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Saber and Scroll

Abstract

Before the seventeenth century, Sweden was not an integral part of Europe, much less a great power, but the ascension of Gustav II Adolphus to the throne changed this. Gustav was an intelligent man who established the Swedish Empire through domestic reforms that modernized the country’s economy and its military. Dutch investors persuaded the fledgling empire to invest in a joint colonization effort with Dutch and Swedish stockholders under the new Swedish South Company. New Sweden, established in present-day Wilmington, Delaware, along the lower Delaware River, was the first colony. Sweden’s inexperience with the mercantile system and underdeveloped transport system made it incapable of handling colonial demands. Without proper support and supplies, the administration of the colony had to focus on survival, causing it to ultimately fail. New Sweden’s Swedish and Finnish settlers remained in North America under Dutch, then English, control and contributed new building and carpentry techniques that spread throughout the continent. Liberal policies ensured future generations of Americans could trace their heritage to the New Sweden colony. Much like the Swedish Empire, the New Sweden colony did not last long, but its Swedish and Finnish settlers made lasting contributions to America’s frontier.

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