The summer of 1914 was very hot. In Kristiania (formerly Christiania, today Oslo) there had been a great exhibition celebrating the centenary of the Norwegian constitution.
Everything seemed normal. The crisis in late July 1914 took the Scandinavian countries by surprise. In February, during a parliamentary debate, the Norwegian Prime Minister, Gunnar Knudsen (1848-1928), had described the European situation as “cloudless”. On that fateful day in July, the Prime Minister was out sailing when news of the Austrian ultimatum broke. As a result, the Norwegian Prime Minister cut his holiday short.
When Germany declared war on Russia on 1 August, Norway, along with Sweden and Denmark, issued a declaration of neutrality.
On 4 August the Norwegian government issued an additional, separate statement, again emphasizing its neutrality.
Two days earlier, the Norwegian navy had been mobilized and soldiers were sent to man the coastal fortresses; the neutrality guard was thus established. Norway was ready to defend its neutrality, despite being both politically and militarily unprepared for war.
The armed forces had not fired a shot since 1814, and the political authorities had no experience of international crises.
The first priority of the government was to keep Norway out of the war; the second was to provide supplies in order to feed the population and maintain economic stability. The catastrophic effect of the British blockade during the Napoleonic Wars was still a part of the collective memory.
As many historians have pointed out, the balance between keeping the country out of war and providing the country with necessary supplies was a fine balancing act between two interwoven objectives. Thus, the policies of neutrality and the nation’s economic policies are inseparable and must be examined together.
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