The Carolinian era
At the Riksdag in 1655, Karl X Gustav enforced a decision on partial reduction, which had been required by the saints since 1644. At the same time, a decision was made to start a war again, this time against Poland. Great initial success was followed by growing difficulties when Russia first and in 1657 also declared war. The attack on Jutland and the bold train across the Belt led to the victory peace in Roskilde in February 1658, when Skåne, Blekinge, Bornholm, Bohuslän and Trondheim counties attacked Sweden. When the war was renewed as early as August of that year, the aim was to completely engulf the Danish kingdom, but a number of states rushed to the Danes’ help. This was mainly the case for the Netherlands, which now dominated the Baltic Sea trade and felt threatened by Sweden’s attempt to gain control of the Baltic Sea inlet. Sweden’s situation was already precarious when the king quickly died in 1660.
The guardian government during Karl XI ‘s minority (1660-72), with Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie as national chancellor, became more dependent on council and parliament than the former. The solution to the country’s difficult financial problems was the main issue. Thrift was a benchmark but was not enough, which led to the abandonment of its cautious foreign policy and the covenant with France in 1672. This led to Sweden becoming involved in war with Brandenburg, Denmark and the Netherlands in 1674–75 (see the Scanian War). The war revealed major shortcomings, especially at the navy. All possessions in Germany were lost, the enemy gained control of the seas, Skåne and Blekinge were lost in 1676, but after the battle at Lund the same year the initiative passed to the Swedish army. When peace was concluded in 1679 with the restoration of the status quo, Skåne was almost recaptured.
The experiences of the war in 1674–79 were crucial for the reorganization of Sweden’s finances, military power and board, which received its political confirmation of the Riksdag in 1680 and 1682. A decision was made on guardianship, on reducing all censorship and to put the reorganization of the armed forces into the king’s hands. The power of legislation and foreign policy was also entrusted to him. The Council was most recently assigned the role of royal referral body. The fact that a monarchy could take shape without a tiring power struggle was due not least to the fact that the lower office seat and the officers saw the reduction as a means of obtaining a safe income in the service of the krona through the division work that was built up. The gentlemen felt a far stronger confidence in an effective and powerful kingship than a multi-headed “gentlemen’s power”.
Although the threat to the taxpayers’ freedom earlier in the 17th century was exaggerated, the reduction meant that their actual ownership felt more secure. The right of ownership was satisfactory, which is illustrated by the fact that thousands of krone farmers quickly used the opportunity for tax purchases when this became possible in 1701, despite the high price.
The establishment of the one-world further strengthened the centralist structures and at the same time completed the professionalisation of the entire administrative apparatus which began at the beginning of the century. During the 17th century, one of the crown and the church’s jointly driven civilization process, with the Lutheran house-board as the overall norm, also achieved noticeable results on the more mental level. The coarse violence mentality, which did show significant differences between different parts of the empire, gradually eased.
The strategy behind Karl XI ‘s reforms was clearly defensive. This involved the formation of the standing armed forces (see the division), where recruitment was handed over to the recruits of the Roots and the armies, as well as foreign policy. This was based on close cooperation with England, the Netherlands and Holstein – Gottorp to protect Sweden against Danish attempted raids. At the same time, the eastern flank of the kingdom was exposed, which became evident in 1700 when a coalition of Russia, Saxony and Denmark attacked Sweden. The Great Nordic War (1700–21), thus initiated, initially offered rapid success for the young Karl XIIand his army. It soon brought Sweden into a more offensive phase, aimed at control of Poland, which was in staff union with Saxony, and a continuation of the country’s expansion, not least trade policy. A decisive turning point came with the defeat of Poltava and the subsequent capitulation of the army in 1709. Denmark declared war again. The Baltic provinces as well as Finland were conquered by the Russians, and the German possessions fell into the hands of Prussia and Hanover, who had joined forces with Sweden’s enemies. To improve Sweden’s prospects in the peace negotiations that have already begun, Karl XII1718 a conquest of Danish Norway. The killing shot at Fredriksten meant the final collapse of the Swedish great power. In the peace 1719–21, Sweden was forced to relinquish Viborg, along with most of Karelia and the Baltic provinces to Russia, parts of Pomerania to Prussia and Bremen-World to Hanover.
The collapse of the Swedish great power has often been attributed to Karl XII ‘s person and abuse. Deeper, however, the collapse should have been a matter of time. The Swedish great power rested on an overly weak resource base, which also resulted in neighboring states such as Russia, Prussia and Denmark undergoing a vigorous modernization process and saw different parts of the scattered Swedish empire as the primary expansion target. Conversely, during the early 1600s, the weaker power structure in neighboring countries is likely to give a partial explanation for Sweden’s achieved superpower position.