Norwegians on the Prairie: Ethnicity and the Development of the Country Town


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by Odd Lovoll

Hardcover / Paperback

Lovoll, born in Norway and professor emeritus of history at St. Olaf College, has authored many books and articles on Norwegian immigration to the Upper Midwest. His earlier books, and those by many other authors, have generally been centered on experiences immigrants faced in big cities or on the hardships and adversity they lived through as they cleared the prairie preparing for a livelihood of farming.

In this book, however, Lovoll’s subject is the lingering impact on small towns that 100 and 150 years earlier had served as trading centers for farmers. Lovoll focuses on three communities located on Minnesota’s western prairie; Benson, Madison, and Starbuck, MN. In this work, he points out that “family stability and inmarrriage,” reinforced by the Lutheran Church, sustained the Norwegian language and customs for an extended period” and this theory led Lovoll to examine the historical, economic, cultural, religious and political history of these communities from the 1860s until the present. The author’s academic background becomes obvious to the reader. Lovoll’s meticulous research into census data, careful reading of local newspapers, and extensive interviews with descendants of Norwegian immigrants support his conclusion that strong ties to homeland are visible today in each town’s social, political and religious character.

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