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.
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.
Eketorp is an Iron Age fort in southeastern Öland, which was extensively reconstructed and enlarged in the Middle Ages. Throughout the ages the fortification has served a variety of somewhat differing uses: from defensive ringfort, to medieval safe haven and thence a cavalry garrison. In the 20th century it was further reconstructed to become a heavily visited tourist site and a location for re-enactment of medieval battles. Eketorp is the only one of the 19 known prehistoric fortifications on Öland that has been completely excavated, yielding a total of over 24,000 individual artifacts. The entirety of southern Öland has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Eketorp fortification is often referred to as Eketorp Castle.
The indigenous peoples of the Iron Age constructed the original fortification about 400 AD, a period known to have engendered contact between Öland natives with Romans and other Europeans. The ringfort in that era is thought to have been a gathering place for religious ceremonies and also a place of refuge for the local agricultural community when an outside enemy appeared. The circular design was believed to be chosen because the terrain is so level that attack from any side was equally likely. The original diameter of this circular stone fortification was about 57 metres. In the next century the stone was moved outward to construct a new circular structure of about 80 metres in diameter. At this juncture there were known to be about fifty individual cells or small structures within the fort as a whole. Some of these cells were in the center of the fortified ring, and some were actually built into the wall itself.
In the late 600s AD the ringfort was mysteriously abandoned, and it remained unused until the early 11th century. This 11th century work generally built upon the earlier fort, except that stone interior cells were replaced with timber structures, and a second outer defensive wall was erected.
Presently the fort is used as a tourist site for visitors to Öland to experience a medieval fortification for this region. A museum within the castle walls displays a few of the large number of artefacts retrieved by the National Heritage Board during the major decade long excavation ending in 1974. Inside the fort visitors are greeted by actors in medieval costumes who assume the roles of period artisans and merchants who might have lived there nine centuries earlier. There are also re-enactment scenes of skirmishes and other dramatic events of daily life from the Middle Ages.
Eketorp lies a few kilometers west of Route 136. There is an ample unpaved parking area situated approximately two kilometers west of the paved Öland perimeter highway. There is also a gift shop on site. During peak summer visitation, there are guided tours available. Visitors are assessed an admission charge.