The Norwegian Society for Development was established to strengthen the nation economically, politically and to develop a self-sufficient and independent economy on the premise of Norwegian nature.
Selskabet for Norges Vel ble etablert for å styrke nasjonen både økonomisk og politisk og å utvikle en selvforsynt, selvstendig og uavhengig norsk økonomi på den norske naturens premisser.
Napoleonic war, trade blockages and famine
At the dawn of the 19th century Europe was characterised by war and unrest. On the continent the Napoleonic wars were raging. Denmark, that Norway was a part of, was trying to maintain neutrality.
In September of 1807 the British attacked Copenhagen with vast ammounts of firepower, before sailing away with the Danish-Norwegian fleet. Soon after the British put in place a trade blockade in the Skagerrak sea and Denmark was forced to side with England.
The blockade stopped almost all communcation between Denmark and Norway. The vital import of corn almost completely stopped, and Norway could no longer be managed from Copenhagen.
Ved inngangen til 1800-tallet var Europa preget av krig og uro. På kontinentet raste Napoleonskrigene. Danmark, som Norge var en del av, forsøkte lenge å forholde seg nøytral.
I september 1807 angrep engelskmennene København med stor ildkraft, før de seilte vekk med den dansk-norske flåten. Straks etter innførte britene handelsblokade i Skagerrak og Danmark ble tvunget til å ta side mot England.
Blokaden hindret nesten all kommunikasjon mellom Danmark og Norge. Den livsnødvendige kornimporten stoppet fullstendig opp, og Norge kunne ikke lenger styres fra København. To remedy this the government created "The Royal interim Governmental -Commission for Norway" in Christiania, a temportary Norwegian govermental body. Fearing famine in Norway, the commission put in place a series of measures to import replacement food.
The governmental-commission would in many was set the foundation for what would become the policies of Norges Vel. The commission was interested in using the country's resources in the most efficient way possible in the desperate situation that had arisen. Not long after, the same men who were making waves in the commission got together to establish "The Norwegian Society for Development.", to "help and isolated and outmatched Norway."
Independence through knowledge
The establishment happened in December of 1809 at the goodbye party for the commissions foreman, prince Christian August. He was picked as the Swedish line of succession the same year, shortly after the Danish-Swedish war was over. In April the year after the company gained the right to call itself "The Royal Norwegian Society for Development" by King Frederik VI, at the same time as he took the company into his utmost protection". This protection from the Royal palace extends to today.
The founders of the company had expectations of quick economic growth, in step with the scientific research of the country. The goal was to strengthen the nation both economically and politically through a self-sufficient and independent Norwegian economy based on the premise of Norwegian nature.
Practically one expected the abundances of minerals were to be mined, the bogs were to be drained, forests to be used and waterfalls to be tamed. Common people were to be motivated to use so called "uncommon foods". Domestic production of vital items was to be stimulated, both on residential and industrial levels.
Norwegian deep state
The new company put thought into how the country's most pressing issues were to be solved at the same time as putting forth a plan for how Norway could develop an new and independent national economy within the constrictions of the trade blockade. There was a great deal of dedication to what we today call a nature and culture based business development. The measure that originally came about to stop famine, was hereby also an important political tool against the absolute Danish monarchy and a first step down the road towards an independent Norwegian state.
In the power vacuum that originated during the blockade Norges Vel, which quickly became a nation wide organisation, functioned as the voice of the Norwegian people and civil administration. Soon the company was taking steps to organise the economy, build roads and canals, maintain public transport, organise museums and parts of the board of education.
Professionally the company was organised in seven central classes, with a nation wide network of district commissions and parish companies as their subordinates. Many perceived Norges Vel to be almost functioning as a deep state for this period where the classes worked as departments that ran the local administrations. No one could represent the Norwegian populace with more weight or trustworthiness over Copenhagen.
On the road to constitution and independence
Norges Vels «self-sufficiency project» during the blockade reinforced the Norwegian elite's views and requirements that Norway should have internal economic independence. When the Kiel peace came about in January 1814, there were few who doubted the country was capable of feeding itself even as a politically independent country. Scientific optimisim and belief in the countries economic potential that Norges Vel was the exponent for, showed that Norway had all the prerequisites to create a complex and multi-faceted economy that could provide for its people. This was the backdrop for the decision that crown-prince Christian Frederik and his inner circle made in the months after the peace treaty in Kiel, and led to the adoption of the constitution on the 17th of May 1814.