Pro­fessor of History Dave Stewart is teaching a new Scan­di­navian history class this semester. / Nolan Ryan

The history department is offering a new one-credit class with no text­books and weekly, hour-long meetings. It seems too good to be true.

But it’s real: For the first time, Pro­fessor of History Dave Stewart is teaching a class called Scan­di­navian History. Twenty stu­dents attend the weekly lec­tures, a large class size by Hillsdale stan­dards. Eight of these stu­dents are not history majors.

The class wouldn’t have hap­pened without the efforts of senior Dean Sin­clair, a history major whose interest in the history of Scan­di­navian nations prompted him to suggest the new course.

Sin­clair said he first approached Lucy Moye, asso­ciate pro­fessor of history, with the idea for the class. She directed Sin­clair to Stewart to inquire into a pos­sible inde­pendent study. Stewart took some time to plan the class and offered it to anyone who wanted to reg­ister.

Stewart said though they orig­i­nally intended for Sin­clair to do an inde­pendent study, Sin­clair believed there were other stu­dents would would like to take the course.

“We simply listed it in the course offerings to determine if he was correct,” Stewart said. “Of course, he was.”

Neither Stewart nor Sin­clair expected the class to become as popular as it is.

“[Stewart] ini­tially just thought it would be me and one or two other kids that I roped into it, but I think we’re almost to twenty kids now, which for a one-credit seminar is huge,” Sin­clair said. “I’m pretty pleased with how it’s turned out. I’ve never done some­thing like this, never aca­d­e­m­i­cally pro­posed a class. But I’m just really happy that it’s hap­pening.”

Stewart said he thought Scan­di­navian history would be an inter­esting subject to teach. The class covers a wide time period, almost the entirety of the region’s history.

“The first day, we talked about what archae­ol­o­gists call the pre-Vikings,” Stewart said. “Then we did the Vikings through the Middle Ages. We’ll slow down as we get into the Modern and Early Modern periods.”

Stewart and Sin­clair both noted the Scan­di­navian coun­tries, including Norway, are often pre­sented in modern America as models of a perfect society, eco­nom­i­cally and socially. Studying the past of Scan­di­navia, Sin­clair said, allows stu­dents to better under­stand why northern European coun­tries have given their gov­ern­ments greater roles in social issues.

“Scan­di­navia is often held up in the con­tem­porary world and in American pol­itics as the model,” Stewart said. “Because it’s held up so much in political dis­course, it’s inter­esting to test those claims. Is it really this model people say it is?”

Sophomore Philip Bernston, who plans to study history, said he has a per­sonal interest in the class: His mother immi­grated to the U.S. from Sweden when she was 23 years old.

“I’ve always been inter­ested in Scan­di­navian history throughout my life,” Bernston said. “I figured this would be a sweet class to learn more about my family’s back­ground and my family’s history. I’m Swedish on both sides. I have a strong attraction to Viking things; I used to dress up as a Viking when I was little.”

Bernston has a few the­ories as to why the class is so popular.

“We learn all about mainland Europe all the time [at Hillsdale], but we never really learn about what’s north,” Bernston said. “There’s a mystery to the North. There’s a mystery to Scan­di­navia that people want to learn about because the aes­thetic of Scan­di­navian culture has always been fas­ci­nating to a lot of people.”

There are cur­rently no plans for this class to be offered again, but Stewart said he would con­sider bringing it back if there were enough demand.

Stewart said one of his favorite aspects from this weekly class is that it’s attracted stu­dents from a variety of depart­ments, not just history majors.

“It’s bringing a lot of people that aren’t even history majors that I wouldn’t oth­erwise meet,” he said. “I’m getting to meet a lot of stu­dents that I would imagine I would never cross paths with.”

Stewart said that the study of Scan­di­navian history is tied into the Western her­itage empha­sized at Hillsdale.

“The West plays out in a lot of dif­ferent ways, and we’re very familiar with the Anglo-American tra­dition,” Stewart said. “Scan­di­navia — indus­tri­al­ization, the Colonial period — plays out in very dif­ferent ways. To me, it’s fas­ci­nating to see the con­trast. I think it gives a fuller appre­ci­ation of the West by seeing the dif­ferent par­ticular ways these basic tra­di­tions are played out.”