09/29/21 07:35 AM
It has been celebrated all year, but today is the birthday itself. Congratulations on the day, Larvik. ØP has asked Aina Aske and Ane Ringheim, Larvik Museum – Vestfoldmuseene – to write a bit of the city’s history on a historic day.
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“But century after century, we too can see where we are going”
The quote is taken from “A memorandum” by Terje J. Mikkelsen, performed at the Festival during the city anniversary 2021. An hour of performance that made us laugh, cry, remember and wonder about Larvik’s history through 350 years. We can remember what we have put behind us and what we should take with us – which is exactly what history writing and museum work is about. As professionals and an institution, we help to ensure that the experiences of history stay with us and gain value for today’s people. The city anniversary has been an opportunity for us to take a closer look at Larvik’s history: What was it that made Larvik a city? What is Larvik’s uniqueness?
The history began before 1671. After the Reformation in 1537, the areas on the east and west sides of the Oslo Fjord offered many economic opportunities for nobles of Danish and German origin. They were allowed to work and build up estates under royal privileges, but were to serve the king in peace and war in return. In the 17th century, the nobility in the Larvik area started on what was to become and future industrial adventure. Larvik had access to watercourses, forests, iron ore and timber. Mills, sawmills and ironworks were built. This provided the basis for urban growth, and Larvik’s success was noticed by men who were to ensure a smooth introduction of autocracy in Norway. Ulrik Frederik Gyldenløve was the king’s son, born out of wedlock and brought to court in Copenhagen as a young boy. He was highly valued by both his father and the court and was sent to Norway as governor in 1664 – 26 years old.
Over the next six to seven years, he has been able to make a beautiful journey that made Larvik a different city. He used the autocracy’s new policy to put the old noble family in the area out of waste, turned the large lands he bought in the Larvik district into counties, and gained almost unlimited power over land and people. Last but not least, he made Larvik the county town, with the districts of Langestrand and Torstrand as suburbs.
The count moved the city’s power center from west to east and built Trinity Church on the headland. The church, and Larvik hospital which was built a few years later, were connected with the manor via a long avenue. Skottebrygga became the count’s private pier, and the house we call the Maritime Museum was built for the county’s building inspector. In this area which today is called Herregården-Tollerodden, or the Old Town, several of the count’s functionaries, as well as the king’s customs officers, have lived and worked. The manor and the garden were a magnificent backdrop for the new city center when you came by sea to Larvik – and so did most of those who came from far away.
A new turn in the city’s history came with the end of the Napoleonic Wars, which triggered and strong protest when the Danish king transferred Norway to Sweden as part of the war settlement. For Larvik, 1814 and the Nobility Act of 1821 meant a new and great change. From being a city with strong ties to the king, Copenhagen and the rest of the continent, Larvik had to find its place as a medium-sized city in the new Norway.
The Constitution had given votes for just one percent of the population. The presidency laws ensured a greater degree of local self-government, but it was still only a small part of the population in Larvik who got a vote. A few influential officials ruled the city, and the vast majority were not heard.
The 1848 revolution in Europe spread the impulses all the way to Larvik, with demands that everyone had their voices heard. Johan Sverdrup entered the political arena in Larvik, who was strongly influenced by the liberal ideas that were stirred in Europe. He became rapporteur in 1849, and in the following years it was started on several workers’ unions. These associations became important training arenas where Larvik people who did not have the right to vote had the opportunity to debate political things, and receive training in history and economics. The associations had their own book collections for the use of members, and helped to increase the level of knowledge and provide a direction for the requirement for voting rights.
In 1891, the workers’ union was a driving force for May 17 to be a political day of struggle for universal suffrage. The May 17 committee refused to accept this, and the result this year was a competing May 17 train that went towards Bøkeskogen, a voting train and a traditional May 17 train.
Women in Larvik also had the opportunity to have their voices heard, and it was the teachers who took the lead in this match. They had to endure harassment and gossip, and were hanged and lattered in the city newspapers because of his commitment. But they paved the way for Larvik in 1901, when women were first allowed to vote in local elections, to become the city in Norway with the highest female in the municipal government.
Larvik people’s commitment to their local community was evident in many things over the next 100 years. This was not least expressed in the question of municipal amalgamation in the 1980s.
The city anniversary has shown that there is great interest and vibrant commitment to the city and to Larvik’s future and development. Larvik has had an exciting journey from a city of residence for a count with strong privileges, via a maritime city and an industrial city, until today we have such a diverse city that it can be more difficult to find a label that fits. At the museum, we are concerned with creating identity and community linked to the city’s history. We believe it is important to know the voices, dilemmas and struggles of the past in order to understand our own present and to be able to help shape Larvik’s future.
Congratulations on your 350th birthday, Larvik!
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