History of Sweden

Brief history of Sweden summarized

Summarized, clear and simple vision of the history of Sweden.

Old sweden

sweden flagThe first humans arrived in Sweden to begin their history around 8,000 BC after the end of the ice age, when warming temperatures made the country habitable for the first time.

The first Swedes were stone age hunters and fishermen who lived near the coast. However, after 4,000 BC agriculture was introduced to Sweden. Farmers used stone tools and weapons.

After 2000 BC they learned to use bronze. Bronze age craftsmen soon became very skilled at making bronze objects. Swedish horses and carts were used, and the size of the ships suggests that trade was important.

Then around 500 BC iron was introduced to Sweden. The Swedes at that time had contact with the Romans. They sold slaves, furs, and amber to Roman merchants. In return, the Romans sold them Mediterranean luxuries.

Viking Sweden

In the 9th century, the Norwegians and Danes raided and invaded Western Europe, beginning a glorious period in Swedish history. However, the Swedes were more interested in trade. Improvements in ship design made long-distance trade possible. The Swedes crossed the Baltic and traveled up the Russian rivers to the Byzantine Empire.

The number of merchants and craftsmen increased at that time. However, Sweden was an overwhelmingly agricultural society. It was divided into three classes. In the background were the slaves (or thralls). Such slaves were a common item of trade.

The life of a slave was undoubtedly horrible. They were made to do the toughest and most unpleasant work. Above the slaves were the free men. Their wealth varied greatly and depended on the amount of land they owned. Some were very rich and owned slaves. Above them were the counts.

By the 9th century, Sweden had become a kingdom. However, the Swedish kings had little power. When a king died, his eldest son did not necessarily inherit the throne. It could be for a younger son or even for the dead king’s brother. The power of the kings slowly increased as the centuries passed.

In the 11th century, Sweden converted to Christianity. Later it became part of Western civilization. A missionary named Ansgar (Saint Oscar) went to Sweden in 829 but had little success in converting the Swedes. A Swedish king, Olof Stökonung, became a Christian in 1008.

However, it was a long time before all the Swedes were converted. Paganism lasted in Sweden until the end of the 11th century. By the middle of the 12th century, Sweden had become a firmly Christian country.

In 1157, King Eric the Saint led Sweden on a crusade to convert the Finns (although it is debatable whether the crusade was actually motivated by religion or politics). After his death in 1160, Eric became the patron saint of Sweden. In the 13th century, the Swedes conquered Finland.

The congregation feared that the Finns would convert to Eastern Orthodox Christianity, so they favored a Swedish invasion. A second crusade took place in 1249. The Russians fought the Swedes for control of Finland. In 1323, Finland was in Swedish hands. Finland remained a province of Sweden until 1809.

Middle Ages

In the 13th century, in Sweden there were changes in agriculture. Before, each Viking farmer had two large fields. Each year one was sown with crops while the other was left fallow (to regenerate).

With the changes, Swedish farmers began to use the three-field system. Each year a field was sown with spring crops, another with autumn crops and another fallow.

In addition to improvements in agriculture, Swedish trade prospered. New cities were founded, while old ones expanded. Birger Jarl founded the city of Stockholm around 1252.

Later, in 1280, King Magnus granted the upper class exemption from paying taxes in exchange for military service. While in most of Europe the peasants were serfs (half slaves – half freemen), the Swedish peasants were never reduced to serfdom.

King Valdemar (reigned 1250-1275) passed laws that applied to all of Sweden (at that time each province had its own laws). The laws improved women ‘s rights and strengthened the crown. In 1350, the Swedish king issued a code of laws for the entire country.

Like the rest of Europe, Sweden was devastated by the Black Death, which struck in 1349 and probably killed a third of the population.

In 1388, Swedish nobles rebelled against King Albert of Mecklenburg (reigned 1363-1389). They called Queen Margaret of Norway. In 1389 his army defeated Albert and captured him. He became ruler of Sweden (although Albert’s allies clung to Stockholm until 1398).

In 1397, Margaret’s great-nephew Eric was crowned King of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark at Kalmar. The three countries were temporarily united into one kingdom. This was called the Kalmar Union.

However, Erico handicapped the Swedes by giving important positions to the Danes and Germans. He also fought a war against Holsteins. As a result, the Hanseatic League (an alliance of Germanic trading cities) stopped Swedish imports of salt and Swedish exports of iron. In 1434, Swedish peasants and miners revolted.

In 1439 Eric was deposed and replaced, in 1440, by his nephew Christopher. However, in 1448 the Swedish nobles elected one of their number, Karl Knutsson (Charles VIII), as king and Sweden seceded from Denmark and Norway.

From 1470 to 1520, various regents ruled Sweden. In 1506, the regent Svante Nilsson started a war with Denmark that lasted until 1513.

Century XVI

In 1520 the Danes invaded Sweden and Sture was assassinated. His widow Kristina replaced him. She and her followers held Stockholm in possession until September 1520. On November 4, she crowned the Danish king Christian II.

