Scandinavian countries are the northern countries within Europe. They consist of Denmark, Norway, Sweden and sometimes Finland and Iceland are considered to be a part of Scandinavia as well. different in terms of how they operate. Currently, the countries that are within Scandinavia are seen as well off and healthy compared to the rest of Europe. It is also seen as more socialist based on how many social programs are in place to support the citizens of the respective countries. However, looking more in depth at the history that shaped the countries show that their culture has and is changing to keep pace with the rest of Europe.
Historically, Scandinavia has been somewhat cut off from the rest of Europe either due to water or by interactions. This disconnect is what kept them from many of the conflicts of the south which may have helped in the future. The industrial revolution in Europe happened in the early 19th century but had its beginnings just before then in about the 1780s. During the industrial revolution, there was a great deal of trade and production happening. While countries like Germany were improving research into chemicals, Sweden and other Scandinavian countries focused on agriculture. On top of that, there were many resources to be mined. England was known for their rich iron deposits that would be sold across Europe. An example of what Denmark was producing could be summed up by Casper Jørgensen noting that “Danish gravel, clay and chalk, but raw materials such as coal and iron are all but absent from the country’s soil” (Jørgensen). This lead to an acceleration of growth between the years of 1850 and early 1900s, industrialization was in full force allowing these countries to trade raw materials for money and goods.
Norway was a part of Sweden during this time. They were able to fight for independence but was also forced to join a union with Sweden for independence in 1814. This would come to help them greatly in the future.
Norway and Sweden already had a trade union in place by 1814. After political issues, a Scandinavian Monetary Union was formed in 1873 which allowed these three countries to trade freely with each other until WWI. No other country at this time had trade unions with other countries within Europe. The Scandinavian countries at this time were able to trade more effectively along with sell raw materials to other countries to prosper.
Historically, all three countries have been connected more than the rest of the countries to the south. This is because of successions like with Norway and Sweden. Along with that, there is a little patriotism for each other and there are policies put in place to support each other over travel, work, and trade.
An article that demonstrates an understanding of the social structure well is What Makes Scandinavia Different? By Rune Møller Stahl & Andreas Møller Mulvad. Early on, during the industrial revolution, resources were key in getting ahead. This was also when they were more of a larger entity. Before WWII they did not accept the Jewish population in from the southern countries out keeping their ways separate. Not only did war start did the countries finally let refugees in. After the war, they lived in better social programs which were put in place. These included high “income equality, large, tax-financed welfare programs, [and] powerful unions” (Stahl). They were considered welfare states which allowed people who worked in these countries considerably good benefits. The benefits workers received after WWII were not given to the rest of Europe until a larger amount of time. This can be due to the war affecting the lower countries more than Scandinavia.
There was the Nordic Passport union which was established in 1952. This union allowed free travel between all the Scandinavian countries along with the non-core countries. This is a policy that isn’t necessarily a socialist policy as it allows free movement. It promotes the flow of people and can help the economies of people because people don’t have to be inconvenienced at the borders.
Up until the 1970s and 1980s, Scandinavia was seen as the utopia of the social welfare states. However, over time the problem of a social program started to form. The issues were that Heavy taxation hindered the countries as a whole because movement to lower taxes came. In order to lower taxes, these countries would have cut programs or design a system in which making money was more of an incentive. The countries are now starting to become more rightwing trying to support the growth of their countries.
Compared to the rest of Europe, Scandinavia worked on building a more social infrastructure after WWII and then transitioned into a more capitalistic focus after realizing some flaws. What the European Union is now is what Scandinavia has been doing since the end of WWII.
Overall, Scandiavian countries have been more united with each other then they have with the rest of Europe. In doing so, they have been able to create unions, treaties, and trade routes more effectively with each other than the rest of Europe. This has allowed them to have a main focus on larger focus on capitalism as a political goal while supporting and creating a more sustainable culture. Scandiavia seemed to be the first in creating a connection between countries before the European Union in a similar fashion by means of free travel, trade, and standards.