The Age of Enlightenment

History of Sweden between 1772 - 1809

In the late 1700s Sweden joined in the Enlightenment culture of the day in the arts, architecture, science and learning. A new law in 1766 established for the first time the principle of freedom of the press—a notable step towards liberty of political opinion. The Academy of Science was founded in 1739 and the Academy of Letters, History, and Antiquities in 1753. The outstanding cultural leader was Carl Linnaeus (1707–78), whose work in biology and ethnography had a major impact on European science.

Following half a century of parliamentary domination came the reaction. King Gustav III (1746–1792) came to the throne in 1771, and in 1772 led a coup d'état, with French support, that established him as an "enlightened despot," who ruled at will. The Age of Freedom and bitter party politics was over. Precocious and well educated, he became a patron of the arts and music. His edicts reformed the bureaucracy, repaired the currency, expanded trade, and improved defense. The population had reached 2.0 million and the country was prosperous, although rampant alcoholism was a growing social problem.

Trofeer från slaget vid Svensksund bäres in i Storkyrkan, målning av Pehr Hilleström
Swedish trophies after the battle of Svensksund
were brought to Storkyrkan

Despite of the resistance of parliament Gustav III declared war to Russia in 1788. He initiated the conflict for domestic political reasons, as he believed that a short war would leave the opposition with no recourse but to support him. The war was first a disaster, but in 1790 Swedish fleet successfully destroyed the Russian fleet in the Battle of Svensksund, regarded as the greatest naval victory ever gained by the Swedish Navy. The Russians lost one-third of their fleet and 7,000 men. A month later, on 14 August 1790, peace was signed between Russia and Sweden at Värälä. Neither side gained any territory.

Due the war and general indignation against Gustav III was assassinated on 29 March 1792 by a conspiracy of nobles angry that he tried to restrict their privileges for the benefit of the peasant farmers.

The ensuing period was a melancholy one. The aristocratic classes loudly complained that the new young king, Gustav IV of Sweden, still a minor, was being brought up among French Jacobins; while the middle classes, deprived of the stimulating leadership of the anti-aristocratic and becoming more and more inoculated with French political ideas, drifted into an antagonism not merely to hereditary nobility, but to hereditary monarchy likewise. Everything was vacillating and uncertain; and the general instability was reflected even in foreign affairs, now that the master-hand of Gustav III was withdrawn. The government of Gustav IV of Sweden was almost a pure autocracy.

After the Russian Emperor Alexander I concluded the 1807 Treaty of Tilsit with Napoleon, he suggested in his letter that the Swedish King Gustav IV Adolf should join the Continental System. The king, who viewed Napoleon as the Antichrist and Britain as his ally against Napoleon's France was apprehensive of the system's ruinous consequences for Sweden's maritime commerce. He instead entered into negotiations with Britain in order to prepare a joint attack against Denmark, whose Norwegian possessions he coveted. In the meantime, the Royal Navy attacked Copenhagen and the Anglo-Russian War was declared. Referring to the treaties of 1780 and 1800, the emperor demanded that Gustav Adolf close the Baltic Sea to all foreign warships. Although he reiterated his demand on November 16, 1807, it took two months before the king responded that it was impossible to honor the previous arrangements as long as the French were in control of the major Baltic ports. King Gustav Adolf did this after securing alliance with England on 8 February 1808. Meanwhile on 30 December 1807 Russia announced that should Sweden not give a clear reply Russia would be forced to act.

Although most Swedish officers were skeptical about their chances in fighting the larger and more experienced Russian army, Gustav Adolf had an unrealistic view of Sweden's ability to defend itself against Russia. In Saint Petersburg, his stubbornness was viewed as a convenient pretext to occupy Finland, thus pushing the Russo-Swedish frontier considerably to the west of the Russian capital and safeguarding it in case of any future hostilities between the two powers. As a result of the Finnish war, the eastern third of Sweden was established as the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland within the Russian Empire.

References: Wikipedia

Popular sites founded between 1772 and 1809 in Sweden

Lund Historical Museum

The Historical museum in Lund, founded in 1805, is the second largest archaeological museum in Sweden. Its collections contain among other things Kilian Stobaeus' Cabinet of Curiosities from the 18th century, thousands of finds from the excavations of the Iron Age city of Uppåkra and numerous artefacts from the Scanian Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages. The museum also has the second largest coin collection in the country ...
Founded: 1805 | Location: Lund, Sweden

Norberg Mining Area

One of the richest iron ore deposits at Norberg is Mossgruvan, where the mining museum is situated today. The visitor is given an idea of how it was to work and live by a mine more than a hundred years ago. The correct name is Risbergs konstschakt and the building was raised in 1876 over a 114 metre deep mine shaft. The shaft was originally sunk in the18th century. A very important function of the shaft was to drain the ...
Founded: 19th century | Location: Norberg, Sweden

