Paul Sinding: History of Scandinavia

I’m somewhat torn on this. On the one hand I definitely wouldn’t recommend the book to anybody as a reference. I could get over its being a history of the old type, mostly concerned with wars and struggles for kingship, social history getting only a token attention. I could get over proper names often differing both from the original and the established English ones. After all, the book was written in the middle of 19th century. I could even get over the author’s claim that Queen Margarethe “secured for her admiration in the eyes of the world and of the most thorough historians” by establishing “the Union of Calmar, which afterwards gave birth to wars between Sweden and Denmark that lasted a whole century”; I’m sure he didn’t mean it like that. But I couldn’t get over the fact that although there are narrower and broader definitions of what constitutes ‘Scandinavia’, none makes the word synonymous with ‘the Danish kingdom’. Sinding does: his ‘history of Scandinavia’ is more often concerned with Schleswig than with Skåne. In fact I stopped reading once I got to the point where Sweden gained the latter for good.

On the other hand, I did have some fun with the book. Sometimes because of the author’s literary style: for instance, when he describes that Frederick I “was compelled to pine for seventeen years in a gloomy tower, with no other companion than a Norwegian dwarf”; there is also the passage, reminiscent of Rambo or of Top Secret!, in which Christian IV, “standing at the foot of the mast of his admiral ship, and encouraging his mariners to persevere manfully to the end, was dangerously wounded, losing an eye and two teeth, a splinter from the ship having killed twelve men immediately around him”.

But mostly it’s the typos. Obviously at Kindle Store they simply scanned the book, nobody bothering to read it; the result is often rather amusing. For instance, you’ll learn that several circumstances in the 1st millenium “induced numerous crowds from all regions of the North to go away to seek a new homo”. In those days, rulers “were not called kings, but Drots, and Rig, ruler of Skane, adopted first the title of Icing”. Centuries later, “both kingdoms elected Margarethe their queen, though custom had not yet authorized the election of a femalo”, and later still, a Danish admiral “immortalized his name by entirely destroying the Swedish fleet in the hay of Kjóge”. They may sound like a bad Irish joke, as when a courtier parts with his wife saying “you have loved me oven in the utmost miseries”; they may look as if even somebody’s handwritten notes got scanned: “Christian I. died, after a reign of thirty-three May 2, years, and lies buried in the Cathedral of Roeskilde”. My personal favourite is the mention that the “despicable Erik of Pomerania lived for f≪n years on Gulland” . . .

 

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