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The city of Bergen was founded by king Olav Kyrre in the year 1070 AD. Bergen celebrated its 900th anniversary in 1970. It was considered to be Norway's capital in the 13th century until 1299. Towards the end of the thirteenth century, Bergen became one of the Hanseatic League's most important bureau cities. The main reason for Bergen's importance was the trade with dried cod from the northern Norwegian coast, starting up around 1100. The Frisian and German Hanseatic merchants lived in their own separate quarter of town, where Frisian and Low German was spoken, enjoying exclusive rights to trade with the northern fishermen that each summer sailed to Bergen. Today, one still gets a feel of this at the quayside of Bergen called Bryggen, today on the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites.

In 1349, the Black Death was introduced to Norway by the crew of an English ship arriving in Bergen. In the 15th century the city was several times attacked by the Victual Brothers, and in 1429 they succeeded in burning the royal castle and much of the city. In 1536, the king was able to force the Frisian and German merchants to become Norwegian citizens or return home, heralding a decline in the German influence. In 1665, the city's harbour was the site of the bloody Battle of Vågen, between English ships on the one side and Dutch ships supported by the city's garrison on the other. Throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, Bergen remained the biggest city in the Nordic countries, and it remained Norway's biggest city until 1850, when overtaken by Oslo. Bergen retained its monopoly of trade with Northern Norway until 1789.

In 1916 parts of the city centre were destroyed by a devastating fire, the last of many such fires throughout the city's history. During World War II, the city was occupied on the first day of the German invasion on 9 April 1940, after a brief fight between German ships and Norwegian coastal artillery. On 20 April 1944, during the German occupation, the Dutch cargoship Voorbode anchored off the Bergenhus fortress, loaded with over 120 tons of explosives, blew up, killing at least 150 people and damaging historic buildings. The city was also subject to some allied bombing raids, aiming at German naval installations in the harbour. Some of these led to civilian casualties numbering over 100.

In 1972, Bergen was unified with neighbouring municipalities (Arna, Fana, Laksevåg and Åsane), abolishing its county status and getting its present boundaries.


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Copyright © 2007, Hanspeter Hochuli, Ennetburgen, Switzerland
last updated:  20.07.2007