Law by which King John V prohibited the use of costumes and language of the Romani people

“Considering the behaviours of the Gypsies that “commit theft, deceit and many other offences and outrages”, the king orders that “no one in this kingdom… uses the costumes, the language or the contraptions of the Gypsies… that they don’t live together, or occupy more than two houses per street, or walk together on the roads”, but use the way of life of the people of the land.”

Tipos ciganos”. Document of the fonds Empresa Pública do Jornal O Século, Joshua Benoliel, lote 05, cx. 01, negativo 06

The 8th of April was officially declared as the International Roma Day in 1971, having been accepted by the majority of associations of Romani communities, with a view to promote the Romani culture.

The National Archive Torre do Tombo presents a law of 1708, of King John V, on the Romani people.

This law, like others issued in previous and posterior kingdoms, is a significant document for the knowledge of the history of the condition of the Romani minority in our country that, since its arrival to Portugal in the 15th century coming from Spain, was the object of discriminatory laws.

Besides the rejection of nomadism and other habits and traditions – like language, costumes and fortune-telling – these laws established penalties like working in the galleys and being exiled to Portuguese colonies, like Brazil.

It would take four centuries of living in the Portuguese territory for the Romani people to be granted the Portuguese citizenship, in 1822, by the Constitution of the Liberal Monarchy.

The Romani people, widely known for their negative visibility, are however still unknown for their history, culture and traditions.

The Roma were victims of the Holocaust (25 to 50 percent of the population) but were only tardily recognised as such: it was only in 2012 that the first monument in memory of the Romani victims of the Holocaust was inaugurated in Berlin, Germany.

Throughout Europe the hostility against the Romani people has been increasing, which today represent 12 to 10 million people in the European Union. In Portugal, they represent only 0.3 percent of the population, about 35 thousand people.

Zeljko Jovanovic, the director of the Open Society Roma Initiatives Office, states that “The situation of the Roma reflects the deep European values and liberal democracy crisis” (…) “Many politicians all over Europe have learned that they can manipulate society against the Roma to gain votes.”

The European Romani people are still particularly vulnerable to poverty and exclusion, being considered the poorest ethnic group, with worse living conditions, undereducated and the main target of racism and discrimination in modern societies.

In response to this problem the European Union implemented, from 2011, an EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies.

In 2013, for the first time, a strategy specifically directed at the Romani people in Portugal was approved: National Roma Integration Strategy.

The evaluation reported by the European Commission indicates that the goal is far from being achieved: the access to education has improved (the attendance of early childhood education has increased and early school-leaving was reduced), but there is little advance in health, the housing situation is still critical. In the employment area there was no relevant improvement, there is even more youth that neither study nor work and, in some countries, the hostility has increased.

Maria Trindade Serralheiro, Senior Technician / Information, Statistics and Quality Systems, General Directorate of Books, Archives and Libraries, Portugal

Ana Isabel Fernandes (trad.), Senior Technician / Communication Office, Torre do Tombo National Archive, General Directorate of Books, Archives and Libraries, Portugal

Contrasts in the centuries of the Maltese Enlightenment

The Age of Enlightenment was an intellectual and philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries. Philosophers and scientists of the period widely circulated their ideas through meetings at scientific academies, Masonic lodges, literary salons, coffeehouses, and in printed books, journals and pamphlets. The ideas of the Enlightenment undermined the authority of the Monarchy and the Catholic Church and paved the way for the political revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries.

The “Radical Enlightenment” promoted the concept of separating church and state, an idea that is often credited to English philosopher John Locke (1632–1704). According to his principle of the social contract, the government lacked authority in the realm of individual conscience, as this was something rational people could not cede to the government for it or others to control. For Locke, this created a natural right in the liberty of conscience, which he said must therefore remain protected from any government authority.

