Top Scandinavian History Books

The modern Scandinavian countries - Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark – share many parts of their histories and a single study of the whole region is an invaluable starting point for students. The following is my selection of the top books on Scandinavia.
Published by the University of Minnesota Press - who count Scandinavia as one of their specialisms and whose books dominate this list - Nordstrom's text focuses on the last five centuries. The author has covered all the main themes while also examining the influx and adaptation of ideas from the rest of Europe. This is a perfect first volume for any interested readers.
Unlike pick 1, Derry's concise history covers two millennia; consequently there is less focus on the early modern and modern periods, but a far greater overall range. All the usual topics are covered - economics, politics, society and culture - and Derry stresses both the unique and shared features of each country. This was first published in 1979, but the 2000 re-release has a new epilogue.
03
of 08

Scandinavia and the Great Powers 1890 - 1940 by Patrick Salmon

This book covers the relatively short, but hugely important, period in the early twentieth century when Scandinavia found itself between three powerful and warring rivals: Russia, Germany and the United Kingdom. Salmon examines the interplay between the Scandinavian countries and the great-power politics of their neighbours, revealing important - and perhaps surprising - relationships.
Although Sweden dominates the text, Northern Europe in the Early Modern Period is a valuable study of Scandinavia and the Baltic during an era of great change. Kirby skillfully traces the differing political and social developments alongside the identity and (re)actions of the region's various 'peoples', producing a book which lecturers have valued highly.
05
of 08

The Soul of the North by Neil Kent

The subtitle reveals all - "A Social, Architectural and Cultural History of the Nordic Countries, 1700 - 1940" - and in this instance 'Nordic' refers to the whole of Scandinavia and the region’s former colonies. Kent explores a range of topics in this fascinating socio-cultural study, shedding light on the people and atmosphere in a manner missing from many traditional histories.
06
of 08

War and Peace in the Baltic 1560-1790 by Stewart P. Oakley

Focusing on the emergence of Sweden and Russia as great European powers, a struggle that involved the bloody northern wars of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, this book is only partly about Scandinavia, but the history can't be told in any other way. As you've gathered, the topic is similar to that of pick 5, but at half the length it’s more suitable for students.
07
of 08

The Northern Wars by Robert Frost

The Northern Wars caused vast changes in northeastern Europe, as Poland and the Swedish Empire fell to Russia, and later Prussia. Frost covers a range of themes - military and non-military alike - in a revisionist work which covers the late sixteenth, seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, a heyday of Swedish - and Scandinavian - military prowess.
08
of 08

Scandinavia in the Revolutionary Era 1760 - 1815 by H. Arnold Barton

Carrying on where the two previous picks leave off, this book covers the era of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, events which - almost literally - shook Europe. Scandinavia didn't escape from the consequences and Barton’s fairly large book is an important work for anyone interested in both the northern countries and the period.