History of Sweden

History of Sweden

Modern Sweden emerged out of the Kalmar Union formed in 1397 and by the unification of the country by King Gustav Vasa in the 16th century. In the 17th century Sweden expanded its territories to form the Swedish empire. Most of these conquered territories had to be given up during the 18th century. In the early 19th century Finland and the remaining territories outside the Scandinavian peninsula were lost. After its last war in 1814, Sweden entered into a personal union with Norway which lasted until 1905. Since 1814, Sweden has been at peace, adopting a non-aligned foreign policy in peacetime and neutrality in wartime. [ [http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2880.htm#foreign "U.S. State Department Background Notes: Sweden"] "Swedish foreign policy is based on the premise that national security is best served by staying free of alliances in peacetime in order to remain neutral in the event of war...During the Cold War, Sweden was suspicious of the superpowers, which it saw as making decisions affecting small countries without always consulting those countries. With the end of the Cold War, that suspicion has lessened somewhat, although Sweden still chooses to remain nonaligned."]

Pre-historic age: 9,000 BC–AD 800

Sweden, as well as the adjacent country Norway, has a high concentration of petroglyphs ("ristningar" [Papardoukakis, Antonis. "Ristningar på mesolitiska föremål och "neolitiska" skifferföremål från Sverige." (1993) UPARC] or "hällristningar" [Nordström, Patrik. "Arkeologiska undersökningar invid hällristningar. Analys av 16 utgrävningar invid hällristningar i Sverige och Norge." (1995) STARC] in Swedish) throughout the country, with the highest concentration in the province of Bohuslän. The earliest images can, however, be found in the province of Jämtland, dating from 5000 BC.Fact|date=March 2007 They depict wild animals such as elk, reindeer, bears and seals.Fact|date=March 2007 The period 2300–500 BC was the most intensive carving period, with carvings of agriculture, warfare, ships, domesticated animals, etc.Fact|date=March 2007 Also, petroglyphs with themes of sexual nature have been found in Bohuslän; these are dated from 800–500 BC.Fact|date=March 2007

Early Swedish history: 800–1500

A foundation date of the nation Sweden cannot be determined with any degree of certainty, since it evolved from a warfare center of power, Svea Rike, centered in old Uppsala, which might have had many increases and decreases in power and influence. The existence of such a power is stated already by Tacitus (see Suiones), around AD 100. The neighboring areas of West and East Geats probably also played a very important historical role in defining the nation. About 1000, the first certain king over Svea and Göta Riken is documented to be Olof Skötkonung, but the further history is obscure with kings whose periods of regency and actual power is unclear. In the 12th century, Sweden was still consolidating with the dynastic struggles between the Erik and Sverker clans, which finally ended when a third clan married into the Erik clan and founded the Folkunga dynasty on the throne. This dynasty gradually consolidated a pre-Kalmar-Union Sweden to an actual nation, which essentially fell apart after the Black Death.

The conversion from pre-Christian beliefs to Christianity was a complex, gradual, and at times possibly violent (see Temple at Uppsala) process. The main early source of religious influence was England due to interactions between Scandinavians and Saxons in the Danelaw, and Irish missionary monks. The German influence was less obvious in the beginning (despite an early missionary attempt by Ansgar), but gradually emerged as the dominant religious force in the area (especially after the Norman conquest of England). Despite the close relations between Swedish and Russian aristocracy (see also Rus'), there is no direct evidence of Orthodox influence, possibly because of language barriers.

This consolidated state of Sweden already included Finland presumably from an early crusade into the area of "Tavastland" in central current day Finland.

After the Black Death and internal power struggles in Sweden, Queen Margaret I of Denmark united the Nordic countries in the Kalmar Union in 1397, with the approval of the Swedish nobility. Continual tension of economic nature within the countries and within the union gradually led to open conflict between the Swedes and the Danes in the 15th century, however. The union's final disintegration in the early 16th century brought on a long-lived rivalry between Denmark on one side and Sweden on the other.

