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15 Fascinating Facts About Swedish History


Sweden has a long and colorful history, going back many centuries in great detail. Here are fifteen different facts about Swedish history that you may find funny, amusing, and fascinating.

Updated: 2018-05-04.

swedish flag waving
Credits: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se

I’ve been doing some heavy reading about Sweden ever since I booked my trip to the Baltic and Scandinavia, and I love to learn about a place’s history as part of my curricula before I land. Sure, nothing will teach me more about Sweden than actually being in Sweden, but hey, at least I’m not arriving clueless.

I came across these facts as I was studying a condensed timeline of some interesting points in Swedish history. Sweden has a long and colorful history, going back many centuries in great detail. Here are the ones that I found funny, amusing, and fascinating.

Facts About Swedish History:

King Karl XIII (known as King Charles XIII in English) was both King of Sweden (6 June 1809 – 5 February 1818) and King of Norway (4 November 1814 – 5 February 1818), where he was known as Karl II; he chose his name after studying a false Swedish history; he really was only the seventh King of Sweden to bear the name Charles.

This same King Karl XIII apparently doodled penises all over his private diaries in 1785, when he was 37 years old.

The Swedish parliament passed the world’s first Freedom of the Press Act in 1766.

Alfred Nobel was the inventor of dynamite and would later use his money to establish the Nobel Prize; today, prizes are awarded from Stockholm, except for the Nobel Peace Prize (Oslo).

Almost one-third of the Swedish economy has historically been in the public sector, including healthcare, education, unemployment, etc.

The Swedish warship, Vasa (or Wasa), built 1626-1628, sank 20 minutes into her maiden voyage after sailing less than one nautical mile (2 km) on 10 August 1628.

The Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Jules Bernadotte was King of Sweden (as Karl XIV Johan, 5 February 1818 – 8 March 1844), King of Norway (as Karl III Johan, 5 February 1818 – 8 March 1844), and also the Sovereign Prince of Pontecorvo, Italy (1806 and 1810).

The same Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Jules Bernadotte, King of Norway and Sweden, was found on his deathbed to have a tattoo that read “Death to kings.”

The brutal Stockholm Bloodbath, or Stockholm Massacre, was an invasion of Sweden by Christian II of Denmark which culminated in the Danes executing almost 90 of the Swedish nobility. This massacre touched off a rebellion led by the young nobleman Gustav Eriksson Vasa (1496–1560). However, the revolution almost never happened – Gustav was fleeing for the Norwegian border after failing to initially raise sufficient support, but two indefatigable skiers caught up to him to tell him that the rebels had changed their minds; today, this ski journey is celebrated with the annual Vasaloppet Race between Sälen and Mora.

Gustaf Erik Pasch invented the safety match, and Johan Edvard Lundstrom patented it.

In 1350, the Black Plague, or Black Death (Svartedauden in Swedish), killed over one-third of all the inhabitants.

The Kalmar Union (Kalmarunionen) for almost two and a half centuries (1397–1523) united Denmark, Sweden (incl. Finland at the time), and Norway (incl. Iceland, Greenland, Faroe Islands at the time) under a single monarch.

The term Stockholm syndrome gets its name after the Norrmalmstorg robbery of the Kreditbanken bank at Norrmalmstorg Square in Stockholm. Bank employees were held hostage in a bank vault for six days in August of 1973 while the police negotiated with the robbers. During this standoff, the hostages became emotionally attached to their captors and even defended them after they were freed.

The Swedish Vikings founded the Kievan Rus’, which was a loose federation of Slavic tribes, making way for the modern-day people of Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia; every tsar of Russia was of Swedish Viking descent.

Swedes had a mass emigration to the United States during the late 19th to early 20th centuries, with about 1.3 million Swedish people leaving the Scandinavian country for America; this number accounts to about a quarter of the population almost, given that the estimated population in Sweden in 1900 was 5,140,00.

What do you think? Got any more facts about Swedish history? Add them in the comments below 🙂 Oh, and check out our timeline of Swedish history.

Christian Eilers
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Christian Eilers
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