on March 31, 2006
Martina Sprague in her book Sweden: An Illustrated History, brings the story of this Nordic country to those who don't have a background in the basics of Swedish history. She opens the door quite elegantly for the outsider to the exciting battles, wars, adventures and hardships the Swedish people had to endure over numerous centuries. Starting at the very beginning Sprague (a native of Sweden herself) takes the reader on a brisk yet absorbing journey from the Ice Age, circa 10,000BC, all the way up to the assassination of Foreign Minister Anna Lindh in September of 2003. This book is a very fast paced introduction to the basics of Swedish history, where the author tries to touch on as many subjects as possible, but does not by any means go in depth. The reader learns about the Viking Age (circa 800 to 1050BC) and about the independent farmers who overthrew King Albrekt in 1389 because of high taxation in favor of the Danish Queen Margereta, who then goes on to establish the Kalmar Union (a dynastic union between Sweden, Denmark and Norway) in 1397. She then goes on to lightly discuss Sweden's struggle to throw off the Danish yoke in the 1523 Gustav Vasa Revolution, in which the nation finally became fully independent and actually had an empire of her own, with Finland, Poland, parts of Northern Prussia and Estonia under her control. Then comes the stories of the numerous northern wars fought against Denmark, and Poland. Sprague moves into the Twentieth Century (after Sweden lost her empire, with the exception of Norway 1814-1905) criticizing Sweden's decision to stay neutral in both World Wars, while at the same time staying very balanced as an historian should be. Overall this balanced approach to introduce Swedish history to the masses is welcomed, but don't expect to become very well versed in the different tides of Swedish history by reading this book alone. I would recommend this book not to the serious students of history, but to those who would like to learn a little about a subject they rarely hear anything about.
on October 12, 2010
This book seems to be written to wet the appetite of those interested in Sweden's history. After reading this, we recommend that you do, one can branch off into more specific areas of interest. This book is well-wriiten and the author has worked hard painting a fair and objective picture of Sweden. Worth reading!!!
on May 9, 2012
I am getting ready to travel to Sweden for three weeks and so thought that reading about its history would be a good way to introduce myself to it. And this book seemed perfect for my needs - a quick introduction. But the problems I had with it centered on two things. First, the author doesn't understand that it is "the Middle Ages", not "Middle Age". I kept thinking I was reading about some person in their middle age of life - not a historical period in Europe. From what I read (which extended to 27% of the book before I returned it), it appeared to either be translated poorly, or that it was written by someone whose first language is not English. Second, the book repeatedly blamed the Roman Catholic Church for the poverty of farmers, who forced them to pay a tithe of 10% of their income to the church. Nothing was mentioned of the needs of the State or Kings in exacting taxes - just those cruel Bishops who required that 10%, an amount the author maintained was high enough to throw these farmers into "becoming beggars". It is a quick read, and I was able to quickly get through the first section of the book, but perhaps due to its historical labeling and what I detected as strong bias against Catholicism, I kept questioning its accuracy. And as soon as I started checking Wikipedia for verification, I knew it was time to return it.