AIM Corr 102, ff 16
Location of origin: L-Arkivji tal-Kattidral
(Cathedral Archives, Malta)

This letter was written exactly 229 years ago, on March 31, 1792 and is kept by the Cathedral Archives of Malta (L-Arkivji tal-Kattidral). The letter illustrates the ways in which Enlightenment ideas undermined the authority of the Catholic Church in Malta in the 18th century.

The author was the Inquisitor Giovanni Filippo Gallarati Scotti who wrote to Cardinal Francesco Saverio De Zeleda in Italian language. The object of his letter is Giovanni Nicolò Muscat, the Uditore or General Advocate to Grand Master De Rohan (1727–1795). Muscat was born in very poor circumstances in Valetta on March 8, 1735. However, he was brought up by his aunt, who paid his studies. Muscat was profoundly immersed in the culture of the Enlightenment.

He was a firm believer of Voltaire’s view that Enlightened Despotism was necessary to strengthen the power of sovereigns in all matters, to promote social well-being and political stability. During the Enlightenment in Malta as in Central Europe, such ideas favoured by Monarchs and the Grand Masters clashed with the authority of the Catholic Church; the bishops and inquisitors had their own tribunals, superior censoring rights and held the monopoly on education.

One of the fiercest battles was that over the exequatur or, as it was more commonly known in Malta, the Vidit. The Government claimed the right to sanction or prohibit the execution of any legal instrument issued by foreign courts. The auditor of Mgr. Scotti, the Inquisitor, argued with Muscat that this law was harmful to ecclesiastical liberty and to the privileges and dignity of the Pontifical Tribunals. Muscat maintained that the Church could exert its jurisdiction solely in matters pertaining to the Sacraments, the faith, morals, and ecclesiastical discipline, though He avowed to have been, was, and always will be, a true and faithful son of the Church.

In the letter, Giovanni Nicolò Muscat, is now said, as described by Inquisitor Scotti, to have publicly exclaimed “indecent expressions” including that the age of the power of the Church is over, thus affirming his belief that the power of Enlightened Sovereigns should replace that of the Church.

Gio’ Nicolo’ Muscat can certainly be described as a most outstanding and stupendous philosopher. He dared to challenge the hegemony of the Catholic Church in an age when it was right across-the-board.

This record will be showcased at the first thematic exhibition of the European Digital Treasures project, entitled Construction of Europe – History, Memory and Myth of Europeanness over 1000 years.

Anna Palcso, Public Education Officer at National Archives of Hungary

Ibero-American Migratory Movements online database

The Ibero-American Migratory Movements Portal is a project coordinated by the Subdirectorate General of State Archives of the Spanish Ministry of Culture and Sport, developed with the aim of promoting and facilitating access to documentary collections relating to Spanish emigration to Ibero-America in the period of Mass European emigration to the Americas. It offers free access to any user interested in accessing the documents and digitised images of these collections.

This database is the result of intense cooperation between various Spanish and Latin American archives, which will gradually increase as the documentation of a migratory nature preserved on both sides of the Atlantic is described and digitised.

Spanish migrants.
General Archive of Administration (Spain)

After the discovery of America, Spanish migration to the Indies was a constant linked to the colonisation of the new territories which produced a steady flow of emigrants to the continent. However, the colonial age is not very relevant to migratory movements if we compare it with the emigration that took place during the 19th and 20th centuries.

In keeping with the dynamics of certain European countries, between the end of the 19th century and the first thirty years of the 20th century, Spain became a country of economic emigration. This is the age of massive emigration of Spaniards to America, which had a social importance and demographic weight way above that of the colonial era. During this chronological period, the American continent opened its doors to immigrants. Many governments believed that the solution to the lack of labour and the exploitation of new products lay in this group of people, and that their work force could materially develop emerging states.

Spanish migrants.
General Archive of Administration (Spain)

It is difficult to calculate the exact number of Spanish emigrants leaving to America during this period due to the dispersion of sources, but it fluctuates between two and four million people according to authors. Of all the Ibero-american countries receiving Spanish workers, Argentina and Cuba recorded the highest percentage of continuous flow, as immigration was encouraged by various governments and strengthened by family networks.

