Sweden hasn’t always been a rich and prosperous country. At the end of the 1800s, conditions in the countryside were so bad that a third of Sweden’s population decided to emigrate to America. This was the equivalent of over a million people. Imagine! More than a million people. That’s around the same number as the population of Stockholm today.
In those days, travelling to America was a large and risky project. Most of those fleeing from Sweden had never been abroad before, almost no one knew any English, and the boat trip across the Atlantic was both long and dangerous. The Swedes went all the same.
But what was it that caused so many people to leave their home country?
The main reason why people felt they were forced to leave Sweden was poverty. Years of bad crops, combined with more and more children being born, meant that there were simply too many people and too little food. Leaving everything was a way of surviving.
Another reason why Swedes left was that they longed for religious and political freedom. At the time, the Swedish king ruled with an iron fist, and the state church had great power. Many people felt they weren’t able to express their religion or their political views as they would have liked, so they started to look to the West, to America. America was a country with fertile soil, and political and religious freedom. There, the Swedes could start a new life. The dream is the same today as it was then—the dream of a dignified life.