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° Norrland, Svealand, Gotaland ° The Baltic Sea

Norrland, Svealand, Gotaland

Sweden can be divided into three major physical regions: Norrland, Svealand, and Gotaland.

Sweden, Norway, c. 1861
Alexander Keith Johnston

Norrland consists of the northern two-thirds of the country. It is basically a tilted plateau sloping downward gradually toward the east. Marking the western edge of this plateau are rugged mountains, part of the long Kjlen range that extends along the Sweden-Norway border. The mountains reach their maximum height of about 6,900 feet (2,100 m) at Kebnekaise, Sweden's highest peak. East of the mountains, deep river valleys cut the plateau. Extreme northern Sweden, north of the Arctic Circle, is part of Lapland, an area that also includes parts of Norway, Finland, and Russia.

Scandinavia's greatest impact on world history probably occurred during the Viking Age (around 800 to 1100), when hardy pagan Norsemen set sail for other shores. The Vikings sailed a new type of boat that was fast and highly manoeuvrable but sturdy enough for ocean crossings, with a heavy keel, up to 16 pairs of oars and a large square sail (the Äskekärr Ship, Sweden's only original Viking vessel, is in Göteborg's Stadsmuseum. Initial hit-and-run raids along the European coast - often on monasteries and their terrified monks - were followed by major military expeditions, settlement and trade. The well-travelled Vikings penetrated the Russian heartland and beyond, venturing as far as America, Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) and Baghdad.

Founded in the mid-13th cent. on the site of a fishing village, Stockholm became an important trade center, dominated by the Hanseatic League.

In 1520, Christian II of Denmark and Norway proclaimed himself also king of Sweden at Stockholm; a large number of Swedish nobles had gathered to attend the coronation, and Christian instigated the massacre of about 100 of the anti-Danish nobility. The Stockholm massacre led to the successful uprising of Swedes under Gustavus Vasa, who became king of Sweden as Gustavus I (1523–60). Gustavus made Stockholm the center of his kingdom and ended the privileges there of the Hanseatic merchants.

The Swedish Warship WASA.

Stockholm was made the official capital of Sweden in 1634, about the same time that it became a European intellectual center under Queen Christina, whose court attracted the philosopher Descartes and others. Swedish political power had been centered around M laren for centuries, but it was forced to move to the lake's outlet when the rising land made navigation for large boats between the sea and lake impractical. Sweden's most important chieftain in the mid-13th century, Birger Jarl, ordered the construction of a fort on one of the strategically placed islets where the fresh water entered the sea, and traffic on the waterways was controlled using timber stocks arranged as a fence, or boom. Stockholm, meaning 'tree-trunk islet', may well be named after this boom.

Sweden.Passenger Steamship. Passenger steamship crossing Sweden on Gota Canal between Stockholm and GothenburgPassenger Steamship, Sweden, Gota Canal.

The city was periodically ravaged by fire until timber buildings with turf roofs were replaced with brick structures. By the late 15th century, the population was around 6000, and Stockholm had become a significant commercial centre. Shipping copper and iron to continental Europe was a lucrative trade that was dominated by German merchants.

Sweden.Copenhagen. Arbuckle Coffee, 1890.
Copenhagen, Denmark

April 5, 1801, Bells Weekly Messenger, London, Middlesex, United Kingdom

COPENHAGEN, MARCH 24. The English fleet under Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, which is cruising in the North Sea, in the night between the 22d and 23d, sailed from Anholt to Gilleleve on the northern coast of Zealand, and there anchored. Yesterday and today, however, it has again retired. Several English families have left this city, with Mr. Drummond.

P. S. At this moment (seven in the evening) the wind is north-west, and therefore fair for the English fleet, so that tomorrow we may expect very serious events in the Sound.

May 31, 1856, Empire, London, Middlesex, United Kingdom.

Sweden and Free Trade

The following interesting communication is from the pen of a Swedish merchant. We are sure that our readers will be gratified with the view which it gives of the commercial condition of one of the most important nations of Northern Europe. The remaining portion of the letter will appear next week.

Until a very recent period about three years since it was in everybody's power to distill as much spirit (corn brandy) as he liked, by paying a trifling, amount for the license. Spirits, in consequence, got so cheap, that even the very poorest found means to buy an extensive quantity, and the consequences were that the streets were filled with drunkards, the courts of law with criminals; in fact, the very marrow of the country went through the throats of the lower classes. Wherever you came, brandy was sure to be found, even where bread was looked for in vain. Corn had to be imported, labour was cheap, and the prohibitive system against the import of nearly all sorts of' manufactured goods, enriched the smugglers, merchants, and manufacturers, while it impoverished the country at large.