The Great Depression during the thirties put an end to massive emigration to America, although the phenomenon did not simply vanish. At this time, host countries started to restrict the entrance of new immigrants.

However, the Spanish Civil War saw the start of a new migratory wave: exile. Mexico, under the presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas, rescued and received between fifteen and twenty thousand exiled Spanish republicans from refugee camps in France, and became one of the main host countries.

This database currently allows consultation of 77,480 records of emigrants and 244,802 digitised images of documents from archival collections that provide evidence of emigration to Argentina, Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Uruguay.

Through this project, many descendants of Spaniards have been able to follow the documentary trail of their ancestors, either out of simple family curiosity or, in most cases, to obtain documents that generate rights of option to Spanish nationality, especially in the case of the descendants of political exiles. Therefore, with this project, the Spanish State Archives have contributed to generate digital resources that allow the restitution of rights in a context of democratic memory.

Cristina Díaz Martínez
Head of Institutional Relations. Spanish State Archives

For more information, visit the portal or watch the following video (in Spanish).

“What we can expect from the Pan-European Movement?”

The following document is the March 18, 1928 issue of the Pan-European Movement’s Hungarian-language periodical, the Pan-European Bulletin, written in English language. It was edited by the Hungarian Ferenc Faluhelyi (October 29, 1886 – December 24, 1944), an international law expert and founder of the Institute of Minorities of the University of Pécs. This record will be on display at the first thematic exhibition of the European Digital Treasures project, entitled Construction of Europe – History, Memory and Myth of Europeanness over 1000 years. You can read more about the exhibitions here.

“What We Can Expect From The Pan European Movement?” (Anniversary of issue, 18.03.1928), Location of original record: National Archives of Hungary Reference code: HU MNL BaML XIV 20 b 38 4

Over the years, the interests of Ferenc Faluhelyi gradually aimed from public and criminal law to international law – which he consistently mentioned as interstate law in his lectures and studies. As a researcher and professor, he had been concerned with minority issues since 1926, proclaiming the principle of the equality of states and, within this, the need for the citizens of individual nations to exercise their fundamental rights. He considered the issue of minority protection as a point of doing.

The Hungarian Pan-European Committee was established in Budapest on June 24th, 1926. Lawyers, economists, and representatives of the economic and financial circles played a prominent role in establishing and promoting the goals of the movement. The pursuit of the Hungarian committee – similarly to the government’s foreign policy – started from the injustice of the peace treaty and fought for its revision.

The Pan-European Movement was an appropriate answer to the issue of the national minorities, since its main feature was the aspiration to reduce the significance of the state borders. A united Europe was important for them, because the continent could only defend itself from the threats of the Soviet Union by the power of unity. The idea was to bring the Pan-European Movement closer to the customs union, with unconditional respect for minority rights, language and cultural development, and free contact between minorities in other parts of the country, especially with their “blood brothers in the motherland”.

Hungarian Pan-Europeanists considered it important to clarify their relationship with the nation and to define the relationship between the European and national elements. Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi believed that the feeling of belonging to a nation – like the religion – could be a private matter, and thus the concept of a European nation could be formed. Hungarian Pan-Europeanists did not accept this position, rejected it, considered it a utopia to strive for uniformity, and saw the uniqueness and strength of a united Europe in the totality, harmonious coexistence and cooperation of individual cultures represented and mediated by different nations.

The Pan-European Movement also attracted significant personalities in Hungary, but was unable to put pressure on government circles that did not recognise – or did not want to recognise – the forum provided by the Pan-European Movement to promote foreign policy goals and seek allies. The Hungarian government, like other European governments, did not want to achieve its foreign policy goals by coordinating them with the interests of other states, in a Pan-European framework, but by balancing them between states, taking advantage of their contradictions. The possible development of the Pan-European orientation of the government – as in the case of the other states – could have been greatly helped by the official establishment of the Franco-German rapprochement and cooperation. By the time the Briand Plan based on this could have been discussed, the economic situation was no longer appropriate and the Pan-European political environment was becoming less and less appropriate.

