Halvdan Koht

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Halvdan Koht : biography

7 July 1873 – 12 December 1965

Koht’s stay in the United States had an impact on his historical views and adaptation of historical materialism, and he also tried to encourage the study of American history in Norway.Koht, 1951: pp. 150–151 American culture did not have a particularly high standing in Norway at the time. In school, Koht did not learn proper English.Koht, 1951: p. 58 Before he embarked to the US, some historian colleagues insinuated that the country "barely had any history" and was not worth visiting.Koht, 1951: p. 123 Koht’s first writing on the subject came in 1910 with the lecture Genesis of American Independence. He followed with Pengemakt og arbeid i Amerika ("Monetary Power and Labor in America", 1910), which was based on "People’s Academy" lectures, then Amerikansk kultur ("American Culture", 1912) and Den amerikanske nasjonen ("The American Nation", 1920). He would return briefly to American academia during his career, for instance in the autumn of 1930 to hold a course at Harvard University.Koht, 1951: p. 165

Wishing to unite materialism and idealism, Koht became interested in psychology and the role of individuals in history. The latter focus led to his becoming, in the words of his biographer Åsmund Svendsen, "one of the greatest biographers of the 20th century". Inspired by the work with Norsk Forfatter-lexikon, he wrote a life of the author Henrik Wergeland in 1908. Later he published biographies both of Norwegians and foreigners: Otto von Bismarck (1911), Ivar Aasen (1913), Johan Sverdrup in three volumes between 1916 and 1925, Marcus Thrane in 1917, Henrik Ibsen in two volumes in 1928 and 1929, and Haakon VII of Norway in 1943. He also wrote about 400 pieces in the first edition of Norsk biografisk leksikon, a biographical dictionary which would become a preeminent source on important figures in Norwegian history. Between 1909 and 1932 he published letters and original writings of Henrik Ibsen, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, Aasmund Olavsson Vinje and Henrik Wergeland. He chaired Kjeldeskriftfondet from 1918 to 1927 and Norsk historisk kjeldeskriftråd from 1923 to 1928, two institutions that dealt with publishing of source texts. He also chaired the Norwegian Historical Association from 1912 to 1927 and 1932 to 1936, the Norwegian Genealogical Society from 1928 to 1940 and the Comité International des Sciences Historiques from 1926 to 1933.

Honorary positions

Koht became a fellow of the learned society Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters in 1908. Between 1923 and 1939 he was both praeses and vice praeses. He held honorary degrees from the University of Oxford, the University of Chicago and the University of Warsaw. He was decorated by France as a Knight of the Legion of Honour, and in 1952 he received the Gunnerus Medal from the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters. He was also a member of the International Society for the History of Medicine.2001, Franz-Andre Sondervorst, Chronique de SIHM

References and notes

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Further reading

Category:1873 births Category:1965 deaths Category:Norwegian people of German descent Category:People from Tromsø Category:People from Skien Category:University of Oslo alumni Category:University of Oslo faculty Category:Norwegian historians Category:Members of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters Category:Chevaliers of the Légion d’honneur Category:Norwegian expatriates in Denmark Category:Norwegian expatriates in France Category:Norwegian expatriates in Germany Category:Norwegian expatriates in the United States Category:Bærum politicians Category:Labour Party (Norway) politicians Category:Government ministers of Norway Category:Norwegian people of World War II Category:Norwegian expatriates in the United Kingdom Category:Noregs Mållag Category:Burials at Nordre gravlund