absalon, who was both the king’s trusted advisor and Archbishop of Lund. Together, this dynamic duo spread Christianity and Danish control along the shores of the Baltic Sea.
39 minutes | Mar 11, 2022
038 Birkebeiner and Bagler
The Norwegian civil war eventually produced two rival parties. Traditionally, the Birkebeiner have been seen as the party of the poor and the downtrodden and the Bagler as the party of the nobility and the Church. But they were just as much—if not more—regional elite groupings fighting for the supremacy of their own region within the kingdom.
32 minutes | Feb 25, 2022
037 The Blind, the Loud and the Hunchback
Soon after Sigurd the Crusader died in 1130, a civil war that was to plague medieval Norway for over a century kicked off. A long line of pretenders with colorful nicknames fought each other for the Norwegian throne.
29 minutes | Feb 11, 2022
036 The Crusader and the Homebody
When Magnus Barefoot was killed in Ireland, his three sons Sigurd, Eystein and Olav took over as co-kings of Norway. According to an already well-established pattern this should have led to a bloody civil war, but to everyone’s surprise the brothers kept the peace. Of course it helped that Olav died young and Sigurd set off on an epic voyage that lasted for years.
28 minutes | Jan 28, 2022
035 The Pretenders
The early Middle Ages were a time when a lot of people wanted to be king. The 12th century was basically one long cavalcade of pretenders who barely managed to claw their way to the top before someone else knocked them down, ready to take their place. And at least half of them were called Erik.
33 minutes | Jan 14, 2022
034 Royal Saints
During the reign of Sven Estridsson and his five sons, Denmark definitely went from a Viking society to a medieval kingdom. Thanks to the classic medieval mix of secular and ecclesiastical politics, the country also gained not only one, but two, royal saints. To keep things simple, they were both called Knut.
35 minutes | Dec 31, 2021
033 Church and State
Unlike the king, who was a distant figure somewhere far away, the Church reached each and every one living in Scandinavia in the Middle Ages. It quickly became a rich and powerful institution that developed in parallel with the kingdom, often aiding and strengthening the secular political power—but sometimes also challenging it.
33 minutes | Dec 17, 2021
032 Three Kingdoms
Despite Magnus Barefoot’s best efforts, the Viking Age eventually ended and turned into the Middle Ages. At the time, Scandinavia was divided politically into three kingdoms: Denmark, Norway and Sweden. This is an overview of their physical and political landscapes, as well as the financial and military resources at the medieval king’s disposal.
32 minutes | Nov 26, 2021
031 The Last Vikings
Harald Hardrada’s son Olav returned to Norway with his father’s body and proceeded to rule in peace for a quarter of a century, shunning war and glory in favor of law, commerce and religion. But his son, Magnus, resembled his martial grandfather Harald and wanted to reignite the Viking Age. Magnus fought wars in England, Sweden and Ireland. In the end, he resembled grandpa Harald a little too much and got himself killed while on campaign in the British Isles.
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