As an example on what scale smuggling was carried on, I will only tell you that almost every merchant had his own falsified customhouse stamp, with which he used to stamp all goods brought in unlawfully. I remember myself having purchased German stockings for less than the duty amounted to. Once I bought some stockings, and found them stamped twice once inside and once at the top and on asking the man who sold them how this happened, he excused himself by saying, that, he had overlooked that they were stamped before he bought them.

Hochbrucke Square
Copenhagen, Denmark, c.1895

Sweden.Market Day.

Besides the prohibitive system, there was a law which prescribed that all goods or produce imported from India, China, or, in fact any transatlantic harbour, were to be admitted against a reduction of duty, amounting, in some instances to as much as ten per cent or more. Besides all goods brought from these places, even if prohibited from any other, could be introduced by the payment of a merely nominal duty of 10 per cent on the value of the merchandise. Thus, English shirting, though entirely forbidden, if sent from England, might have become admitted by making a trip over to India, and from thence sent to Sweden.

The intention of this law was to give an impulse to the shipping to induce Swedish ships to go to distant regions; in fact, to force them to buy coffee, sugar, oil, and other articles of necessity on the spot where they were produced, and thus to raise the naval trade. The consequences were just the contrary; or, in short, the enrichment of a few merchants, who only brought over a few cargoes, which they sold with so much extra profit that the Government got less duty. The people were dependent on a few Indiamen, and the prices generally regulated by the European quotations with the addition of the full Swedish duty. It is true, an East India Company was established, and Swedish ships were seen on the most distant waters, but the communication with their next neighbours, with their natural places of supply, were neglected.

A View of Copenhagen Towards the Stock Exchange.
Martinus Rorbye


Hence it did not even pay to send one steamer weekly to Copenhagen, while now, several are plying and giving, as I am told, extravagant dividends. The coast trade was likewise neglected; in fact, everything looked as far behind Europe as Russia is said to be behind England now. But all at once, and as if a new spirit had come over king and parliament, matters changed, and shortly after each other, the following measures were passed:

  1. The imposing of a duty on each gallon of spirits or brandy distilled;
  2. The restriction of the" time of distilling, from twelve months in the year to two;
  3. The abolition of the differential duties on goods brought' from transatlantic harbours;
  4. Lastly (and this but a very short time since), a more moderate tax of duty on manufactured goods, a tax certainly yet full of errors, full of prohibitions in numbers instead of in words a tax certainly giving manufacturers s greater protection than they require or is advantageous to them but a tax correct in principle, as allowing everything to be imported. The extravagant and too high duties are likely to be reduced by the Parliament now being elected, and great pains hare been taken to discover which articles are most in need of a reduction.

All these measures have been passed into law since I left Sweden, or within the last five years, and the improvement observable in all branches is so immense, that it fills even the publicists with wonder. The consequences of these regulations happen to show themselves simultaneously with the Russian war, and are by every one who has not gone deeper into the question described as a consequence of this war.

It can certainly not be denied, that while the duty of about 9d. per gallon on corn brandy made it a dangerous speculation to convert all the corn into this beverage; while the shortened period of distilling, perhaps, even rendered it impossible ; and while stocks of corn thus accumulated, it may be considered a message and a present from heaven, that the Russian corn was excluded from the market that prices, consequently, rose to a height which paid the landowner larger profit than he might have got by distilling it into corn brandy. The duration of the war, the hope of the landowner of another good year, induced him to sow more. The harvest was increased, and crimes and drunkenness decreased in the same proportion, labour rose in value, and much less complaint of poverty was heard, even at the) high prices of food, than formerly, when everything was cheap. The first cause of the improvement of agriculture was, as may be seen by the above, the imposing of a duty on spirits; and it is my firm belief that this gradually would have produced the same effect but I fully acknowledge that the Russian war was the main cause of the rapidity, and that only this could have raised the export to the (in Sweden) never-before-dreamt-of quantity exported in 1854 and 1855.

By the abolition of the differential duties, an impulse, was given to shipping; steamers and ships were launched in quantities, the former smugglers found good freights out to Denmark, England, and where they brought over corn, iron, and wood, and took bark, rice, coffee, sugar, &c, and declined taking over prohibited goods except at enormous rates (as, for instance, 20 to 25 per cent for silk), and by the new custom-house tax, their services were rendered less necessary. London, Hamburgh, Copenhagen, and Havre, took the places of Calcutta, Canton, and Bio; business became more divided, large fortunes were certainly not made so quickly, but the near places of supply made the risk smaller, and the capital required for each merchant less. The public was served better and cheaper, and consumption increased.

