National master narratives

Was the Norwegian national archives established to form a national master narrative that enforced our separation from Denmark in 1814?


I’ve just finished reading Stefan Berger’s recently published article «The role of national archives in constructing national master narratives in Europe» (Archival Science), where he «analyses the role of national archives for the construction of national master narratives.». The article is well worth the read, but on page 12, a little over midway through the text, I found a passage that gave me pause. Berger writes about how archives have a «legitimating and authenticating function», and that «considerable tensions developed between the truth-claims of archives and their obvious legitimatory function for nation-states.». He continues:

    «The importance attached to [the archives] was directly related to the importance of nation formation in the nineteenth-century Europe. Nation-states that came into being in the nineteenth century were often particularly quick in establishing national archives. Thus, for example, Norway achieved independence from Denmark in 1814, and the Norwegian national archives were set up in 1817.»

Now, our independence from Denmark in 1814 and the establishment of the national archives in 1817 are certainties, but the connection between the two is more doubtful. Such a connection might very well exist – however! – I haven’t been able to find this particular reason for the establishment of the Norwegian national archives in 1817 in any of the literature that I’ve read – which naturally was why I reacted to this statement in the first place – it seems to be more of an inference to support the overall theme of the article, than an actual, research-based fact. I might of course have missed some essential piece of information on this subject, but then again, perhaps not. Does anyone really know for sure?


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