Modern Sweden: 1523

In the 16th century, Gustav Vasa fought for an independent Sweden, crushing an attempt to restore the Kalmar Union and laying the foundation for modern Sweden. At the same time, he broke with the Roman Catholic Church and established the Reformation.

The rise of Sweden as a great power: 1600

After winning wars against Denmark-Norway, Russia, and Poland during the 17th century, Sweden emerged as a Great Power, despite having scarcely more than 1 million inhabitants. Its contributions during the Thirty Years' War under Gustavus Adolphus helped determine the political, as well as the religious, balance of power in Europe.

The Swedish Empire: 1648

By the treaties of Brömsebro, 1645, and Roskilde, 1658, Sweden acquired important provinces of Denmark and Norway. Following the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, Sweden ruled Ingria, in which Saint Petersburg later would be founded, Estonia, Livonia, and important coastal towns and other areas of northern Germany.

The Great War: 1700

Russia, Saxony-Poland, and Denmark-Norway pooled their power in 1700 and attacked the Swedish empire. Although the young Swedish King Charles XII won spectacular victories in the early years of the Great Northern War, his plan to attack Moscow and force Russia into peace proved too ambitious; he was shot during the siege of Frederiksten fortress in Norway in 1718. In the subsequent peace treaties, the allied powers, joined by Prussia and by England-Hanover, ended Sweden's reign as a great power and introduced a period of limited monarchy under parliamentary rule.

Absolute monarchy: 1772

Following half a century of parliamentary domination came the reaction. A bloodless coup d'état perpetrated by King Gustav III brought back absolute monarchy, a state of affairs that would last until involvement in the Napoleonic wars forced Sweden to cede Finland to Russia in 1809.

Union with Norway: 1814

The following year, the Swedish King's adopted heir, French Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, was elected Crown Prince Charles by the Riksdag. In 1813, his forces joined the allies against Napoleon. In the Treaty of Kiel, the king of Denmark-Norway ceded mainland Norway to the Swedish king. Norway, however, declared its independence, adopted a constitution and chose a new king. Sweden invaded Norway to enforce the terms of the Kiel treaty. After a short war, the peace of Moss established a personal union between the two states. The union lasted until 1905, when it was peacefully dissolved at Norway's request.

Modernization of Sweden: 1866

Sweden's predominantly agricultural economy shifted gradually from village to private farm-based agriculture during the Industrial Revolution, but this change failed to bring economic and social improvements commensurate with the rate of population growth. About 1 million Swedes emigrated to the United States between 1850 and 1890. The 19th century was marked by the emergence of a liberal opposition press, the abolition of guild monopolies in trade and manufacturing in favour of free enterprise, the introduction of taxation and voting reforms, the installation of national military service, and the rise in the electorate of three major party groups – Social Democrat, Liberal, and Conservative.

Industrialization of Sweden: 1914

During and after World War I, in which Sweden remained neutral, the country benefitted from the world-wide demand for Swedish steel, ball bearings, wood pulp, and matches. Post-war prosperity provided the foundations for the social welfare policies characteristic of modern Sweden. Foreign policy concerns in the 1930s centered on Soviet and German expansionism, which stimulated abortive efforts at Nordic defence co-operation. Sweden followed a policy of armed neutrality during World War II and currently remains non-aligned.

Sweden during World War II

Sweden remained neutral during World War II, despite the involvement of all its neighbors. Sweden provided assistance to both warring parties.

Post-war Sweden: 1945


Sweden was one of the first non-participants of World War II to join the United Nations (in 1946). Apart from this, the country tried to stay out of alliances and remain officially neutral during the cold war. The social democratic party held government for 44 years (1932-1976), they spent a big part of the 1950s and 1960s building "Folkhemmet" ("The People's Home"), the Swedish welfare state. The main reason that made this possible was that Sweden had not participated in World War II, and with an intact industry was able to help re-build Europe in the decades following the war. This led to a large economic upswing in the 50's and 60's.

