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Photo: Copyright © Smålands Turistråd

The History of Småland

During the Middle Ages, Småland was composed of many "små land - small counties". Småland became christianised in the 11th century and in 1170, Växjö became Värends Huvudort - Cathedral City. However,as Småland was a border province and the Småländer (people from Småland) farmers hade good contacts and was dependent on trade with the Danes, the sovereignty of the swedish kings was not obvious.

The province was often ravaged in battles between Denmark and Sweden and "bondefreder" (farmer peaces) were sometimes made between Småländers and people from Skåne. The Danish influence was strong and old. Until the 13th century the province obeyed under the archbishop in Lund and the resistance against the Swedish royal power was demonstrated in Dackefejden, (Revolt of Nils Dacke) 1542-43.

Generations of Trolle, Bonde and Bielke had their family estates in southern Småland. Modern Småland has its origin in the Middle Age's Palace-county. Through a reform in 1634, the province was divided into two counties; Kalmar and Småland and later in the 17th century again in Kalmar, Jönköping and Kronoberg.

During The Viking Age iron was produced in the swampy and lake-rich Småland. The iron industry and trade rose during the 16th and 17th centuries when foreign smiths taught new methods. From the middle of the 19th century the wood industry and glassworks took the place of the iron industry. Kosta is the oldest running glassworks, grounded in 1742. Orrefors was the first glassworks which used artistic contributors and designers. Several glassworks followed and thus contributed in making Swedish crystal world famous.

Church and religion have been of great importance and the vicarages were the cultural centre in the province for a long time. During the 19th century the revivalism went forward among the poor people, both within the established Church and the free churches.

Småland is one of Sweden's lake-richest and most forested provinces. The spruce forest has given the province the gloomy name "Mörka Småland" - Dark Småland. Their fast growth and good quality make them, however, very important to the Swedish economy. The prehistoric landscape was more open, the spruce forest was kept away by burnbeating and grazing. The agriculture was still, in the 18th century, the principal industry but the stony moraine ground prevented farmers from finding larger cultivation areas. Many swampy grounds and bog earth were drained during 19th century to win more area.
Photo: Copyright © Smålands Turistråd

The crofters constituted a farmer proletariat. When Industrialisation began, many applied for jobs in the factories. The big increase in population, together with starvation and poverty in the middle of 19th century, led to emigration of many younger crofter-families. Among the million Swedes who emigrated to North America, almost a fifth came from Småland.

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