Renæssanceforum 5 • 2008

Karen Skovgaard-Petersen
Arguments against barbarism. Early native, literary culture in three Scandinavian national histories. Johannes Magnus's History of Sweden (1554), Johannes Pontanus's History of Denmark (1631), and Tormod Torfæus's History of Norway (1711)

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The article compares three Scandinavian national histories, all written in Latin, published between 1554 and 1711. While sharing the same basic message, viz. that Scandinavia can boast long traditions of refined civilization, they differ considerably in the way this is argued. While the oldest of them, Johannes Magnus' History of Sweden (1554), adopts a classicizing discourse using it as an indirect argument about ancient Scandinavian literacy, the two younger ones, Johannes Pontanus' History of Denmark (1631) and Tormod Torfæus' History of Norway (1711) display no such stylistical ambitions. Strongly influenced by the antiquarian revolution their argument in favour of early Scandinavian literacy is based on discussions of a wide variety of ancient and medieval texts, runic stones etc.