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However, Sweden had a largely agrarian economy and lacked the resources to maintain its position as a great power in the long run.After its defeat in the Great Northern War (1700–21) against the combined forces of Denmark, Poland and Russia, Sweden lost most of its provinces on the other side of the Baltic Sea and was reduced essentially to the same frontiers as present-day Sweden and Finland.The Vikings traveled as far as the Black and Caspian Seas, where they developed trading links with the Byzantine Empire and the Arab kingdoms.Christianity first reached Sweden with a mission led by Ansgar, who visited in the 9th century, but the country was not converted to Christianity until the 11th century.The Viking Age (800–1050 AD) was characterised by a significant expansion of activity, in Sweden’s case largely toward the east.Many Viking expeditions set off from Sweden to both plunder and trade along the Baltic coast and the rivers that stretched deep into present-day Russia.Trade grew during the 14th century, especially with the German towns grouped under the leadership of Lübeck.By the mid-16th century, this group, known as the Hanseatic League, dominated Swedish trade, and many towns were founded as a result of lively commercial activity.
One consequence was emigration, mainly to North America.
The church was nationalised, its estates confiscated by the crown, and the Protestant Reformation was introduced.
Power was concentrated in the hands of the king and hereditary monarchy came into force in 1544.
Fourteen thousand years ago, Sweden was still covered by a thick ice cap. Ale’s stones pictured here are from the Iron Age – before Vikings, war-hungry kings, peace and the race into modernity.
From 8,000 BC to 6,000 BC, Sweden as a whole became populated by people who lived by hunting, gathering and fishing, and who used simple stone tools.In 1397, the Kalmar Union was formed, with the three Scandinavian countries under a single monarch.However, the union (1397–1523) was scarred by internal conflicts that culminated in the ‘Stockholm Bloodbath’ in 1520, when 80 Swedish nobles were executed at the instigation of the Danish union king, Kristian II.From the mid-19th century to 1930, about 1.5 million Swedes emigrated, out of a population of 3.5 million in 1850 and slightly more than 6 million in 1930.