A Roll in the Universe

Website of Keera Ann Fox, an American in Bergen, Norway

The plague

Pest. Another “false friend“. A pest in English can be a bug or a rat, or a very annoying person. But “pest” as used in Norwegian changed the destiny of Bergen. “Pest” in Norwegian means the plague.

The plague or Black Death (in Norwegian, Svartedauden) was first registered in Norway in Oslo 1348, and the eastern part of Norway was hit the hardest. A ship from England carrying the plague docked in Bergen in 1349. At that time, Bergen was the political center of Norway, the seat of both the church and the king. Bergen was not officially Norway’s capital, but certainly had had that role since the middle of the thirteenth century. (Oslo was established as Norway’s official capital in 1313.)

In only two years, half of Norway’s population was wiped out. In Bergen, the loss of half the population included the educated, and those representing the church, politics, finances and culture. The aftermath of the plague in Bergen opened the door to the Hanseatic league, turning Bergen into a Hansa office. The Hanseats traded in grain, a commodity plague-stricken Norway desperately needed as most of the farmers had died. With the influx of needed food and new people, Bergen and other parts of Norway started to regrow and prosper. The Hanseats traded out of Bergen for about 400 years, mostly in dried fish.

In Norwegian, if you have to make a tough decision between two equally undesirable choices, it is called choosing between plague and cholera (“et valg mellom pest og kolera”).

The Daily Prompt: Pest

2 Comments

  1. Bergen Buddy

    2017-07-31 at 20:07

    Interesting
    I love history!

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