The achievements of Ferenc Faluhelyi in the field of protection of the minorities were honored in 1933 by the Hague-based Association Internationale Pour les Études du Droit des Minorités, and in that year he was awarded the Badge of the Order of the Crown of Italy for his distinguished knowledge and presentation of Italian international law.

Anna Palcsó
Public Education Officer, National Archives of Hungary

International Women’s Day

March 8 is the International Women’s Day. The day has been celebrated since 1910, and on March 8, since 1914. The United Nations recognised Women’s Day in 1975, in connection with the International Year of Women. The day was instituted to honour the fight for women’s rights and to support a demand for universal suffrage for women.

Meeting concerning voting rights of Norwegian women, at the opening, 3 June, 1902 in the Old Ballroom at the University of Oslo. Photo: Severin Worm-Petersen; National Archives of Norway, reference code: RA/PA-0379/ U29_3598.

The photograph above is from a meeting held in the Old Ballroom at the University of Oslo in June 1902. The meeting was concerned with the voting rights of Norwegian women, the key demand of the Suffragette Movement since the turn of century.

Mrs. Fredrikke Marie Qvam (1843–1938), 1896, founder of the Norwegian Women’s Public Health Association, liberal politician and wife of Prime Minister Ole Anton Qvam. Photo: Henriksen; National Archives of Norway; reference code: RA/PA-0379/U4_0406.

In the picture, the Norwegian humanitarian and feminist Mrs. Fredrikke Marie Qvam addresses the meeting of 500 people. She was the leader of the Norwegian Women’s Public Health Association, the organisers of the meeting. The Association was founded in 1884 to safeguard women’s rights and strive for an inclusive society through the voluntary activities of its members. The Association pursued causes such as the improvement of women’s education and finances, preventing violence against women and increasing their political influence. After female voting rights in national elections were achieved in 1913, they worked to improve women’s political participation and for greater gender equality in school, education and working life.

The historical event when Norwegian women from the bourgeoisie and the middle class could vote for the first time in a Parliamentary election, 1909. Photo: Anders Beer Wilse; Norwegian Folk Museum, reference code: NF.06828-009.

In 1893, New Zealand was the first country in the world to introduce female voting rights in national elections. Finland was the first country in Europe to introduce women’s suffrage, in 1906, followed by Norway in 1913 and Denmark in 1915, with many other countries following suit in the years around the end of World War I.

The United Nations supported the introduction of women’s voting rights following World War II. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979) defined it as a basic right within its 189 member countries.

Photography in Malta

Sometimes, administrative records are a documentation of normal moments that eventually have a great impact on society. The National Archives of Malta records one such event that happened 121 years ago.

On March 4, 1840, the French ship Dante entered the harbour of Malta. Coming from the Levant, all passengers were placed in quarantine. Two of them, Émile Jean-Horace Vernet (1789-1865) and his nephew Frédéric Auguste Antoine Goupil-Fesquet (1806-1893), brought photography to Malta.

Register of Arrivals in the Great Harbour of La Valletta, Malta, with the arrival of the “Dante” on March 4, 1840

Their voyage had started in Marseille in October 1839, passing through Malta, the island of Syros, Santorini, Crete and Smyrna, Egypt, the Holy Land, Syria and Constantinople. Gaspard-Pierre-Gustave Joly de Lotbinière (1798-1865), who took the first photographs of the Acropolis of Athens and the pyramids of Egypt, joined them on this voyage.

During the trip, Vernet and Goupil-Fesquet produced many daguerreotypes of the places they visited, using the new photographic technique that had just appeared. In fact, Louis Daguerre (1787-1851) perfected the scientific process of photography in France and made it public in March 1839.

