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History

 

History

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HISTORY

The foundation of the kingdom of Sweden began around 1000 A.D., after the Viking age, when the formerly independent regions of the Country established a system, around the Uppland region and the surrounding regions of Västergötland, Östergötland and the Mälaren Valley. Since the middle of XII century, the Houses of Sverker and Erik, have been harshly involved in a power struggle over the Country, whose control is alternately in the hands of either one or the other House from 1160 to 1250. At that time, the regions were still administrative entities, with their own laws, judicial systems (“ting”) and judges. It was only in the late XIII century, with the institution of provincial administrative entities that the king was really up to fulfil the interests of the central power and imposed kingdom-wide laws and decrees. In 1280, the Magnus Ladulås decree allowed the birth of a tax-exempt noble class and a feudal system: so the Royal Council was formed, with representatives of the Church and Aristocracy. In 1350, during Magnus Eriksson, a kingdom-wide legislation definitively replaced the regional laws.

Commercial activities raised in the XIV century and during the next 200 years, until the middle of the XVI century, the vitality of commercial exchanges with the Hansea ruled the Swedish markets and brought to the foundation of several cities. In the second half of the XV century, the iron industry, which was growing in the central regions, began to influence the economic life of the nation more and more.
In 1389, due to dynastic matters, the royal power over Denmark, Sweden and Norway, directed towards the hands of Danish Queen Margareta. Under her reign, which started in 1397, the “Kalmar Union” was founded to last until 1521. A rash of conflicts, related to the aims of national unity and to Hansea’s economic interests, brought to the “Stockholm’s bloodbath” in 1520, when the King of Denmark, Kristian II, chief of the Hansea, had 80 Swedish dignitaries condemned to death. During the following riots, a Swedish nobleman took power after dismissing King Kristian II: its name was Gustaf Vasa, who officially became the King of Sweden in 1523. 

It was under the Vasa reign that the roots of the nation-state were set-up. The Church was nationalized, the State distraining upon its goods, and than the Luteran reform could take place. At the same time, the administration was rebuilt on the German model, and power concentrated in the king’s hands.  

As far as foreign policy was concerned, after the failure of the Union with Denmark and Norway, Sweden was involved in a series of conflicts with Denmark until 1560, for the leadership in the Baltic area. Following the successful intervention on the Protestants’ side in the Thirty Years War (1630), Sweden defeated Denmark through two more wars (1643-’45 and 1657-’58), gaining the lands of Scania, Halland, Blekinge and Gotland island. At the same time, it annexed the regions of Bohuslän, Jämtland, Härjedalen, by taking them from Norway. After the Peace of Westfalia (1648) and the Peace of Roskilde with Denmark in 1658, Sweden turned into a Great Power of Northern Europe, its territory running from Finland to northern Germany and including part of the present-day Baltic Region.

Following several defeats during the Great Nordic War against Denmark, Poland and Russia (1700-’21), Sweden gave up the great part of its overseas lands, its extension being confined within the present-day borders of Finnish and Swedish States and it was further reduced during Napoleon’s Wars, when Sweden lost Finland, on behalf of Russia, and the remaining lands in northern Germany. In 1814 King’s successor Karl Johan (originally Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, who took that name as soon as he was proclaimed heir to the throne in 1810) obtained a compensation for Sweden’s losses by forcing Norway to form that Union, which was peacefully dissolved in 1905: this small conflict against Norway is the last one Sweden has been involved with since then.
Since Karl Johan came to the throne as King Karl XIV Johan (1818-1844), the House of Bernadotte has been reigning in Sweden.

In 1866 the outdated Parliament of the Four States (Nobility, Clergy, Bourgeoisie, Peasantry), which was instituted in 15th century, was abolished due to a reform of the representation system, and it was replaced by a Bicameral Parliament that lasted until 1971, when the present Unicameral Parliament took its place.
The growth of strong people’s movements is one of the main features that most characterised 19th-century Sweden. The Workers Movement, which was born in the second half of the 19th century, keeping up with the process of industrialization, became a reformist movement at the beginning of the 20th century and as early as 1917 the first Social Democrats representatives were elected to Parliament. The establishment of the Parliamentary system led to the institution of the universal suffrage,  for men first(1905) and later for women (1921).

The present-day affluent society, which reached its apex after World War the Second, had been planned since Social Democrats took power in the Thirties. The Social democrat Party in fact remained in power from 1932 to 1976, with a short break in 1936, sometimes by building coalitions with the Agrarian Party (later named Centre Party). Following six years of non-socialist government, from 1976 to 1982, Social Democrats returned to power until the 1991 elections, when non-socialist parties gained the majority of votes and built a 4-party coalition. Social Democrats came back to power after 1994 elections and they have been in up till now.
Nevertheless Swedish policy-making is reform-based and open to compromise, no matter the political colour of the Government, and it often reaches a wide consensus, not only from the top but also from the base.


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