The king then arrested his enemies in Stockholm. Afterward, 82 people were executed in the Stockholm Bloodbath. Executions were also carried out in other parts of Sweden.

However, his policy failed. In 1521 the Swedes rose in revolt, with Gustav Vasa in command. The Danes fled, and Gustav became King of Sweden in 1523. At this time the Kalmar Union ended completely, and Sweden became an independent country.

At the beginning of the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation came to Sweden. In 1526, the New Testament was translated into Swedish. The entire Bible was translated in 1541. In 1536, Gustav allowed the church to adopt certain Lutheran practices such as clergy marriage.

Little by little, Sweden changed from being a Catholic country to a Protestant country. Finally, in 1593, the Swedish congregation adopted the Augsburg Confession (a statement of Protestant doctrine).

Things did not go well for Gustavo. In 1542, there was a rebellion in Sweden, which he crushed. Little by little Gustavus gained power. In 1544 Gustavus abolished the elective monarchy and replaced it with a hereditary monarchy.

Gustavus died in 1560. His successor Eric XIV attempted to build an empire in Estonia. In 1561, the Swedes took Tallinn and part of Estonia. However, the Danes also had ambitions in this area and the two countries started a war in 1563.

In 1563, Eric’s brother John led a rebellion. In January 1569 he became King John III. He ended the war with Denmark in 1570.

In 1587 John’s son Sigismund was elected King of Poland. In 1592 he became King of Sweden. However, Sigismund was a Roman Catholic and therefore unpopular, and was deposed in 1599. Afterward, Duke Charles, calling himself administrator of the realm, ruled Sweden, becoming King in 1604.

17th century – Sweden as a great power

Between 1611-1613 Sweden and Denmark fought another war. Charles IX died in 1611 and was replaced by a regent. In 1613, Gustaf II Adolphus became king of Sweden. Although the war with Denmark ended in 1613, Sweden was also at war with Russia and Poland. The war with Russia ended in 1617, but the war with Poland dragged on until 1629. In the end, Sweden gained Riga and part of Latvia.

On August 10, 1628, the king’s ship (the Vasa) sank near Stockholm on its maiden voyage. She was on the seabed for 333 years before being recovered in 1961.

Gustavo Adolfo had a gift for organization. He created an efficient administration. He also created a standing army, which had one of the best artillery in the world. In 1630, he decided to intervene in the Thirty Years’ War, which was being fought in Germany.

Adolf joined the war in part to help his fellow Protestants, but also to increase Sweden ‘s wealth and power. In 1631, he won a great victory at the Battle of Breitenfeld. However, in 1632 he was killed at the Battle of Lützen. The war would end in 1648.

Meanwhile, the Swedes and the Danes fought another war between 1643-45. Then, in 1655, Swedish King Carl X Gustaf invaded Poland and conquered most of the country. In 1657, the Danes went to war against Sweden. At first, the Swedes had some success.

However, in August 1658 the king tried unsuccessfully to capture Copenhagen. He died in February 1660 and the war with Denmark ended in May 1660. By then Sweden was the dominant power in Northern Europe.

In the late 17th century, Sweden became an absolute monarchy. Sweden and Denmark fought another war in 1672-79. The continuous wars put Sweden in debt. In the 1680s, the land that the crown had given or sold to the nobles was repossessed by the king.

Then, in 1693, the Riksdag (parliament) recognized the right of kings to rule as they wished without having to answer to anyone. In 1697 Charles XII became King of Sweden.

Century XVIII

In 1700 Denmark, Poland and Russia attacked Sweden. This war became known as the Great Northern War. Charles XII led an army to Zealand in Denmark. As a result, the Danes quickly capitulated. The Swedes then crushed the Russians at the Battle of Narva in Estonia. From 1702 to 1706 Charles fought against the Poles.

In 1707, Sweden invaded Russia with disastrous results. In 1708 he entered the Ukraine. On June 28, 1709, Charles attacked the Russians at Poltava and was defeated. His army was captured, but he fled to Moldavia (then part of the Ottoman Empire).

In 1710 the Russians captured Tallinn (Estonia), Riga (Latvia) and Viipuri (Finland) from the Swedes. The Danes also attacked Sweden, but were severely defeated at Helsingborg in 1710 and Gadebusch in 1712. Charles then attacked Norway. In November 1718 he was assassinated while besieging the Fredriksten fortress.

In 1720 Sweden made peace with Denmark. Then in 1721, by the Treaty of Nystad, Sweden was forced to hand over the Baltic provinces and part of Finland to Russia. For Sweden, the era of greatness was over.

However, the age of greatness in Sweden was also the age of absolutism. After the death of the kings in 1718, the royal power was reduced and the era of freedom began. Queen Ulrica replaced him. The Riksdag drew up a new constitution. The Queen abdicated rather than accept it.

Her husband replaced her, Prince Frederick of Hesse, who became Frederick I. He was forced to accept the constitutional laws, which severely restricted his power. Sweden enjoyed some freedom and two political parties emerged: the Hat Party and the Cap Party.

