Sweden Recent History

History of Sweden from 1523 to the 18th century

The Wasa Period (1523-1611)

A man named Gustav Wasa fought against the Stockholm bloodbath that Christian II had initiated. In 1523 he forced Christian II to flee and took Stockholm on June 6th. Sweden was independent again and this day is still celebrated as a national holiday. Wasa was elected king. The Reformation took hold and in 1544 Sweden was declared an evangelical empire. In the same year the electoral kingship became a hereditary kingship.

During the Livonian War in 1558 the struggle for rule in the Baltic Sea area began. A war for territories began with Russia too. After Gustav’s death, the sons fought for royal dignity. Sweden was temporarily allied with Poland, then they fought against each other again. There was also war against Denmark. Sweden also made claims on the Sami territories in Lapland.

Sweden as a great power (1611-1719)

In 1611 Gustav II Adolf ascended the throne. He continued the policy of conquest. In the Thirty Years’ War he conquered parts of northern Germany. In 1658 Denmark had to cede the southern areas of Skåne and Blekinge to Sweden.

In order to be able to pay for the warfare, Sweden mined iron and in Falun copper. Both raw materials and products made from them were sold to other countries. Nevertheless, Sweden remained a sparsely populated agricultural country. That was not enough in the long run to maintain the position as a great power.

Under Charles XI. (1660-1697) Sweden became an absolutist state. His son Karl XII. ruled from 1697 to 1718. Under him, Sweden waged the Great Northern War (1700-1721), including against Russia, Poland and Denmark. Sweden lost the war and with it its supremacy in the Baltic Sea region. Russia’s rise as a great power began.

The rest of the 18th century

With the death of Charles XII. the time of absolutism ended. The period of freedom (1719-1772) began. The Reichstag received sole legislation. In addition to the nobility, clergy and bourgeoisie, the peasants have always been represented in the Reichtstag, which was unique in Europe. There were more loss-making wars. Lapland in the north was now systematically settled. New citizens were promised tax exemption and work in the ore mines.

The Gustavian era (1772-1809) began in 1772. Gustav III restored the old power of the king. He particularly promoted the arts, founded the Swedish Academy and even a style of its own was named after him, the Gustavian style, which is based on French classicism. Above all, he ruled more and more authoritarian and restricted, for example, the freedom of the press. Displeasure grew in the country. In 1792 the king was assassinated at a masked ball, from which he ultimately died.

His son Gustav IV Adolf turned against France in the Napoleonic Wars. Sweden lost Finland to Russia as well as the last possessions in northern Germany (Western Pomerania with Rügen). In 1809 the king was deposed in a coup.

History of Sweden from the 19th century to today

The 19th century

Gustav IV. Adolf and his descendants were excluded as heir to the throne and so one chose his uncle as Karl XIII. on the throne. The power of the king was again limited, that of the Reichstag restored.

Since Charles XIII. had no children, a French marshal was elected heir to the throne: Jean Baptiste Bernadotte. He became the founder of today’s Swedish royal family. In 1810 he was made crown prince. He converted to the Protestant denomination, learned Swedish and was released from French citizenship by Napoleon. In Sweden they also hoped for the support of France in a possible war against Russia and thus to win back Finland. In 1818 he ascended the throne as Karl XIV. Johann. Even before that he was in charge of official business.

In 1814 he succeeded in leading Norway to a union with Sweden that lasted until 1905. The short war in 1814 was the last Sweden participated in. It was the beginning of a policy of Swedish neutrality.

Economically, Sweden changed slowly (and late) from an agrarian state to an industrial state. It flourished culturally and scientifically. However, population growth led to poverty and social problems, which is why many people emigrated in the second half of the 19th century.

The 20th and 21st centuries

In 1905 the union with Norway was peacefully dissolved.

Sweden remained neutral in the First and Second World Wars. The industry took another boom. In the 1930s, the establishment of the welfare state began.

In 1995 Sweden joined the European Union. Sweden is now a parliamentary-democratic monarchy. Since 1973 Carl XVI. Gustav King of Sweden.

Sweden Recent History