Top Swedish History Books

Sweden may not be considered a great European power today, but several hundred years ago it emerged - albeit briefly - as a strong empire that rivaled the equally developing Russia. This list selects the best books for readers wanting to learn about early modern, modern and imperial Swedish history.
At just over two hundred pages, this introductory book charts the history of Sweden with a narrative that is supported by maps and tables. Rather than highlighting the 'rise and fall' favoured by other books, Nordstrom focuses on the change from monarchy to free democracy, injecting a sense of pride and importance into modern Sweden.
02
of 10

Sweden and the Baltic 1523-1721 by Andrina Stiles

Designed for students, this book is for those who want their Scandinavian history brief. The rise, activity and fall of the Swedish empire – and by implication, information on much of Scandinavia – is outlined and concisely discussed in 160 pages.
03
of 10

The Early Vasas - A History of Sweden 1523-1611 by Michael Roberts

Although the text remains unchanged from the late 1970's, this is still the best English-language book on Sweden in the sixteenth century, covering the main areas of historical study (politics, religion & state, economics) and the key individuals.
04
of 10

Gustavus Adolphus by Michael Roberts

This study of Gustavus Adolphus – Sweden's early seventeenth century king and a key figure in European religious, military and administrative history – is part of Longman's 'Profiles in Power' series, which claims to provide long interpretative essays, not biographies. Nevertheless, this is an ideal volume on anyone interested in Gustavus himself, or Sweden and Europe during his reign.
05
of 10

War and Peace in the Baltic 1560-1790 by Stewart P. Oakley

Focusing on the emergence of Sweden and Russia as great European powers, a struggle that involved the bloody northern wars of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, this book is only partly about Scandinavia, but the history can't be told in any other way. The topic is similar to that of pick 7, but at half the length it’s more suitable for students.
06
of 10

Charles XI and Swedish Absolutism by Anthony F. Upton

Gustavus Adolphus may have elevated Sweden to a major role in Europe – or at least started the trend – but Charles XI continued the development via a less glamorous method: massive governmental changes aimed at creating a perfect absolutist monarchy. This book explains and interprets both Charles' actions and their consequences.
07
of 10

The Age of Liberty by Michael Roberts

Focusing on the period 1719 to 1772, Roberts' book examines the internal politics and constitution of Sweden, an era when the Swedish people were considered the 'freest' in Europe. Given that the issue of freedom remains on the political agenda, this book will be of interest to those interested in modern politics, as well as the past.
08
of 10

The Northern Wars by Robert Frost

The Northern Wars caused vast changes in northeastern Europe, as Poland and the Swedish Empire fell to Russia, and later Prussia. Frost covers a range of themes – military and non-military alike - in a revisionist work which covers the late sixteenth, seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, a heyday of Swedish – and Scandinavian – military prowess.
09
of 10

From Oxenstierna to Charles XII : Four Studies by Michael Roberts

This may be a fairly expensive work with only four highly specialised essays, but it's essential for anyone interested in the subjects, which remain historically controversial. Charles XII takes centre stage, with studies of his 'foreign policy', his domestic and dynastic importance as well as the intriguing matter of his death; the final piece concerns Oxenstierna in Germany.
Long out of print – limiting interested readers to libraries and second-hand outlets/online auctions in their search – I haven’t been able to see this book; however, it regularly appears on college and university reading lists and thus deserves a mention. The book collects a range of Roberts' lectures/essays, and has been described variously as 'light' and 'interesting'.