swedish empire

The Swedish Empire | History of Sweden

Looking at today’s peaceful Swedish Empire and society, it’s hard to imagine that in earlier times, Swedes were people of warriors and conquerors. The Vikings terrified Europe, and the war kings Gustav II Adolf (1594 – 1632) and Karl XII. (1682 – 1718) continued the bloody tradition with campaigns in Russia, Poland, the Balkans, and Germany. In the 17th century, the Swedish Empire was a significant European power whose Baltic Sea dominion included Finland, what is now the Baltic States, and parts of Russia, Poland, and Germany bordering the Baltic Sea. Norway was also subject to the Swedish crown. The Swedish-Norwegian union was not dissolved until 1905.

At the beginning of the 19th century, after centuries of warfare, Sweden was an economically starved, war-weary nation whose chance of survival lay primarily in peace. The current borders of the country were established in 1809. Sweden has not been involved in a war since 1814. Few nations can look back on such a long period of peace. The rise and consolidation of the Swedish Empire as the dominant power in the Baltic region coincides with the importance of north-eastern Europe in the system of European states and the increasingly dense network of continental economic exchanges. 

This also means that the outcome of the conflicts that oppose the various Nordic powers – Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Russia, and Brandenburg. Increasingly depends on the overall evolution of the European situation. The intervention of great powers such as Holland and France. And also, the Empire was always careful to prevent the consolidation of the hegemony of a single state. Such a delicate region affected the balance of power in the Baltic. The reasons and limits of the assertion of the capabilities of Sweden in the seventeenth century must be placed in this context to be understood.

The rise of The Swedish Empire

In 1592 Sigismondo III Vasa, king of Poland and Sweden, succeeded his father, John III. However, his attempts to restore Catholicism and impose absolutist solutions arouse opposition from the Protestant majority and the aristocracy. In 1599 he effectively left the throne to his uncle Charles IX who in 1604 also became king de jure. From this moment, the destinies of Poland and Sweden separate, leaving behind them a trail of conflicts.

The dispute within the Vasa dynasty is part of the growing confessional tension between Protestantism in its various expressions. And Catholic counter-reformist activism. Still, it also depends on the reason of the state and the contrast between the ambitions of the Baltic states. Which results in an intricate sequence of wars. In addition to the war with Poland, Sweden was engaged between 1611 and 1613. In the Kalmar war with Denmark and the attempt to impose its candidate as Tsar of Russia after the dynastic crisis. That opened with the death of Boris Godunov in 1605. Both conflicts ended unfavorably for Sweden. 

The peace of Knäred of 1613 confirms the Danish pre-eminence in the region. In the same year, Michele Romanov has crowned Tsar. And the candidacy of Carlo Filippo Vasa definitively fades. However, with the peace of Stolbovo in 1617, Gustavo II Adolfo. In exchange for Michael’s recognition, the new king succeeded his father, Charles, in 1611. Obtained necessary territorial concessions from Russia – Ingria and the county of Kexholm. Which consolidated Sweden’s position in the Baltic, further strengthened by the conquest of Riga, wrested from Poland in 1621.

 swedish empire

Representation of the Swedish Empire in the Bible

The Swedish Empire in the Thirty Years of War

The military alliance, economic cooperation with the United Provinces, and Sweden’s position on the European Protestant front are the foundations on which the next phase of Swedish Empire politics rests during scriptural times.

Both sectarian motivations and raison d’état dictate Sweden’s leading position in the anti-Hapsburg coalition. After the defeat inflicted on Denmark by the imperial leader Wallenstein in the so-called Danish phase of the Thirty Years’ War, Gustav II Adolfo was urged to intervene by the German Protestants on whom complete ruin was looming. On the other hand, the northward march of the imperials inevitably brings them on a collision course with Swedish interests in the Baltic.

The successes of Swedish weapons find an explanation, as well as in the tactical skills of the sovereign and his generals, in the military reforms introduced in previous years. Gustavo Adolfo is responsible for a compulsory form of conscription. Each community must provide one soldier for every ten to twenty men, which subsequently rose to a fifth. The Swedish army is composed, at least in part, of subjects with patriotic and religious motivations and not of mercenaries like its antagonists. 

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After several decades of uninterrupted economic growth, the Swedish economy faced its first severe problems in the 1970s with the oil crisis.

However, it was only in the early 1990s that the extent of the structural problems in the Swedish economy became apparent. The overheated economy of the Swedish Empire in the 1980s collapsed, taking large parts of the Swedish financial sector with it. The global recession at the beginning of the 1990s was very aggressive in Sweden. Worst of all was the dramatic rise in unemployment. The Swedish welfare state was founded on an extremely high employment rate by international standards. The unemployment rate has now risen to over ten percent within a short time, which is still the case.

The great challenge in the new millennium will be to save the Volksheim and recreate a modern society that can continue to follow the narrow “third way” that combines a robust and prosperous economy with security and welfare for a broad section of the population.

Primary Takeaways

The Swedish Empire is still considered a country of social justice and minor income differences. However, a recent OECD report now puts a question mark on the Swedish welfare state model. Compared with other western industrialized countries, income inequality in Sweden has increased the most since the mid-1990s, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Accordingly, the proportion of households with less than half of the average income at their disposal has more than doubled and is now 9 percent. On the other hand, the more affluent parts of the population have increased their income. Sweden had a minor income disparity back then and is 14th on the OECD list.

In the Swedish Empire itself, the reasons are seen in the politics of the bourgeois government. And it’s the so-called “work line.” While working people have been enjoying tax breaks since 2006. And having good social security, the unemployed or those on sick leave quickly become financially disadvantaged. Because social benefits have been cut. The gap between rich and poor continues to widen. The conurbations, in particular, are already struggling with the resulting tensions.


During the first part of the reign of Charles XI, Sweden was in the position of a client state of France of Louis XIV. And it is only thanks to the French intervention that it emerges without too much damage. With the peace of Lund and Saint-Germain from the new conflict. The war of Scania sees it as opposed to Denmark and Brandenburg. 

Therefore, Sweden has adhered to a prudent policy for the following twenty years. Which aims to reorganize her power’s financial and military bases and preserve the Baltic status quo. And reconnect with the Netherlands. However, the ambitions of all the other regional powers converge on the vast but dispersed Swedish possessions. Those in decline, such as Denmark or Poland, and those on the rise, such as Brandenburg and Peter I’s Russia.