Vernet (1789-1865) and Goupil-Fesquet took advantage of the quarantine in Lazzaretto in Malta to invite some guests and show them the new and surprising photographic process. They invited the Governor, Sir Henry Bouverie, other artists and distinguished guests, including the French Consul, to witness a practical demonstration of the new art in the Lazzaretto.

The Maltese papers noted that the experiment that resulted in the first photograph shot in Malta was “perfectly successful” (Il Portafoglio Maltese, 16 March 1840).

These French pioneer photographers left Malta on March 29, heading for Rome. In 1842, they published a number of daguerreotypes they had produced in the East with the title “Les Excursions Daguerriennes”.

Leonard Callus, National Archives of Malta

The merchandise products: Plan of a machine to raise fresh water from the river to the Alcazar of Toledo and supply the city

Continuing with our series of presentations of the merchandise products, we want to show you the bottle of water inspired by the document “Plan of a machine to raise fresh water from the river to the Alcazar of Toledo and supply the city” 1561 – Simancas General Archive (Spain) that will be part of the exhibition “European Discoveries: From the New World to New Technologies” in the framework of the European Digital Treasures project.

Commissioned by the Spanish State Archives, the designer Ángel Merlo was in charge of creating this product.

Historical background

Plan of a machine to raise fresh water from the river to the Alcazar of Toledo. 1561. General Archive of Simancas (Spain)

Giovanni Turriano, born in Italy in 1500, was a mathematician, astronomer, inventor, watchmaker and engineer. He began his career as a watchmaker in Milan. Later he began working at the service of Emperor Carlos V. And then he began working as a civil engineer paid by the monarchy. In 1565 he was hired to build an engine to supply the Alcázar of Toledo with fresh water from the nearby Tajo river. He succeeded in building it in three years, and it was done so well that he was hired to build another one. The machine was at the time the highest water elevator in the world, providing Toledo with 17 cubic meters of water a day raised from 100 m below.


Glass bottle, Spain. Designer: Ángel Merlo

The Spanish designer Ángel Merlo took the drawing on this record as an inspiration to create a product for domestic or sport use. The bottle is made of glass and stainless steel with circular screen printing in black around it, protected with a softshell sleeve personalised with the Digital Treasures logo. The description and data of the product are printed on the label.

In the designer’s own words: “The document prompted me to create a product related to the transportation of water, but more modern and simple. I chose to make a bottle because I wanted it to be a practical item to use on a daily basis and thus give more visibility to the European Digital Treasures “brand”. Besides, it had to be a viable product, not very expensive to produce. Then I looked for the appropriate glass of water and the way to personalise it. I rejected the idea of putting a label of paper because of the lack of durability and I made a circular serigraphy by treating and vectorising the original image.”

 Spanish State Archives

You can find more info about the record and the designer here:

Diseño de un ingenio para subir agua del rio Tajo al Alcazar de Toledo y proveer a la ciudad (ES-47161-AGS2 – ES-47161-AGS-UD-13790) on


On the making of cannons and missiles

Conrad Haas (1509-1576), a famous 16th century military engineer, was a pioneer of rocket propulsion and, indirectly, one of the earliest pioneers of space exploration. Born near Vienna in a village called Dornbach (today part of the XVII. district of Vienna), he entered the service of the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I. and joined the imperial armed forces going to Transylvania in 1551 where he was appointed Arsenal Master in Sibiu (German: Hermannstadt).

In 1529 he began writing an ambitious and extraordinary innovative treatise on rocket technology. Using his knowledge of mathematics, chemistry, physics, ballistics and pyrotechnics, he produced a text which presents for the first time many concepts and designs that became established in modern rocket technology. He is thus one of the undisputed pioneers of modern missile and rocket engineering as his plans also include manned rockets.

Coligatus of Conrad Haas about cannons and missiles (1400 – 1569). Arhivele Nationale ale României

The text is ambitious and original, a masterpiece in its genre, with 17 different types of rockets described. Haas was the first person to put into writing the concept of motion of multi-stage rockets, of different fuel mixtures using liquid fuel including brandy, delta-shaped fins for the flying machines and bell-shaped nozzles. Besides the calculations and written descriptions of these innovative technologies, Haas also provided colour illustrations in his manuscript to show the design of his devices and experiments.