The more liberal principle on which merchandise was allowed to be introduced, and which caused a general outcry amongst the manufacturers, seems going on with redoubled energy and power; and though the importation of foreign articles has increased wonderfully, yet the home production is larger than ever before.

After having given you these explanations as to the causes of the incredible augmentation that has taken place, let me place before you a few of the results expressed in numbers.

The commercial statistics of a country, like Sweden may be divided into the following three parts:

  1. The international shipping, commerce, and trade;
  2. The intercourse of dealing with foreign nations;
  3. The fabrications of the factories, the production of the ground, the result of the mines, and the amount of wood extorted from the forests.

The first of the above, items can only have a secondary interest for you, and I pass over it, and will only state that the traffic was carried on in 1854 by 1668 ships or boats of ten tons or more burthen. They made 20,619 trips and carried about 783,000 tons.

The principal roads for these ships and boats are the canals which are partly hewn out of the rock, partly dug out of the ground, and which combine at the lakes of Sweden, and there are many of them.

The high road of the country is the canal between Stockholm and Gothenburg, and-this actually cuts Sweden into two halves. The water of these canals is supplied by the lakes, and it terminates on the one aide in the Baltic, and on the other in the North Sea there commonly called the "Cattegat." The interior lakes vary in height, add the highest are somewhat near 150 to 180 feet above the ocean.

Dutch Trade map of the Baltic Sea. Dutch School.Dutch Trade Map, Baltic Sea.

Sweden. Dutch Trade Map. Baltic Sea.

The steamers leave Gothenburg and Stockholm every alternate day; the trip lasts from 54 to 72 hours, according to the rapidity of the steamers in crossing the lakes. Owing to the narrowness of the canal, and in order to prevent accidents, the speed thereon is limited to, I think, about five English miles an hour, and as the steamers only can run from May till the end of September, or during the finest time of the year; this regulation is very agreeable to the traveller, who, without any great loss of time, can inspect the beautiful scenery he passes through.

Sternwheeler in a River
Skeppsholmen, Nybroviken

In many places the steamers must rise or fall through locks, and the visitor has then leisure to inspect the beautiful and picturesque scenery, mountains, cuffs, and cataracts, which are to be found in abundance throughout Sweden.

This theme is really so inviting, that I should like to dwell a little longer, but I am afraid of exceeding, the limits allotted to me, and will, therefore, pass on, only recommending you not to lose an opportunity to make the trip across Sweden; and I am sure that a few moments on the top of "Trolihatta," with the thundering waterfalls at your feet, will more than repay you both the fatigue and expense of such a journey.

A Concise History of Sweden. A Concise History of Sweden
(Cambridge Concise Histories)
Concise History of Sweden.
Neil Kent's comprehensive history sweeps through Sweden's history from the Stone Age to the present day. Early coverage includes Viking hegemony, the Scandinavian Union, the Reformation and Sweden's political zenith as Europe's greatest superpower in the seventeenth century, while later chapters explore the Swedish Enlightenment, royal absolutism, the commitment to military neutrality and Pan-Scandinavianism. The author brings his account up to date by focusing on recent developments: the rise of Social Democracy, the establishment of the welfare state, the country's acceptance of membership in the European Union and its progressive ecological programme. The book successfully combines the politics, economics and social and cultural mores of one of the world's most successfully functioning and humane societies. This is an informative and entertaining account for students and general readers.

Vikings.Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.A History of the VikingsHistory of the Vikings.
Gwyn Jones
The subject of this book is the Viking realms, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, their civilization and culture, and their many sided achievements at home and abroad. A readable narrative follows the development of these Northern peoples--the Nordmenn--from their origins and the legendary pre-history to the military triumphs of Canute and the defeat of Harald Hardrdi at Stamford Bridge in 1066, which symbolically ended the Viking age. The book recounts the Vikings' exploits in war, trade, and colonization: the assault on Western Christendom; the trading and military ventures to the Slav and Muslim worlds and to Byzantium; and the western voyages of discovery and settlement to Greenland, Iceland, and America. Numerous photographs, maps, and drawings contribute to Gwyn Jones's rounded portrait of Viking civilization and vividly evoke the importance in their culture of religion, art, and seafaring.

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



Merchant Shipping

Merchant Shipping.Merchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.  
History of Merchant Shipping and Ancient CommerceMerchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.
W. S. Lindsay

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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