The Secrets of Scandinavia

No Longer Available

Streaming until May 31


From Ikea to the Vikings, Finnish saunas to Swedish meatballs, Edvard Munch to the Nobel Prize—the countries of Scandinavia hold enormous appeal in the popular imagination. Add in their strong commitment to social justice and equality, and their consistent ranking among the most prosperous and liveable societies in the world, and it can almost seem fair to ask if they are too good to be true. In this exciting survey of Scandinavian history and culture, historian Carolyn Harris will assess both the romance and reality of the five Nordic nations and the roots of their appeal. As we explore their cultural folkways, their monarchies and governments, and their often jaw-dropping landscapes, she’ll guide us towards a deeper understanding of what makes Scandinavia so unique.

Led by Dr. Carolyn Harris, a historian and author who teaches at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. Dr. Harris has authored three critically acclaimed books on European history and monarchies, and contributed to such outlets as The Globe and Mail, The Wall Street Journal and the BBC.

The six lectures in this series are available to stream until May 31. You can access each lecture at your leisure by clicking on links in your confirmation email, or by visiting your My Shows page.

Lecture 1: A Crash Course in Scandinavian History and Geography
The course begins with an overview of the history and geography of Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland and Norway. As we travel through verdant forests and ice-blue fjords, Viking longhouses and opulent palaces, we’ll trace the stunning diversity of their rugged landscapes and the shifting borders and cultural changes that have shaped them over the centuries.

Lecture 2: From Scandinavia to the World: Explorers, Immigrants and Invaders!
The Viking invasions of the early medieval period spread northern European influences as far as Newfoundland in the west and Russia in the east. For centuries afterwards, Nordic explorers and immigrants continued to leave their mark on regions and cultures across the planet—especially here in North America. 

Lecture 3: Models of Human Progress: Scandinavian Democracies
Going as far back as the Medieval era, the countries of Scandinavia have been celebrated for their systems of fair and responsible government. From the Icelandic Althing, the oldest legislature still in existence, to the innovative social welfare programs in countries like Denmark and Sweden, we’ll try to understand why they are seen as models of human progress.

Lecture 4: Women in Power: Gender Roles from the Viking Era to Today
Ever since the days of the Vikings, women in Scandinavia have enjoyed autonomy and authority compared to their European contemporaries. We’ll examine how they’ve overcome religious changes and patriarchal institutions to carve out a wide range of roles at home and in the public sphere, keeping the Nordic Nations among the world’s most progressive countries on matters of gender equality.

Lecture 5: Creative Capitals: The Art and Culture of the Nordic Nations
Scandinavia is home to a long and illustrious tradition of innovative art, architecture and design. We’ll explore the work of Viking artisans, the dazzling buildings and art collections of the region’s monarchies, and the influential performers, composers and painters who have left their mark at home and abroad.

Lecture 6: Cultural Power, Political Challenges: Scandinavia in the 21st Century
From the trendy Danish concept of hygge, or “cozy well-being”, to the celebrated system of education in Finland, to the Swedish home lifestyle juggernaut known to the world as Ikea, Nordic culture continue to wield immense international influence. But the age of globalization has also brought new challenges to the egalitarian societies that have thrived since the Second World War. We’ll close our historical journey by assessing what may lie ahead for the endlessly fascinating people and nations of Scandinavia.

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Additional Information

Course registration: $49 (Hot Docs Members: $33, $27, Free)

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