Haas appears to have worked on this treatise for more than 25 years. The manuscript was completely unknown until its discovery in the State Archives of Sibiu in 1961. The work of Conrad Haas is part of a bigger volume together with two other manuscripts – the “Book of Fireworks” and the “Book of Military Techniques” – and consists of 282 pages.

Although war and battles played a crucial role in his life, Conrad Haas personally held a very pacifistic opinion as he stated at the end of his treatise: “But my advice is more peace and no war, the guns should be left under the roof, so the bullet is not shot, the powder is not burned wet, so the king keeps his money, the gunsmith his life; that is the advice of Conrad Haas.”

Karl Heinz, Scientific and Strategic Project Management
“European Digital Treasures”, ICARUS

Antal Pál Draskovich’s thesis sheet

The following document is the thesis paper of Pál Antal Draskovich of Trakostyán on silk, written in Latin, presented on the occasion of the 335th anniversary of its publication. This record will be on display at the first thematic exhibition of the European Digital Treasures project, entitled Construction of Europe – History, Memory and Myth of Europeanness over 1000 years. You can read more about the exhibitions here.

Location of original record: National Archives of Hungary
Reference code: HU-MNL-OL – P 125 – № 11961

The theses of the dissertation – which are defended in public debate at the universities – were usually published in the form of an ornate design on a single sheet. Theses printed on paper and parchment, decorated with artistic copper engraving were also common, but the copy presented here is made on silk. In terms of its theme, it includes examination topics collected from the subject of logics, from the first year of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Nagyszombat (today: Trnava, Slovakia).

At the University of Nagyszombat, founded in 1635, besides philosophy and the basic sciences such as logics, physics and metaphysics, students also studied theology and law. In line with the new educational principles introduced by the Jesuits, the emphasis in education was primarily on getting to know, to understand, and to clearly articulate these in writing. Thus, during the exams, the ability to debate played an extremely important role, in addition to the acquired knowledge. The exams were conducted in the framework of monthly public debates held on Saturday afternoons, which were led by the teacher of the given grade. According to the study regulations, the debates were to be attended by pre-defined contributors: the student, of course, as well as three defenders (defendentes) and three reviewers (oppugnantes). The content and topics (theses) of the discussion were also bound, which were posted in advance at the exam venue, on more solemn occasions they were also printed out and sent to the guests invited for the exam.

The thesis sheet of Pál Antal Draskovich is an especially decorative paper corresponding to the tastes of the Baroque era, which contains six exam topics explaining the subject and usefulness of the science of logic. The printed text on silk is surrounded by a hand-painted, richly colored floral ornament, which is adorned with the coat-of-arms of the Draskovich family.

Pál Antal Draskovich of Trakostyán (1668–1693) is a member of a Hungarian noble family of Croatian origin. His father, Judge royal Miklós Draskovich, held the second highest secular rank among the country’s nobles. However, he was executed in Vienna for taking part in the Wesselényi conspiracy, which aimed to overthrow the rule of the Habsburg House in Hungary and Croatia. Count Pál Antal’s mother was Krisztina Nádasdy – the daughter of Ferenc Nádasdy, one of the most powerful noble in the country and Júlia Anna Esterházy. This fact could have been a guarantee that, despite the public dragging of the head of the family, Pál Antal could receive a quality education.

Pál Antal Draskovich held a public debate on February 9, 1686 at the University of Nagyszombat. This thesis was probably made as a gift for the uncle of Pál Antal’s, palatine Pál Esterházy. Unfortunately, the life story of the young man with high hopes ended soon, and no major political career could take place since he died at the age of 25. His thesis sheet, on the other hand, is a beautiful example of the Baroque cultural and educational history. It will be seen as part of the third pillar of the exhibition Construction of Europe – History, Memory and Myth of Europeanness over 1000 years, which also deals with the creation and further traditionalization of the Christian knowledge base.