Varberg Church

Varberg Church was completed in 1772, as a replacement of an elder church from 1687 that was destroyed in a fire on 18 May 1767. The interior of the church is neoclassical. Mostly of it is from the 19th century. The retable is from 1816. The pulpit was set in during a restoration of the church in 1890–1891. The wooden baptismal font has seven edges. It was made from oak in the 17th century. It comes from an elder ch ...
Founded: 1772 | Location: Varberg, Sweden

Handöl Chapel

Handöl Sami Chapel was built for the Sami people who lived in the mountains near the Norwegian border. It was inaugurated in 1804. The pulpit is dated to 1649 and was originally situated in Frösö Church. The post-medieval altar has also been brought from Frösö. There are also two medieval sculptures and a also a memorial stone with inscript Anno 1719, 20th January 600 men were buried here. This i ...
Founded: 1804 | Location: Duved, Sweden

Gustav III's Pavilion

Gustav III's Pavilion is a royal pavilion at the Haga Park. As a highlight in Swedish art history, the Pavilion is a fine example of the European neoclassicism of the late 18th century in Northern Europe. The pavilion was built in 1787 by the architect Olof Tempelman with detailed instructions from King Gustav III who was highly personally involved in the project, producing some basic designs himself and suggesting change ...
Founded: 1787 | Location: Stockholm, Sweden

Grisslehamn

The small Grisslehamn village is today a well-preserved sample of 19th century architecture and popular attraction for daily trips. The name Grisslehamn was first mentioned in a document from 1376 about the mail route between Sweden and Finland. This Grisslehamn was located some 20 km south of today's location. In the mid-18th century, most of the old village was destroyed in a fire, and it was decided to move Grisslehamn ...
Founded: 19th century | Location: Grisslehamn, Sweden

Hjo Church

The first church in Hjo was built sometimes in the late 1200s or early 1300s. It was destroyed by fire in 1794 and the current church replaced it in 1799. The current tower was erected during the restoration in the early 1900s.
Founded: 1799 | Location: Hjo, Sweden

Pajala Church

Pajala Church is one of the largest wooden churches in Sweden. It was originally built in Kengis in 1790s, but moved to Pajala in 1879. Near the church is a cottage of Lars Levi Laestadius, the famous Swedish Sami pastor and administrator of the Swedish state Lutheran church in Lapland.
Founded: 1790s | Location: Pajala, Sweden

Fiskebäckskil Church

Fiskebäckskil Church replaced in 1772 the earlier wooden church from 1500s. The beautiful paintings in ceilings were made in 1783 by Joachim Gotthard Reimers. The altar dates from 1665.
Founded: 1772 | Location: Fiskebäckskil, Sweden

Säter Church

Säter Church was originally built in 1637, but it was reconstructed to Neo-classical style between 1778-1779. The tower was replaced in 1806-1807 due the unstable soil.
Founded: 1779 | Location: Säter, Sweden

Askome church

Askome church was built in 1779-80 and has a well preserved exterior. The church tower was added in 1804. The pulpit made in Dutch workshop and altarpiece date from the early 1600s.
Founded: 1779-1780 | Location: Vessigebro, Sweden

Medical History Museum

History of health and medical care is exhibited in a 200-year-old former hospital. The museum is located in the Oterdahl building, donated by wholesaler Aron Oterdahl in 1808 to Sahlgren hospital as a gift “for time eternal”. The exhibition is set up based on various, still current, themes and presents a history of the development of western medicine from antiquity to our times.
Founded: 1808 | Location: Gothenburg, Sweden

Dalarö Museum

Dalarö Museum is situated to the old Custom’s House built in 1788. The museum exhibits the Age of Greatness and the seafaring history of Dalarö. The museum is open in summer season.
Founded: 1788 | Location: Dalarö, Sweden

Klövsjö Church

The wooden church in Klövsjö was built by Pål Persson between 1795–1797. It replaced the earlier church from the 16th century. The major restoration was made in 1971-1972 and the interior was repainted. The altarpiece was painted by Jonas Granberg in 1742, it was moved from the previous church. The pulpit dates from 1858.
Founded: 1795-1797 | Location: Klövsjö, Sweden

Filipstad Church

Filipstad church was completed in 1785 according the design of Jean Erik Rehn and it represents Gustavian style. The pulpit and altar were made in 1789. The altarpiece was painted by Lars Bolander.
Founded: 1785 | Location: Filipstad, Sweden

