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Scandinavians in the State House

Scandinavians in the State House

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How Nordic Immigrants Shaped Minnesota Politics

Author Klas Bergman

Minnesota Historical Society Press (April 15, 2017)

The story of Nordic immigrant influence in Minnesota politics and culture, and the lasting legacy of a “Scandinavian state in the New World.”


Beginning in the 1850s, thousands of immigrants from Nordic countries settled in Minnesota and quickly established themselves in the political life of their new home. These Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, Finns, and Icelanders first sowed their political seeds at the local level—as town clerks, city councilmen, county commissioners, sheriffs—and then broadened their sights to the state and national realm. Nordic immigrants served as governors, as Minnesota state senators and representatives, as U.S. congressmen, and as vice presidents of the United States. Many came to this country for political reasons and became radicals and activists in Minnesota. Others served as key leaders within the state’s political parties.

In Scandinavians in the State House, Klas Bergman explores who these immigrant politicians were and what drove them to become civically involved so soon after arriving in Minnesota. Profiling the individuals and movements at the forefront of this political activity, at the state and local level, Bergman examines the diverse political philosophies of the immigrant communities and reveals the lasting legacy of Scandinavian politicians in the creation of modern Minnesota—from Nelson and Olson, to Andersen and Carlson, to Humphrey and Mondale.

Author information

Klas Bergman is a longtime journalist and freelance writer. Born in Sweden, he spent nearly 20 years as a reporter and correspondent for the leading Swedish daily newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, including six years as the chief U.S. correspondent based in Washington, D.C. He has also worked for the World Bank, Yale and Stanford universities, and the Swedish embassy in Germany. Bergman is the author of Land of Dreams: A Reporter's Journey from Sweden to America. You can follow him on Twitter @ksbergman.

Reviews and news

In the media:

TPT's Almanac

Star Tribune


​AM950's The Matt McNeil Show

The Norwegian American

Q&A with Klas Bergman

Aaron Brown in the Hibbing Daily Tribune

Swedish Press (p. 19)

Labor World, Duluth MN (p.3)

Country Messenger

"Bergman has written a comprehensive and balanced account of Scandinavian politics in Minnesota. He makes a strong case that Scandinavian cultural values have shaped the political culture of the state."
Scandinavian Studies

“I just finished reading your wonderful new book, Scandinavians in the State House and I loved it. It hits exactly the right spot and it fills up and describes in detail a lot of elements that we miss here close to home. I loved the chapter on the Finns. Well, I loved them all. It is an example of depth of your scholarship.”
Former U.S. Vice President, Walter F. Mondale to Klas Bergman (used with permission)

Advance Praise:

“Bergman has written an essential text on Minnesota politics. This is a rich, engaging, and thoroughly researched narrative of the strong Scandinavian imprint on the state’s public life—both past and present.”
Steven E. Schier, Congdon Professor of Political Science, Carleton College

“Well researched. Well written. Klas Bergman has made an important contribution not just to Minnesota’s history but to understanding the extraordinary role immigrants have played in defining the American dream.”
Arne Helge Carlson, Governor of Minnesota, 1991–99

“They were farmers, miners, and laborers. They were Republicans and radicals. They were pastors, poets, and politicians. They were the men and women of Scandinavia who came to Minnesota in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and gave their adopted homeland a distinctive, highly participatory civic culture. With rich detail, Klas Bergman tells a truly epic saga, inseparable from the story of Minnesota itself.
Lori Sturdevant, editorial writer and columnist, Star Tribune

“Klas Bergman vividly explains the historic migration of people, politics, religion, and culture from Scandinavia to key roles in the political life of the North Star State. The book is a timely reminder of the ongoing importance of immigration to America’s civic life.”
Tom Berg, author of Minnesota’s Miracle: Learning from the Government That Worked

“Whether you are a casual observer or a serious student of Minnesota’s political history, Klas Bergman’s book should be on your ‘must read’ list.”
Roger Moe, Minnesota Senate majority leader, 1981–2003

“Minnesota has sure been molded and shaped by Scandinavians in governing positions. I am proud and respectful of all of them and their service to our great state . . . even the Scandinavians that I might disagree with!”
Steve Sviggum, Minnesota House speaker, 1998–2006

Scandinavians in the State House reinforces just how powerful Nordic immigrants were in the development of what I call Minnesota Exceptionalism, our distinctively progressive character and a communitarian political culture. Bergman not only provides rich new detail on the full extent of that influence and dominance, but he also is respectful of our newest immigrants, who are bringing their own energy and political leadership to the path the Scandinavians blazed.”
Dane Smith, President, Growth & Justice

  • This title is also available at your favorite e-book vendor.
  • 304 pages
  • 20 b&w photos, index
  • 6x9 inches
  • ISBN: 9781681340302

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