Book Review: Scandinavia in the First World War


by Claes Ahlund, editor

Lund: Nordic Academic Press / Chicago: Independent Publishers Group, 2012. Pp. 360. Illus., tables, notes, index. $55.95. ISBN: 9187121573

Scandinavia in the First World War brings together essays by several scholars on what is a largely overlooked part of the Great War, the relationship of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark to the great conflict. 

The book opens with an introduction that provides an overview of the politics and foreign policies of the Scandinavian states on the eve of the war, and their responses to the conflict within the framework of their collective neutrality.  The thirteen essays that follow, originally presented in a series of conferences held since 2009, give us a look at how the Scandinavian nations were affected by the war, and the “little wars” that followed in the Baltic States and Finland.  Various essays deal with journalistic and literary treatments of the war, even its depiction in Scandinavian spy novels.  There are looks at espionage in the region and at cooperation among the three countries to maintain neutrality and secure financial stability.  Other essays deal with perceptions of the war as a racial conflict, humanitarian activities, women and the peace movement, reactions to the Armenian genocide, and the intelligence war in Scandinavia.  Several essays look at the military service of Scandinavians, such volunteers or émigrés in foreign armies, the wartime experiences of the Danish minority within Germany, and the war as it affected Scandinavian merchant mariners, many of whom perished when their ships were attacked mistakenly.  There is also an interesting essay on the effect of the war on the teaching of military history by the Swedish General Staff.  There is, curiously, no detailed discussion of military preparations to avoid involvement, nor a look at Allied or Central Powers efforts to bring the three nations into the war.

This is an important book for anyone interested in the broader impact of the Great War.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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