In the early and mid-18th century, Sweden prospered. The number of peasants who owned their own land increased enormously. Sweden exported large quantities of iron and tar. The population grew from 1.5 million in 1721 to nearly 1.8 million by mid-century. In 1739 the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences was founded.

However, in the 1760s the situation deteriorated. Wars with Russia in the years 1741-43 and Prussia in 1757-62 proved to be extremely costly for Sweden and led to inflation and financial crisis.

Sweden also suffered from a series of crop failures and famines. In the midst of the crisis, in 1772, the king staged a coup and regained power from him. The era of freedom is over.

In the following years a new currency was issued to put an end to inflation. Then, in 1788, King Gustaf III started a war with Russia, hoping that a successful war would increase his popularity. However, the war ended in 1791 with neither side making material gains. In 1792 the king was shot by a former officer of the Royal Guard.

XIX century

In February 1808 the Russians entered Finland and quickly overran it. King Gustav IV was deposed in March 1809 and a new constitution was introduced. Charles XIII was elected king, but he was unfit to rule and a man named Charles Augustus was elected crown prince. In September peace was established with Russia and Finland was lost forever.

Charles Augustus died in 1810. One of Napoleon’s marshals, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, was elected the new crown prince. He took the name of Carlos Juan.

In April 1812, Carlos Juan formed an alliance with Russia against Napoleon. In 1813 Sweden joined the war against France. At the end of the year Carlos Juan turned against Denmark. At that time the Danish king ruled Norway, and Carlos Juan wanted to take it away from him. In January 1814, the Danes handed over Norway to Sweden.

King Charles XIII died in 1818 and Crown Prince Charles XIV John became the new king. By then the population of Sweden was about 2.5 million, a figure that rose to 3.5 million by 1850. Part of the reason for the increase was agricultural reform.

At the beginning of the 19th century, farmland in Sweden was closed. In 1800, most of the land was farmed using the “open field” system. The land was divided into small strips and each farmer owned several strips scattered around the town.

At the beginning of the 19th century the land was “closed”, that is, it was divided so that each farmer had only one block of land in one place. The enclosure allowed Swedish agriculture to be more efficient. The increase in population occurred despite large-scale emigration. Many Swedes immigrated to the United States in the 19th century.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Sweden was a predominantly agricultural country. However, in 1846 the trade was deregulated. Until then it was controlled by organizations called guilds. In that year they lost their powers. In 1842, universal primary education was introduced in Sweden. Sweden ‘s first railway was built in 1856.

Oscar I became King of Sweden in 1844. In 1865 he accepted constitutional reform. In 1867, the old Riksdag, which was divided into four estates (nobility, clergy, burghers and peasants) was replaced by a parliament with two chambers.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Sweden was transformed by the industrial revolution. Iron and steel production soared. The Swedish engineering industry also flourished. Swedish industry was helped by the introduction of hydroelectricity at the end of the 19th century.

Twentieth century

In 1905, Norway became independent from Sweden. Sweden remained neutral during World War I, and in 1921 universal suffrage was introduced.

The 1920s were relatively prosperous for Sweden. However, in the early 1930s Sweden suffered during the depression. Unemployment rose to 24.9%. In 1932, the Social Democrats formed a coalition with the Agrarian Party.

They took measures to help agriculture and also created public works to reduce unemployment. By 1939, the Swedish economy had largely recovered, although unemployment was still very high (17%).

Sweden again remained neutral during World War II. Sweden had maintained a policy of neutrality since 1814 and this policy had served the country well. Despite this, in the late 1930s the Swedish government increased military spending just in case in case of attack.

Between the 1940s and 1950s a strong welfare state was created in Sweden. The reforms included increasingly generous pensions, child benefits, and health insurance. In 1974 a new constitution was introduced and the minimum voting age was lowered to 18 years.

The 1950s and 1960s were prosperous years for Sweden and there was full employment. However, the Swedish economy suffered a recession in the mid-1970s. Unemployment was high in the 1990s (reaching 9.9% in 1996), but fell in the early years of the 21st century.

At the end of the 20th century, the Swedish economy changed a lot and the service industries became much more important. The importance of the manufacturing industry decreased, as did agriculture. Today Sweden is a rich country and its people have a high standard of living.

Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme was shot to death on February 28, 1986, while returning from the cinema with his wife. This crime shocked the country, and to this day it has not yet been solved.

In 1991, Sweden formally applied for EU membership. Sweden joined the EU on January 1, 1995.

XXI century

In 2006, a center-right coalition narrowly won the elections. The new government, led by Fredrik Reinfeldt, has promised to overhaul Sweden’s costly welfare state. In 2009, as in the rest of the world, Sweden suffered a recession and unemployment reached a high level.

However, Sweden soon recovered. Unemployment fell to 6.6% in 2017. Today Sweden is a prosperous country with a population of 10 million.

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