The decade of the 1890s marked the beginning of an era of economic expansion in Sweden, a quickening in the tempo of activity, an upsurge and not a climacteric. It was the age of great Swedish innovators and inventions, which enabled Sweden to develop and profit from new technologies that were not dependent on coal as a source of energy. Her forest industry began the transformation from a sawn-timber industry, in which there had been an enormous upswing since 1850, to a timber-converting paper and pulp industry. The metal trades based on the mining and processing of ore, which in Sweden have a history going back at least to the thirteenth century, provided a sound technical framework and a highly skilled and inventive labour force for exploiting industrial inventions. Her third great natural resource, water power, could be utilized more effectively through the development of hydro-electric techniques.
Industrialism did not arrive suddenly, and changes in institutions, economic policy, and the supply and use of labour earlier in the nineteenth century marked the movement from a static to a dynamic economy. Gild restrictions were abolished in 1846, a Companies Act was passed in 1848, the Riksdag (Parliament) decided in 1854 to develop a state-owned railway system, and in 1864 an Economic Freedom Ordinance was passed which in theory provided a laissezfaire doctrine for economic activity, including the labour market. The supply of labour, increasing with the decline in death-rates, produced a rural population problem, which was reinforced by the enclosure movement. Before industrialism began to offer employment for the rural proletariat it was emigration, particularly to North America, that provided an outlet from 1860 onwards, and a peak figure for emigration of 50,000 was reached in the year 1887.
When industrialism did come the population continued to be widely scattered geographically, because of the absence of domestic coal deposits dictating location and the presence of a flexible electric power system permitting dispersion. The wide scatter of ore resources in Central Sweden and the large area of the north-east coast covered by the timber-working industry have also favoured a low population density. A feature still of Swedish industry is the absence of heavy industrial belts and Great Wens. The prevalence of small local labour markets has in turn raised problems of labour mobility which have become increasingly important in the current discussion of economic policy aimed at providing a flexible economic structure.
The shift from an agrarian to an industrial economy is reflected in . . .