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Sweden, country in northern Europe, occupying the eastern portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula. Slightly larger than the state of California and roughly similar in shape, Sweden is the largest and most populous nation of Scandinavia. The Swedes’ name for their country, Sverige, means “the land of the Sveas,” an ancient tribe of the region. Stockholm is the country’s capital and largest city.

Sweden is one of the world’s northernmost nations. The country extends nearly 1,600 km (1,000 mi) from north to south, and one-seventh of its territory lies above the Arctic Circle. Thick glaciers that receded after the last ice age scoured the land, rounding mountaintops, scraping out deep valleys, and carving long fjords into the coastline. Nearly 100,000 lakes dot the landscape and cover about one-twelfth of Sweden’s total area.

Sweden shares a hilly land boundary with Norway to the west, and it touches Finland to the northeast. Elsewhere it faces water. The Gulf of Bothnia and the Baltic Sea lie to the east. To the south and southwest lie the waterways separating Sweden from Denmark: the Skagerrak, Kattegat, and Oresund straits. Two sizable islands in the Baltic Sea, Gotland and Oland, are also a part of Sweden. Thousands of rocky islets fringe Sweden’s Baltic coastline, sheltering the mainland from the open sea.

Thick forests, narrow lakes, and swift-flowing streams cover much of the sparsely inhabited northern two-thirds of Sweden. In the far north, above the Arctic Circle, the land is desolate and remains frozen for most of the year. The lowlands of the southern third of Sweden are home to most of the population, agricultural lands, and industries.

Once a relatively impoverished farming nation, Sweden rapidly industrialized beginning in the late 19th century. Swedes turned to their vast forests, extensive waterpower resources, and rich deposits of iron ore to build an economy centered on the export of manufactured goods. Today, services drive Sweden’s economy, but manufacturing remains very important, and the quality of Swedish engineering and industrial design is widely acclaimed. Sweden is famous for its mixed economy, a system in which the government plays an active role in guiding economic life. Swedes enjoy one of the world’s most comprehensive social welfare systems and a standard of living that is unsurpassed.

More than 1,000 years ago, Swedish Viking seafarers dominated the Baltic Sea and established far-reaching trade routes. Swedish armies later conquered an empire that included Finland, much of Norway, and parts of Russia and Germany. Today, Sweden is noted for its neutrality in foreign affairs. Sweden remained neutral in World War I and World War II, and it declined to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) after its founding in 1949. A member of the United Nations (UN), Sweden has helped mediate conflicts in many troubled areas of the world. Swedish voters narrowly elected to join the European Union (EU) in 1995. They have not embraced all aspects of European integration, however. Notably, Swedes have declined to adopt the euro, the EU’s common currency.


For younger readers

Butler, Robbie. Sweden. Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 2001. For readers in grades 4 to 8.

DuTemple, Lesley A. Sweden. Lucent, 2000. For readers in grades 5 to 8.

McNair, Sylvia. Sweden. Children's Press, 1998. For readers in grades 6 and up.

Scandinavian literature

Budd, John, ed. Eight Scandinavian Novelists. Greenwood, 1981. Criticisms and reviews of selected Scandinavian novelists.

Faowens, Lily, ed. The Complete Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales. Grammercy, 1993. Stories from the Danish master storyteller.

Lonnrot, Elias, trans. The Kalevala: An Epic Poem After the Oral Tradition. Oxford University Press, 1989. The national epic poem of Finland.

Naess, Harald S., ed. A History of Norwegian Literature. University of Nebraska Press, 1993. From the Vikings to the 1980s.

Rossel, Sven H., ed. A History of Danish Literature. University of Nebraska Press, 1992. From the ancient runic inscriptions to post-World War II trends.

Schoolfield, George C., ed. A History of Finland's Literature. University of Nebraska Press, 1998. Surveys Finnish-language literature and Finland's Swedish-language literature.

Warme, Lars G., ed. A History of Swedish Literature. University of Nebraska Press, 1996. From the Middle Ages to the 20th century.


Bosworth, Barry P., ed. The Swedish Economy. Brookings, 1987. Essays on all aspects of Sweden's economy including the financing of its extensive welfare state.

Carlsson, Sten. Swedes in North America, 1638-1988. Coronet, 1988. “Technical, Cultural and Political Achievements” (subtitle) of Swedish immigrants.

Fodor, Eugene. Fodor-Sweden 1992: With Excursions from Stockholm. McKay, 1992. Guidebook for the tourist in and around Sweden's lovely capital.

Hadenius, Axel. A Crisis of the Welfare State? Coronet, 1986. “Opinions About Taxes and Public Expenditures in Sweden” (title page).

Keeler, Stephan and Fairclough, Chris. We Live in Sweden. Watts, 1984. Basic look at the country for children and young adults.

Roberts, Michael. The Swedish Imperial Experience, 1560-1718. Cambridge, 1984. Sweden's role as a major European power in the 17th century.

Scott, Franklin D. Sweden: The Nation's History. Enl. ed. Southern Illinois, 1988. The most recent available survey of Sweden's past.

Sundelius, Cranford, ed. Committed Neutral: Swedish Foreign Policy. Westview, 1989. Essays on Sweden's sometimes controversial policies toward other nations.

Sweden History

Gould, Dennis E. Historical Dictionary of Sweden. Scarecrow, 1997. The people, events, and institutions of Sweden.

Magnusson, Lars. An Economic History of Sweden. Routledge, 2000. A historical study that explains Sweden's current welfare state.

McDonald, Jo. Sweden in Pictures. Rev. ed. Lerner, 1998. Geography, history, and culture of Sweden; for middle school readers.

Misgeld, Klaus; Karl Molin; and Klas Amark, eds.Trans. Jan Teeland. Creating Social Democracy: A Century of the Social Democratic Labor Party in Sweden. Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992. Recent history of socialism in Sweden.

Scott, Franklin D. Sweden: The Nation's History. Rev. ed. Southern Illinois University Press, 1988. Recent survey of Sweden's past.

Zickgraf, Ralph. Sweden. Chelsea House, 1997. Geography, history, and culture of Sweden. For middle school and high school readers.

Sweden: Politics, Society, and Culture

Caldenby, Claes; Jorvan Lindvall; and Wilfried Wang, eds. Sweden: 20th-Century Architecture. Prestel, 1998. Illustrated work that examines how Sweden's architecture reflects a century of social change.

Magnusson, Lars. An Economic History of Sweden. Routledge, 2000. A historical study that explains Sweden's current welfare state.

Misgeld, Klaus; Karl Molin; and Klas Amark, eds.Trans. Jan Teeland. Creating Social Democracy: A Century of the Social Democratic Labor Party in Sweden. Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992. Recent history of socialism in Sweden.

O'Dell, Tom. Culture Unbound: Americanization and Everyday Life in Sweden. Nordic Academic Press, 1997. Examines how American culture has influenced Swedish life.

Olsson, Sven E. Social Policy and Welfare State in Sweden. Coronet, 1992. Essays on the policy of public welfare in Sweden.

Pontusson, Jonas. The Limits of Social Democracy: Investment Politics in Sweden. Cornell University Press, 1992. Study of the economic policy of Sweden during Social Democratic rule from 1932 to 1991.


Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

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