The first settlers to Norway were hunters and gatherers who arrived here just after the Ice Age. The region is best known for it's Viking Age, a period thought to have begun with the plundering of England's Lindisfarne monastery by Nordic pirates in 793 AD. The Vikings were great sailors and warriors and conquered many lands. Viking leader Harold Hårfagre (Fair-Hair) unified Norway around 900 and King Olav converted the people to Christianity a century later. The Viking Age ended in 1066 with the demise of Norwegian king Harold Hardråda.
Oslo would emerge as a center of power in the 13th century and continued to foster a golden era until the mid-14th century when the bubonic plague devastated the city. At various points in time, Norway was part of Denmark and Sweden. Growing nationalism eventually led to Norway's peaceful secession from Sweden in 1905.
Norway stayed neutral during the world wars but was occupied by the Nazis in 1940, who rampaged through the towns and villages to put down the Resistance. The royal family returned to power at the end of the war.
In 1960 Norway joined the European Free Trade Association and over the next two decades, instituted reforms that make it the 'most egalitarian social democracy in western Europe'. Norway has since achieved one of the highest standards of living in the world.