By the 1970s the economies of the rest of western Europe, particularly that of West Germany, had been restored and the Swedish economy, now containing a large tax funded public sector, stagnated. In 1976, the social democrats lost their majority. The 1976 parliamentary elections brought a liberal/right-wing coalition to power. Over the next six years, four governments ruled and fell, composed by all or some of the parties that had won in 1976. The fourth liberal government in these years came under fire by Social Democrats & trade unions and the Moderate Party, culminating in the Social Democrats regaining power in 1982.


During the cold war Sweden maintained a dual approach, publicly the strict neutrality policy was forcefully maintained, but unofficially strong ties were kept with the U.S. and it was hoped that the U.S. would use conventional and nuclear weapons to strike at Soviet staging areas in the occupied Baltic states in case of a Soviet attack on Sweden. Over time and due to the official neutrality dogma, fewer and fewer Swedish military officials were aware of the military cooperation with the west, making such cooperation in the event of war increasingly difficult. At the same time Swedish defensive planning was completely based on help from abroad in the event of war. The fact that it was not permissible to mention this eventuality aloud eventually led to the Swedish armed forces becoming highly misbalanced. For example, a strong ability to defend against an amphibious invasion was maintained, while an ability to strike at inland staging areas was almost completely absent. [ [http://www.foi.se/FOI/templates/Page____537.aspx "Livlös livlina till väst" Framsyn 2004, Nr. 1] (The Swedish Defence Research Agency’s bi-monthly publication)]

In the early 1960’s U.S. nuclear submarines armed with mid-range nuclear missiles of type Polaris A-1 were deployed outside the Swedish west coast. Range and safety considerations made this a good area from which to launch a retaliatory nuclear strike on Moscow. The submarines had to be very close to the Swedish coast to hit their intended targets though. As a consequence of this, in 1960, the same year that the submarines were first deployed, the U.S. provided Sweden with a military security guarantee. The U.S. promised to provide military force in aid of Sweden in case of Soviet aggression. Knowledge of this guarantee was by the Swedish governments kept from the Swedish public until 1994, when a Swedish research commission found evidence for it.

As part of the military cooperation the U.S. provided much help in the development of the Saab 37 Viggen, as a strong Swedish air force was seen as necessary to keep Soviet anti-submarine aircraft from operating in the missile launch area. In return Swedish scientists at the Royal Institute of Technology made considerable contributions to enhancing the targeting performance of the Polaris missiles. [ [http://www.foi.se/FOI/templates/Page____3941.aspx "Hemliga atomubåtar gav Sverige säkerhetsgaranti" Framsyn 2005, Nr. 1] (The Swedish Defence Research Agency’s bi-monthly publication))]

On February 28 1986, the social democratic leader and Swedish prime minister Olof Palme was murdered, after which many people felt Sweden had "lost its innocence". In the beginning of the 1990s there occurred once again an economic crisis with high unemployment and many banks and companies going bankrupt. Sweden became a member of the European Union in 1995, after which the country more and more has started to stray from its post-war and cold war neutrality. In a referendum held in 2003, the majority of the population voted against the adoption of the Euro as the country's official currency.

See also

*Flag of Sweden
*Counties of Sweden - legislative regions
*Lands of Sweden - major cultural regions
*Provinces of Sweden - small cultural regions
*Former dominions of Sweden
*Unions of Sweden
**Kalmar Union
**Union between Sweden and Norway
*List of Swedes

*Riksdag of the Estates
*Privy Council of Sweden

*History of Scandinavia
*Sami history
*History of Finland
*History of Europe
*History of the European Union
*History of present-day nations and states

External links

* [http://www.riksbank.com/templates/Page.aspx?id=27394 Historical Monetary Statistics of Sweden 1668-2008]
* [http://eudocs.lib.byu.edu/index.php/History_of_Sweden:_Primary_Documents History of Sweden: Primary Documents]
* [http://www.tacitus.nu/historical-atlas/scandinavia/sweden.htm Historical Atlas of Sweden]
* [http://www.badley.info/history/Sweden.index.html Sweden Chronology World History Database]

Recommended reading

*"A Concise History of Sweden". Kent, Neil (2008). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-01227-0


*United States Department of State - [http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2880.htm Sweden]

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