Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Writing Democracy

Writing Democracy: The Norwegian Constitution 1814-2014

Karen Gammelgaard
Eirik Holmøyvik
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 288
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Writing Democracy
    Book Description:

    The Norwegian Constitution is the oldest functioning constitution in Europe. Its bicentenary in 2014 has inspired the analyses in this volume, where contributors focus on the Constitution as a text to explore new ways of analyzing democratic development. This volume examines the framing of the Norwegian Constitution, its transformations, and its interpretations during the last two centuries. The textual focus enables new understandings of the framers' negotiations and decisions on a democratic micro level and opens new international and historical contexts to understanding the Norwegian Constitution. By synthesizing knowledge from different realms - law, social sciences, and the humanities - Writing Democracy provides a model for examining the distinct textual qualities of constitutional documents.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-505-9
    Subjects: Political Science, History, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Note on Interdisciplinarity and Stylistic Conventions
    (pp. ix-xii)
  6. Introduction The Norwegian Constitution as a Text
    (pp. 1-17)
    Karen Gammelgaard and Eirik Holmøyvik

    In 2014, the Norwegian Constitution has existed for two hundred years. Adopted on 17 May 1814, it is the oldest functioning constitution in Europe. Only the US Constitution (adopted in 1787) is older. The beginnings of the Norwegian Constitution, as well as its longevity, have been accompanied by dramatic events, including the breakup of the long-lasting union with Denmark in early 1814, war with Sweden (summer 1814), union with Sweden (1814–1905), German occupation (1940–1945), and two referenda on Norway’s place in European cooperation structures (1972 and 1994). All these events have been topics of comprehensive research and will...

  7. Part I. Embarking on the Matter

    • 1 The Thing That Invented Norway
      (pp. 21-42)
      William B. Warner, Eirik Holmøyvik and Mona Ringvej

      If one wished to place the emergence of Norway as a modern, independent nation, one could not do better than to repair to Eidsvold on 17 to 19 May 1814 and take in the scene where a consensus was achieved through reciprocal exchange between 112 deputies and Prince Regent Christian Frederik. On 17 May, the deputies had declared their newly signed Constitution “to be the fundamental law of the Kingdom of Norway, which all and every one shall obey”; elected the prince regent as the new king of Norway; and rejoiced in the “hope” that he would “accept of a...

    • 2 The Changing Meaning of “Constitution” in Norwegian Constitutional History
      (pp. 43-59)
      Eirik Holmøyvik

      The meaning of concepts is not constant.¹ A concept can have different meanings at different times and places in history. Yet the word that expresses it need not change. This flexibility is possible because concepts are linguistic carriers of a rich social-political context of meaning and experience (Koselleck 2004: 85). According to German historian Reinhart Koselleck and his theory ofBegriffsgeschichte, concepts may take on a new meaning when new experiences alter society’s expectations of a possible future presupposed by previous experience (Koselleck 2004: 262).² Koselleck implies that neither concepts nor the ideas they refer to are historical constants (see...

    • 3 The Many Textual Identities of Constitutions
      (pp. 60-74)
      Dag Michalsen

      Since modern constitutionalism’s beginnings in the last three decades of the eighteenth century, an increasing number of people worldwide have shared the idea that a written document represents a basic component in a constitution.¹ In general, we may say that today, the “constitution” concept is widely connected with texts. However, a constitution may connect with texts not only as a connection between a constitution and a written document. In this chapter, I discuss five possible connections between constitutions and texts. This discussion will focus on the Norwegian Constitution of 1814 and its connections with texts up until today.

      This chapter...

  8. Part II. Transnational Conversations

    • 4 The Norwegian Constitution and the Rhetoric of Political Poetry
      (pp. 77-91)
      Ulrich Schmid

      The Norwegian Constitution of 1814 is not only a legal, but also a rhetorical phenomenon of its time. It uses a certain style of political rhetoric that mainly stems from the revolutionary movements in the United States and France. Drawing onThe Philosophy of Rightby the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831), I conduct a comparative rhetorical analysis of selected constitutions of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, most of which proved to be quite short-lived: the constitutions of the Batavian Republic (1798), the Helvetic Republic (1798), Poland (1791), and Spain (1812). The Norwegian Constitution of...

    • 5 Constitution as a Transnational Genre: Norway 1814 and the Habsburg Empire 1848–1849
      (pp. 92-107)
      Karen Gammelgaard

      Following the American and the French revolutions in the late eighteenth century, a revolutionary understanding of “constitution” began to spread in Europe. “Constitution” began to be regarded as having the form of a written document, as having its genesis in popular sovereignty, as including protection of human rights, and as describing the separation of powers and popular participation in government (Grimm 1990; Holmøyvik 2012). The understanding of “constitution” as a written document allows considering “constitution” as a genre: a category of texts similar in form, style, content, and the social actions they represent.

      To contribute to identifying characteristics of the...

