Sweden


Sweden
   A declining Great Power and industrial power of Scandinavia. King Gustavus IV Adolphus (1779–1837) pushed his luck in the Napoleonic Wars, lost Finland to Russia in 1808, and was forced to resign. A leading power in the military revolution of the seventeenth century, Sweden emerged from the Napoleonic Wars as a secondrate power despite being on the winning side. Superior organizational skills and a technological edge could no longer compensate for a small population as the ideas of modern warfare spread throughout Europe. All of Sweden’s possessions along the eastern and southern shores of the Baltic were lost, and by the Treaty of Kiel in 1814, Sweden confirmed the loss of Finland to Imperial Russia, but it acquired control over Norway in exchange. The Norwegians maintained their constitution and legislature, and the Swedish king gradually lost control over Norway until full independence was achieved in 1905.
   Sweden also largely withdrew as a player in European diplomacy. Its strategy of nonalignment in peace and neutrality in war lasted until World War I and well beyond; even the 500-year long struggle for Scandinavian hegemony was suspended despite the fact that Sweden was now the most powerful Nordic nation. A brief exemption from neutrality was made in 1848, when Sweden sent troops to Denmark to preempt a German assault. In 1809, Sweden adopted a new constitution. The king maintained control over the executive, but the legislature was transferred to a parliament based on the division into estates. Through an 1840 administrative reform, departments headed by ministers were introduced, and in 1866 a bicameral system replaced the estates. An 1842 reform also introduced local government to which farmers and workers with a certain level of income were enfranchised. From 1858, some freedom of religion was granted. A proportional vote was adopted in 1911, parliamentary government in 1917, and adult universal suffrage in 1921. Introduction of full democracy followed the development of associations and organizations through all aspects of Swedish public life, from trade unions to social and religious societies.
   The wealth accumulated through one-and-half century of expansion was reinvested into mining and emerging industries, making Sweden one of the wealthiest European nations, despite its nonparticipation in the general race for overseas possessions.
   Sweden participated in the exploration of the Arctic, and the territories offered rich fisheries and whaling. It was cut of from this arena, however, when Norway gained independence in 1905. A technology-intensive industrialization gained momentum toward the end of the nineteenth century, concentrating on products like ball bearings, dynamite, electromotors, and telephones. Swedish iron ore was also of a unique quality, providing industry with prime raw material as well as export income. The building of the Göta Canal, 1810–1832, across southern Sweden greatly improved internal communications, and, in 1856, the first railroad between Örebro and Ervala was opened. After 1870, Sweden became more pro- German, which affected the orientation of the economy and cultural life. Sweden introduced compulsory military service for men in 1901 and increased defense budgets, but stayed neutral in World War I.
   See also <>; <>; <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Aberg, Alf. A Concise History of Sweden. Translated by Gordon Elliott. Stockholm: LTs Förlag, 1985;
    Andersson, Ingvar. A History of Sweden. Translated by Carolyn Hannay and Alan Blair. New York: Praeger, 1970.
   FRODE LINDGJERDET

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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