Two important features in Norwegian history of the late 19th and early 20th cent. were the large-scale emigration to the United States and the great arctic and antarctic explorations by such notable men as Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen. Three outstanding cultural figures of the period were Edvard Grieg, Henrik Ibsen, and Edvard Munch. In World War I, Norway remained neutral. The industrial development of Norway, spurred by the harnessing of water power, contributed to the rise of the Labor (socialist) party, which has predominated in Norwegian politics since 1927. In the 1930s much social welfare legislation was passed, including public health and housing measures, pensions, aid to the disabled, and unemployment insurance.
Norway attempted to remain neutral in World War II, but in Apr., 1940, German troops invaded, and in a short time nearly the whole country was in German hands. King Haakon and his cabinet set up a government in exile in London, and the Norwegian merchant fleet was of vital assistance to the Allies throughout the war. Despite the attempts of Vidkun Quisling to promote collaboration with the Germans, the people of Norway defied the occupation forces. German troops remained in Norway until the war ended in May, 1945. Although half of the Norwegian fleet was sunk during the war, Norway quickly recovered its commercial position. Postwar economic policy included a degree of socialism and measures such as price, interest, and dividend controls.
Norway was one of the original members of the United Nations (the Norwegian Trygve Lie was the first UN Secretary-General), and it became a member of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949. King Olaf V succeeded to the throne in 1957. Norway joined the European Free Trade Association in 1959. Norwegian voters rejected membership in the European Community (now the European Union) in 1972, but trade agreements with the market were made the next year. Between 1965 and 1971 the Labor party was out of power for the first time since 1936.
The Labor party returned to power in 1971 under the leadership of Trygve Bratteli, whose government resigned but was restored to power in the 1973 elections. Bratteli was succeeded as prime minister by Odvar Nordli in 1976, who was quickly succeeded (1977) by Gro Harlem Brundtland, Norway's first woman prime minister. Brundtland was defeated by Conservative Kåre Willoch in the 1981 election, but she returned to the office of prime minster in 1986 and 1990. In 1991, Harold V succeeded his father Olaf V as king of Norway.
Norway sparked international controversy in 1992 when it refused to conform to the International Whaling Treaty (see whaling). During 1993, the Norwegian government facilitated secret negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, which led to agreements on Palestinian self-rule. Norwegian voters again rejected membership in the European Union (EU) in 1994. Bruntland resigned in 1996 and was replaced by Thorbjørn Jagland. Following elections in 1997, Jagland resigned and Christian Democrat Kjell Magne Bondevik became prime minister, heading a center-right coalition government that included the Center and Liberal parties.
In Mar., 2000, Bondevik resigned after losing a key vote in parliament, and Labor party leader Jens Stoltenberg formed a new government. In parliamentary elections in Sept., 2001, Labor suffered a significant setback, with nonsocialist opposition parties winning a bare majority of the seats. Bondevik again became prime minister, heading a center-right minority government consisting of the Christian Democrat, Conservative, and Liberal parties.
Parliamentary elections in Sept., 2005, brought Labor and its allies into office, and Stoltenberg became prime minister. The far-right Progress party, espousing a populist, anti-immigration platform, became the largest opposition party after the vote. The Labor-led coalition government remained in office after the Sept., 2009, parliamentary elections. In July, 2011, the country was stunned by the bombing of government offices in Oslo, which killed eight, and the killing of 68 people at a Labor party youth camp; the attacks were by an extreme rightist who accused the government of allowing the Islamization of Norwegian society. The Sept., 2013, parliamentary elections resulted in a victory for the conservative opposition, though Labor won a plurality. The Conservative party formed a minority coalition government with the populist Progress party, and Conservative leader Erna Solberg became prime minister