    • 6 Discursive Patterns in the Italian and Norwegian Constitutions
      (pp. 108-118)
      Jacqueline Visconti

      The magical nature of legal texts, that is, their capacity of producing extra-linguistic effects, is particularly evident in constitutional texts, which have as their function to constitute, to create, the normative foundation of a state.¹ This property may be one of the reasons underlying the “power” of the genre, as highlighted by Gammelgaard (in this volume). If two historically related constitutional texts are found to share a number of discursive patterns, their commonality may be attributed to their proximity and influence. Yet if two texts, such as the Norwegian and the Italian constitutions, which are set over one hundred years...

  9. Part III. Historical Transformations

    • 7 Timing the Constitutional Moment: Time and Language in the Norwegian Constitution
      (pp. 121-135)
      Helge Jordheim

      The Norwegian Constitution owes its existence to one of the most dramatic and fateful moments in Norwegian history, which culminated during a few weeks in April and May 1814. After the Treaty of Kiel in January 1814 but before the Swedish king had taken possession of the country ceded to him by the Danish crown, an opportunity arose and Norwegian elites seized it, led by the Danish prince Christian Frederik. Time was short, and within just a few weeks, the deputies at Eidsvold succeeded in giving Norway a constitution.

      Reading the constitutional text, however, we find few traces of this...

    • 8 The Norwegian Constitution and Its Multiple Codes: Expressions of Political and Legal Change
      (pp. 136-150)
      Inger-Johanne Sand

      In a highly condensed form, constitutional texts express the most vital principles and competences of state governance and human rights. In addition, constitutional texts construct the most authoritative institutions for dealing with central political and legal conflicts in society. Simultaneously, constitutions are caught in the crossfire of conflicting demands: constitutions express consensual values, but they may also be the object of societal and political conflict. As texts and as state practice, constitutions are meant to stabilize institutions as well as political and societal relations, but they should also be able to respond to relevant societal change. Furthermore, constitutions’ political and...

    • 9 Norwegian Parliamentary Discourse 2004–2014 on the Norwegian Constitution’s Language Form
      (pp. 151-163)
      Yordanka Madzharova Bruteig

      Language form is an important aspect of any modern constitution’s textuality.¹ This chapter investigates how members of the Norwegian parliament, Stortinget, perceive the Norwegian Constitution’s language form. The reason for investigating this matter is that until May 2014, the Norwegian Constitution and its amendments were written in a language form corresponding to the written language of juridical and administrative genres in Norway in the last third of the nineteenth century (Vinje 2002). This language form of the Constitution’s text was established in a thorough linguistic revision in 1903. The Norwegian language has evolved considerably since the 1903 revision was done,...

  10. Part IV. Freedom of Expression

    • 10 Article 100 and the Evolution of a Public Opinion Text Culture in Denmark-Norway 1770–1799
      (pp. 167-182)
      Kjell Lars Berge

      Which ideas and experiences enabled deputies at Eidsvold in 1814 to frame Article 100 in the Norwegian Constitution? In this chapter, the relatively progressive Article 100 stating that “an intire liberty of the press shall take place” will be accounted for by the development of a fresh, intense, and fertile communication culture of public opinion in Denmark-Norway during the eighteenth century’s last three decades. We shall see how a new rhetoric mediating the ideas of the 1814 Constitution was created in an interaction between the communication spheres in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Trondhjem, Norway.¹ These communication spheres consisted of a complicated...

    • 11 To Speak What the Hour Demands: Framing the Future of Public Speech at Eidsvold in 1814
      (pp. 183-197)
      Mona Ringvej

      The Norwegian Constitution declared on 17 May 1814 at Eidsvold was a speech act uttered in an environment that could not guarantee its performative power: would foreign powers accept Norway as a sovereign state? After a few months of international diplomacy and skirmishes with the Swedes, it became clear that this speech act did have performative power. It was a so-called happy speech act.¹ Norway was acknowledged as a sovereign nation after 1814, although in union with Sweden, sharing the same king.

      How do we identify the forces behind the success of this speech act, seemingly performed without the circumstances...

    • 12 Scholarly Texts’ Influence on the 2004 Revision of the Norwegian Constitution’s Article 100
      (pp. 198-213)
      Ragnvald Kalleberg

      Article 100, which concerns freedom of the press in the 1814 Norwegian Constitution, remained unchanged for 190 years. In 2004, the Norwegian parliament (Stortinget) unanimously adopted a revised article on freedom of expression. It had become desirable to harmonize the old article with international law and there was a need for a principled clarification of freedom of expression (NOU 1999: 15–16, 19–20). In the ten years prior to 2004, many contributions influenced Norwegian legislators, including scholarly texts from the humanities and the social sciences.

      In this chapter, I concentrate on how texts by one scholar, the German sociologist...

  11. Appendix A. Constitution for Kongeriget Norge
    (pp. 215-230)
  12. Appendix B. The Constitution of the Kingdom of Norway: Translated pursuant to order of government
    (pp. 231-252)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 253-269)
  14. List of Contributors
    (pp. 271-272)
  15. Index
    (pp. 273-276)