Dorottya Szabó, senior archivist, National Archives of Hungary
Anna Palcsó, public education officer, National Archives of Hungary

The Sámi National Day on February 6

The Sámi National Day (Northern Sámi: Sámi álbmotbeaivi) on February 6 is an ethnic national day for the indigenous Sámi people. It commemorates the date when the first Sámi congress was held in 1917 in Trondheim, Norway. This congress was the first time that Norwegian and Swedish Sámi came together across their national borders to work together to find common solutions.

In the European Digital Treasures project, we have included one document that relates to the Sámi people. It is a page from a textbook in Sámi entitled ABC (1951), and was made by Margarethe Wiig. When the book was published, it was the first textbook dedicated to Sámi children in their own language. The book is an example of how European countries have changed their policies towards minorities after World War II.

Margarethe Wiig (1903-2002) was the wife of a Norwegian priest and later bishop, Alf Wiig. From 1923 to 1934 she and her husband lived in Karasjok (Norway), where he was parish priest. Karasjok is located in the middle of the Finnmark plateau, in the midst of the Norwegian part of Sápmi (the Sámi area).

While Wiig lived in Karasjok, she became aware that there were no textbooks for education in Sámi. She was convinced that “an ABC book based on these children’s environment with partial use of their own language not only would be desirable, but also necessary.” Optimistic and committed, she set off, without any formal qualifications.

Wiig worked closely with Sámi children and experts in Sámi language and pedagogy when the book was made. She also drew inspiration from ABC books from other countries. The work with the textbook was an assignment from the Ministry of Church and Education, which was responsible for approving textbooks. She fought several battles with the ministry. They were for a long time negative to the idea of including texts in Sámi, but Margarethe Wiig was very determined that the book should have parallel texts in Sámi and Norwegian, so that the Sámi children could learn to read their own mother tongue.

In the final phase of the work on the book, the authoress was summoned to a secret meeting with the Ministry of Church and Education and the Ministry of Defence. In the meeting she was told that she had to change the map in the book (on the page shown here). Originally, she had placed a reindeer over both Norway, Sweden and Finland. It should illustrate that the Sámi covered areas in all three countries. That had to be changed so the reindeer didn´t touch Finnish land. Only many years later did she understand why. During the Cold War, Norway wanted only limited relations with Finland, due to the threat from the Soviet Union, to which Finland with its long common national border was very exposed.

The ABC book was a huge success. Sámi children had finally got their own textbook. It has been characterised as the most important in Sámi textbook history. And not only that, the book became popular in wide circles not least because of the colourful and beautiful illustrations. Several hotels in Finnmark had the book for sale. Good publicity for Norway, said the Ministry. Rumours of the successful textbook reached all the way to Korea. There it was used as a model for a textbook for Korean children. Margarethe Wiik later received a letter of thanks with greetings from 70,000 teachers and 3 million school children in Korea.

Norway’s Sámi policy had more or less focused on assimilation from the late 1800s to the 1960s. However, following World War II, there was a gradual shift in the attitude towards the Sámi people and their culture, coinciding with the rebirth of Sámi political organisations. The use of Norwegian and Sámi in schools is a good example of this shift. For several decades from the late 1880s, the school authorities, backed by politicians, pursued a strict policy of Norwegianisation. All school books were in Norwegian, and Sámi was only used as an auxiliary language to help pupils in the lower grades.

After World War II, government authorities included those who wished to abandon the Norwegian policy of assimilation and provide conditions that were more conducive to the promotion of the Sámi language and culture. Use of the written Sámi language has indeed increased since the 1970s. The Sámi Parliament was established in 1989 to deal with (among other things) issues relating to Sámi language, culture and society.

Text by Ole Gausdal, National Archives of Norway
Illustrations from the ABC book reproduced with the approval of
The Arctic University Museum of Norway