Gunnebo House

The Gunnebo estate consists of a main building from the end of the 18th century, built by John Hall, and drawn by city architect Carl Wilhelm Carlberg in a Neoclassical architecture. Gunnebo has one of Sweden's finest and best preserved baroque gardens. The 18th century interior was recreated in the 1950s, when Mölndal Municipality bought the estate. The last private owner, Mrs. Hilda Sparre, died in 1948. Several or ...
Founded: 18th century | Location: Mölndal, Sweden

Löberöd Castle

The early history of Löberöd estate is unknown, but the oldest parts were built in the 1620s. Then the owner was Anna Brahe. Her nephew, a member of the Ramel family, inherited Löberöd when Anne, a childless widow, passed away in 1635. The manor was in the possession of the Ramel family until 1799. The northern wing and the eight-sided turret were built in 1798-1799. About twenty years later an oranger ...
Founded: 1798-1799 | Location: Löberöd, Sweden

Nässjö Old Church

This church was built in 1791 in the neo-classical style typical of church architecture of the period. It replaced a medieval church that had long stood on the site, and contains some interesting inventory from the Middle Ages, inherited from the old building. The font is damaged, but is Romanesque and still worth seeing. There is a triptych from the13th century that was altered a couple of centuries later.
Founded: 1791 | Location: Nässjö, Sweden

Ovesholm Castle

The first known owner of Ovesholm estate was Åke Holm in 1580. In 1620 Ove Urup built an earlier main building near to the current site. In 1774 it was donated to Henning Reinhold Wrangel and his son Carl Adam Wrangel af Adinal built the present castle between 1792-1804. Carl Adam also created a notable library and collection of art and sculptures to Ovesholm. The latest enlargement was made by Axel Hugo Raoul Hamil ...
Founded: 1792-1804 | Location: Kristianstad, Sweden

Siggebohyttan

Siggebohyttan is an unusual large house of bergsman family, who where exempted from taxes but had to mine and produce iron to the crown. This system was in use from the Middle Ages to the late 1800s. Siggebohyttan, built in 1790, is today a museum.
Founded: 1790 | Location: Nora, Sweden

Skärfva Manor

Skärfva Manor was built in 1785 - 1786 as a summer residence by the admiral of the yard Fredrik Henrik af Chapman in cooperation with admiral Carl August Ehrensvärd. The building was originally a timbered house painted red with a turf roof. In the 1860's the present panelling was mounted and the roofs were tiled. The building's odd mixture of styles has amazed visitors through all times. Here we find everything from Got ...
Founded: 1785-1786 | Location: Karlskrona, Sweden

Alster Manor

The history of Alster Manor begins from 1397, but the current main building was built in 1772 and reconstructed in 1832. The poet Gustaf Fröding born in Alster in 1860. Today it is a museum.
Founded: 1772 | Location: Karlstad, Sweden

Ängelholm Old Town Hall

The lovely old town hall from 1775 in the main square today houses the tourist information. It became too small for the town in 1896.
Founded: 1775 | Location: Ängelholm, Sweden

Grebo Church

Grebo church was completed in 1773. The church contains many beautiful objects that were donated by the large farmsteads in the area, except for the altarpiece. The large altarpiece was painted and donated by well-known artist Johan Stålbom. The baptismal font date from the previous church and is built in 1686
Founded: 1773 | Location: Linköping, Sweden

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Sweetheart Abbey

Sweetheart Abbey was a Cistercian monastery, founded in 1275 by Dervorguilla of Galloway in memory of her husband John de Balliol. His embalmed heart, in a casket of ivory and silver, was buried alongside her when she died; the monks at the Abbey then renamed the Abbey in tribute to her. Their son, also John, became king of Scotland but his reign was tragic and short. The depredations suffered by the Abbey in subsequent periods, have caused both the graves to be lost. The abbey, built in deep-red, local sandstone, was founded as a daughter house to Dundrennan Abbey; this Novum Monasterium (New Monastery), became known as the New Abbey.

The immediate abbey precincts extended to 120,000 m2 and sections of the surrounding wall can still be seen today. The Cistercian order, also known as the White Monks because of the white habit, over which they wore a black scapular or apron, built many great abbeys after their establishment around 1100. Like many of their abbeys, the New Abbey's interests lay not only in prayer and contemplation but in the farming and commercial activity of the area, making it the centre of local life. The abbey ruins dominate the skyline today and one can only imagine how it and the monks would have dominated early medieval life as farmers, agriculturalists, horse and cattle breeders. Surrounded by rich and fertile grazing and arable land, they became increasingly expert and systematic in their farming and breeding methods. Like all Cistercian abbeys, they made their mark, not only on the religious life of the district but on the ways of local farmers and influenced agriculture in the surrounding areas.

The village which stands next to the ruins today, is now known as New Abbey. At the other end of the main street is Monksmill, a corn mill. Although the present buildings date from the late eighteenth century, there was an earlier mill built by and for the monks of the abbey which serviced the surrounding farms.