Sweden: History

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Sweden History

Although the exciting image of the Viking as the bearded, horn-hatted, bloodthirsty giant, drunkenly rampaging through the land has many elements of truth, their prime occupation as farmers and tradesmen often takes a backseat. While their Danish counterparts headed west, Swedish Vikings went east towards Russia to establish themselves. Between 750-1060 AD, the small villages which dominated Scandinavia grew to form Goter, and Svear: two large states which formed the basis of what we now call Sweden. By the Middle Ages, Sweden had progressed to be a country ruled by an elected king, but the formation of the Kalmar Union (Norway, Denmark and Sweden), to counter the rising influence of Germany’s Hanseatic League, led to more discord. The Kalmar Union’s decision to elect a king from Denmark, led to the massacre of Swedish nobles, dubbed the Bloodbath of Stockholm, in 1520. Consequently, Sweden elected Gustav Vasa as it its own king. As well as making Sweden a country with an absolute monarch, Vasa also reformed the church (from Catholicism to Protestantism) in order to gain more control. A succession of kings and a consistent period of war during the 17th century weakened Sweden and its monarchy to some extent, but this forced the country to reassess its position. The outcome was a new outlook, both culturally and politically. By the 19th century, Sweden implemented a constitutional monarchy, as well as a number of reforms which established a progressive approach to education and equality for women. Sweden’s decision to opt for neutrality during both World Wars was at odds with other countries as all chose sides, but one of the benefits of doings so came after World War II when Sweden began to manufacture essential goods for countries too devastated by war to do so themselves. This led to an economic boom during the 1950s and ‘60s, but this has fallen in line with the ups and down of the world economy ever since.