How come the Swedish overseas empire didn't take off?

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
19,932
SoCal
#2
They didn't divert as much resources into them as other colonial powers did? IDK, just a guess. Scandinavian countries weren't exactly good at colonization. Even Denmark ultimately gave up or sold all of its colonies other than Greenland.
 
May 2017
158
Monterrey
#3
A significant lack of resources. The population of the Swedish Empire in the 17th century was around 2.5 million. France at the same time had 20 million.

Sweden's sphere was always centred on the Baltic Sea, and the history of the Swedish Empire is mostly war with all of their neighbours(who also fought all of their neighbours and so on). There really was no room for anything else than a few attempts for some prestige and luxury items. I think the fact that the navy was always seeking to maintain baltic dominance obviously played a major role. I doubt the merchant fleet was made for Atlantic trade either.

Been a while since I read about this, but I recall that one of the early expeditions were captured and sold as slaves to the Caribbeans.
 

Shaheen

Ad Honorem
May 2011
2,538
Sweden
#4
Same reason why Austria-Hungary never formed a colonial empire i.e. Sweden was an inland looking nation. Even during the Viking era, Swedes focused on the Baltic and Russian rivers down to Miklagård (Istanbul). On top of this like the other Scandinavian nations, the country did not have a vast population base with which it could colonize vast territories.
 
Likes: Futurist

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,574
#5
Not enough resources to spare for it, and too many more important commitments for it in Europe proper. This in relation in particular to the Dutch and Danish trading empires, who the Swedes mostly lost out to, who had more resources (at least the Dutch by a clear margin, somewhat less so for the Danes) and prioritized the overseas things higher – certainly true for Denmark relative Sweden.

Both the Danes and the Dutch were distinctly trading nations with a priority on their trading empires (and they hewed pretty close to each other in support as well). The English could and did compete successfully with both eventually, reversing the situation so that by the 19th c. the maintenance of the remaning Dutch and Danish empires relied on maintaining good relations with the UK.

Otoh still in the 17th c. the Danish state for the longest time skirted the need to build a hugely expensive standing army – the powerful Danish nobility looked at the prospect of having to pay for most of it, and nixed the proposition. So 17th c. Denmark was a trading nation with a powerful navy, and and overseas trading empire (like the Dutch), that relied on recruiting mercenaries on and ad-hoc basis in times of war. Eventually they came up against the construction of the Swedish modern military state, with standing armies in the 100 000+ range, which was what Sweden prioritized. The Swedish priorities were great for military dominance in its neigbourhood of Europe, including pretty massive conquests of land and people not least from Denmark, but no use at all in a what was a series of naval and logistics contests on the other sides of various oceans.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,574
#6
Same reason why Austria-Hungary never formed a colonial empire i.e. Sweden was an inland looking nation. Even during the Viking era, Swedes focused on the Baltic and Russian rivers down to Miklagård (Istanbul). On top of this like the other Scandinavian nations, the country did not have a vast population base with which it could colonize vast territories.
Hardly "inland" looking". It was looking at the Baltic as its "mare nostrum". It just didn't have an overseas focus across the great oceans of the world. It had a tricky balance to strike between land and sea power, and on balance had to put more into being a land-power, which hugely benefited it for about a century.

Edit:
I mean, the Swedes clearly had the upper hand over Denmark in a land war. At sea the Danes had the advantage, but Swedish naval competition for at least parity did take place. But it was focused first of all on catching up with the Danes in the Baltic. Parity was pretty much achieved, but never anything approaching Swedish naval dominance in the Baltic. Which is where it came up against a further need to also compete with Denmark and the Netherlands in a particular feature of long-distance blue water oceanic navigation and trade. Sweden never reached that point. It only would have had the leisure to do so IF it had managed to achieve that Baltic naval dominance. But the Danes, and behind them the Dutch, never would allow it, and Sweden in the end never had the resources to force the matter.
 
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Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,574
#7
Been a while since I read about this, but I recall that one of the early expeditions were captured and sold as slaves to the Caribbeans.
The contest with the Dutch over "New Sweden" (Delaware) in North America see-sawed back and forth, depending on who had temporarily the upper hand depending on who got his replacements and new resources through.

The end began iirc when Sweden lost a particularly crucial shipment of recruits and colonists, and so ended up on a steadily declining tangent to the Dutch up in New Amsterdam.

But it seems you are referring to the particularly weird circumstances. The ship was taken by French corsairs, operating on a mandate from the kingdom of France to attack and disrupt enemy shipping – except of course the Kingdom of France and the Kingdom of Sweden were allies. Not that the corsairs really cared, or maybe even quite knew who the Swedes where. It's kind of the problem of being a small, new actor in a naval warfare landscape were the issuing of letters-of-mark have effectively created an economic warfare situation on a basis of "crap happens", as the warfare has been sub-contracted out on a for-profit basis. Complaints could be made to Paris, compensation demanded, but obviously first the Swedes had to learn what had happened, and the the French needed to work it out as well, and by that time the captured Swedes (a considerable of number of the colonists, as many as half, being Finns btw) had already long hence been sold as slaves, and the profits pocketed by said private contractors.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,544
Portugal
#8
The had colonies in North America, the Carribean, and Africa, but none of them lasted.
I don't know the answer, even if I think that Larrey's post can be close to it.

Scandinavian countries weren't exactly good at colonization.
How so? How we measure if a country is good at colonization?

A significant lack of resources. The population of the Swedish Empire in the 17th century was around 2.5 million. France at the same time had 20 million.

Sweden's sphere was always centred on the Baltic Sea, and the history of the Swedish Empire is mostly war with all of their neighbours(who also fought all of their neighbours and so on). There really was no room for anything else than a few attempts for some prestige and luxury items. I think the fact that the navy was always seeking to maintain baltic dominance obviously played a major role. I doubt the merchant fleet was made for Atlantic trade either.

Been a while since I read about this, but I recall that one of the early expeditions were captured and sold as slaves to the Caribbeans.
The question of the population wasn’t necessarily and obstacle. Portugal had around 1 million inhabitants, so even less than Sweden, when it begun its first of three colonial empires.

About the last paragraph, I didn’t understood, the Swedes were captures and sold as slaves? Or the objective of the expedition was to capture and sell slaves?

Same reason why Austria-Hungary never formed a colonial empire i.e. Sweden was an inland looking nation.
That is geographically incorrect for both states.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,544
Portugal
#9
But it seems you are referring to the particularly weird circumstances. The ship was taken by French corsairs, operating on a mandate from the kingdom of France to attack and disrupt enemy shipping – except of course the Kingdom of France and the Kingdom of Sweden were allies. Not that the corsairs really cared, or maybe even quite knew who the Swedes where. It's kind of the problem of being a small, new actor in a naval warfare landscape were the issuing of letters-of-mark have effectively created an economic warfare situation on a basis of "crap happens", as the warfare has been sub-contracted out on a for-profit basis. Complaints could be made to Paris, compensation demanded, but obviously first the Swedes had to learn what had happened, and the the French needed to work it out as well, and by that time the captured Swedes (a considerable of number of the colonists, as many as half, being Finns btw) had already long hence been sold as slaves, and the profits pocketed by said private contractors.
Interesting. And answers to a question of mine in the previous post. Who were the buyers? Where can I read about this story online (if possible)?