Drawing on examples from Danish and Norwegian history, this article traces the ideological origins of Nordic democracy. It takes as its starting point the observation that constitutional theories of democracy were rather weak in the Nordic countries until the mid-twentieth century; instead, a certain Nordic tradition of popular constitutionalism rooted in a romantic and organic idea of the people was central to the ideological foundations of Nordic democracy. This tradition developed alongside agrarian mobilization in the nineteenth century, and it remained a powerful ideological reference-point through most of the twentieth century, exercising, for instance, an influence on debates about European integration in the 1960s and 1970s. However, this tradition was gradually overlaid by more institutional understandings of democracy from the mid-twentieth century onwards, with the consequence that the direct importance of this folk’ish heritage declined towards the late twentieth century. Nevertheless, clear echoes of this heritage remain evident in some contemporary Nordic varieties of populism, as well as in references to the concept of folkestyre as the pan-Scandinavian synonym for democracy.