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How Sweden Conquered the World

Discussion in 'World History' started by Hamilton321, Feb 5, 2019.

  1. Hamilton321

    Hamilton321 Chieftain

    Jul 15, 2016
    I like to think about what the world would be like had things gone a little differently in the past. One very interesting period of history is the early eighteenth century. Among other things, this period included one new teenage king of Sweden named Charles XII. Charles XII had a lot to prove, he was king of a great power and was very young. Charles had a very big ego. He considered himself to be the next Alexander the Great, who would conquer the east and destroy his nation's enemies. Charles XII waged a total war against Sweden's traditional rivals of Denmark, Poland and Russia in what came to be known as the Great Northern war. Despite having inferior manpower, the Swedes nearly won and if they did they would have established a powerful sphere of influence in eastern Europe.

    So I thought about it, and had Charles succeeded, then Sweden would be the world's strongest nation. It would have had vast land area and population and would have also been a significant naval power (they would have also had the naval strength of Denmark). And all that would have to happen is for a few events to have gone differently. One thing that would have drastically increased the chances of this happening would have been if Charles' main rival, Peter the great of Russia had died early in the war. This is interesting alternate history and if Peter the Great had died at the battle of Narva, the first confrontation between Peter and Charles, then Russia would have descended into a bitter succession struggle to choose the next czar and without Peter the Russian leadership would most likely not have had the resilience or organization to wage total war on Sweden.

    In real life Peter was the reason why Sweden was defeated, he rebuilt the Russian army after defeats, prevented the Cossacks from defecting over to Sweden and prevented internal political struggles. Russia under Peter was the only nation which still opposed Sweden after the Swedes occupied Poland and placed a puppet ruler on the throne. If Peter had not been there then the Swedes would have trounced Russia and the Swedes could focus on securing their empire.

    I have written some alternate history about what could have happened after this with Sweden. In my stories I focus on the development of Sweden's colonial empire. I have the Swedes colonizing much of India and Africa and building the strongest colonial empire that was ever created. I have a class so I will stop writing here. I might return to this or not.
  2. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

    Nov 14, 2003
    They wouldn't actually build the empire, of course. They'd just sell bits of it in flat packs to the colonised countries and make them build it themselves.
    klar_heiland and Owen Glyndwr like this.
  3. Owen Glyndwr

    Owen Glyndwr La Femme Moderne

    Jun 9, 2008
    Chicago, IL
    I don't really think much of your proposed consequences have much legs. Sweden benefited from a roughly 100 year period of competent rulers and structural military advantages, but ultimately Sweden is a geographically large region which commands little in the way of material resources, population, or urbanization. For instance, Gustavus Adolphus was able to parlay his military advantages into a large coup in terms of territorial gains in the the Thirty Years' War, but even if we posit a world in which Adolphus didn't die on the eve of his success, the majority of their gains were not tenable, and this is borne out in the fact that they lost much of those gains in the subsequent decades. In much the same way, even if we posit Charles XII winning out over Russia and Poland, there's nothing to guarantee that their gains would be lasting or politically beneficial. Just as the inheritance lottery can award intelligent, competent leaders and advisors, so too can it take those away.

    Moreover, I can't really see Sweden parlaying such a coup in the Baltic into a global empire. Although Russia did end up ultimately the victor in the struggle for the Baltic, it spent the next 150 years struggling against more Westerly continental powers to secure wider colonial holdings and power. The shadows of Great Britain and France loom large, and nothing about the Great Northern War necessitates or suggests the material positions of these countries, nor their colonial or political ambitions would change. Maybe Sweden secures a colonial foothold India, although by 1715-1720 they'd already be rather late to the show, they'd still be competing with the Dutch and British for control, and the Dutch and British are notably much better situated geographically, infrastructurally, economically, and materially to win out in the end.

    Likewise, a coup in the Great Northern War wouldn't necessarily change the status of the other major Central European powers, namely Austria-Hungary and Prussia, who are, again, well situated economically, geographically, politically and militarily to contest/thwart any Swedish territorial ambitions.
    Olleus and Lexicus like this.
  4. innonimatu

    innonimatu Warlord

    Dec 4, 2006
    I agree with most of Owen's reply, but there is one thing that should be said about Sweden. Materially, in terms of resources, it was in a very good position.

    It was the major source of cooper for the european trade with the far east. It was also a major source of iron and steel goods. It was also a major source of naval supples, timber, masts, resin, etc. It could get a secure supply of cheap grain from Poland if it wasn't so busy destroying Poland. It had what was needed for overseas adventures, and it fact other european empires depended on trade with Sweden, at least until by the 18th century they started exploiting their colonial holdings to replace them. Britain got its wood from Canada, the dutch and the portuguese built ships in India, the Spanish in america.

    Sweden's imperial adventures in the Baltic may have led it to actually miss its great opportunity for overseas expansion. It spent and wasted its resources there instead of sailing lands further away. North america was nearby. And the dutch sailed to Asia in ships built with materials from their baltic trade; just as they had "cut the middlemen" in taking over the portuguese monopoly of trade with Asia leveraging on dutch control of the Baltic trade goods, Sweden could have done it, or at least tried more seriously.
    Owen Glyndwr and Lexicus like this.
  5. Hrothbern

    Hrothbern Warlord

    Feb 24, 2017
    The Baltic trade was the last stage expansion of the Dutch Hanseatic trade and (indeed) fundamental for the economical development of the Low Lands.
    Because of the Portugese access to Asia, the old Arab-Venetian-Cologne route dried up for spices. And the Dutch resourced from that old route to Portugal trading to all countries by sea North of France.
    For example around 1450 50% of the ships volumes passing the sea street between Denmark and Sweden were Dutch
    And having access to all that wood from the Baltic (the oak wood from the Rhine bassin), there was an unlimited capacity for shipbuilding.
    Crucial for the fast urbanisation in Holland in the 15th and 16th century was the wheat from Poland (Danzig or Gdansk becoming important).

    If you guys had not been taken over by Spain in 1580, by Philips II, at that moment in war with the Dutch...
    From 1580 onward we were therefore also in war with Portugal.

    It is only until after 1580 that, cut off from the Portugese Asian goods by Philips II, that the Dutch start to explore the oceans to find themselves the routes to Asia.
    And that took quite a long time, whereby the Dutch started with exploring routes between the North Pole and Siberia (also to have a route far away from Spanish, Portugese, French and English ships.

    Last edited: Feb 8, 2019
  6. tetley

    tetley Head tea leaf

    Nov 8, 2001
    Sweden is still in the running for ruling the world culturally. Abba and Mama Mia 17:The Sequel are taking us all over.
    Owen Glyndwr likes this.
  7. Lexicus

    Lexicus Warlord

    Aug 28, 2007
    Sovereign State of the Have-Nots
    Don't forget IKEA and the quad 40mm Bofors.
  8. Dachs

    Dachs Emissary of Hell

    Feb 23, 2005
  9. EnglishEdward

    EnglishEdward Chieftain

    Jul 19, 2008
    Never mind the Bofors guns, the Swedish Apple cake I had at the Norfolk IKEA the day before yesterday is seducing me.

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