The Cambridge Modern History: Planned by the Late Lord Acton - Vol. 4

By A. W. Ward; G. W. Prothero et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XX.
THE SCANDINAVIAN NORTH.
(1559-1660.)

THE century of Scandinavian history which closes with the great settlement of the North in 1660 was a time of perpetual rivalry between the Danish and Swedish States. While Gustavus Vasa lived, his free and warlike peasants were probably a match for the hated "Jutes." But after his death in 1560, Sweden had to endure half-a-century of domestic and foreign strife, while Denmark was enjoying tolerable government and almost unbroken peace. It is therefore not surprising that in the War of Kalmar ( 1611-3) even the youthful genius of Gustavus Adolphus proved inadequate to the task of vanquishing the Danes, and that for fully two-thirds of his reign he was regarded by Europe as a less powerful sovereign than his rival Christian IV. The collapse of the Danish intervention in Germany, however, in conjunction with the Swedish triumphs over the Poles and the forces of Empire and League, showed that the Scandinavian balance had turned, and in three several wars between 1643 and 1660 the successors of Gustavus trampled upon Christian and his son. War brought to Sweden, empire; to Denmark, reform; and the harvesting of these gains at the close of our period forms an epoch in the history of the North.

The story of Sweden to 1630 and the share of Denmark in the Thirty Years' War have been dealt with in previous chapters. It remains to indicate the chief domestic forces and events which conditioned the foreign policy of Denmark from 1559 to 1660, and to sketch the history of the three Scandinavian kingdoms during the thirty years which followed the entry of Gustavus into Germany in 1630.

The Danish throne, upon which Frederick II succeeded his father Christian III in 1559, was that of an empire wide in extent but somewhat heterogeneous and unstable in character. The waters of the Sound, flanked by Copenhagen and Malmö, the two chief cities of the realm, formed the centre of Denmark in the sixteenth century. On the one side lay Scania and other provinces which now form the coast of southern Sweden, but which were then the home of a sturdy Danish

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