History of Sweden

Discover Sweden's History

During the Stone Age, Sweden was inhabited by hunters and gatherers. They developed comparatively slowly to other nations and the first mention of Sweden was made by the Roman historian Tacitus who wrote about the Suiones living out in the sea and being powerful in arms and ships. The name Sweden was developed as a back-formation from the plural word Swedes which was the name given to the people of the Suiones who lived in Svealand. Those living in Götaland where known as Geats. During the 9th and 10th century or "Viking Age", the Swedes traveled mainly to the Baltic countries, Russia and the Black Sea.

Sweden was Christianized in the 12th century and was struck, as was the rest of Europe, by the Black Death in the 14th century. During the Middle Ages Sweden expanded into the wilderness of Laplandia, the Scandinavian Peninsula and Finland. From 1362 till 1809 Finland was a part of Sweden.1389 saw the uniting of Norway, Sweden and Denmark under a single monarch but the nations continued to war with each other despite this. In 1521, King Gustav I of Sweden broke free and established a nation state, rejected Catholicism and began a Protestant Reformation. Gustav I is also known as the "Father of the Nation" as he is generally credited with founding modern-day Sweden.

In the 17th century Sweden rose to be one of the great powers in Europe - largely by successes in the Thirty Year's War. However it crumbled again in the 18th century when Imperial Russia struck in the Great Northern War. It was after this, in 1809, that Finland was created out of Sweden. In 1814, Sweden entered into war for the last time in a battle known as the "Campaign against Norway" after which Norway was forced to unite with Sweden. This treaty was eventually dissolved in 1905. Sweden enjoyed 200 years of peace after the "Campaign against Norway" ended.

Though there was rapid population growth in the 19th century, a lack of work led to mass emigration to the US between 1850-1910. However, Sweden soon picked itself up again and people began moving to the cities to get work in factories. In 1917 the country was democratized. Sweden stayed neutral in World War I and II and did not form any alliances during the Cold War. Today the country does still not have any military alliances with other countries. Not being involved in the wars of the world has led to it becoming economically rich. Sweden is recognized for the high standard of living that its citizens enjoy.


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