In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Scandinavia

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works
  • Journals
  • Sources
  • Institutions and Governments
  • Wars and Governments
  • Scandinavia’s Rulers
  • Economic History
  • Social History
  • Agrarian Life and the Rural Economy
  • Urban History
  • The Nobility
  • The Church, 1350–1500
  • The Reformation
  • Private Life and the Family
  • Women and Gender
  • Education and Print Culture
  • Humanism and Humanistic Scholarship
  • Nature, Natural Philosophy, and Science
  • Art, Architecture, and Music
  • Cultures, Popular and Elite

Renaissance and Reformation Scandinavia
Joseph M. González
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 November 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 November 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0089


At the beginning of the 14th century, three independent kingdoms dominated northern Europe: Denmark, which included the southernmost provinces of what is today Sweden, as well as the German duchies of Schleswig and Holstein; Norway, which claimed Iceland and the Faroe Islands; and Sweden, which included much of modern Finland. In 1397 these three kingdoms were unified under the Kalmar Union, which enjoyed an uneasy existence until its partial dissolution with the victory of a Swedish rebellion led by Gustav Vasa and his election as king of Sweden in 1523. The history of the succeeding century is dominated in large part by the intense rivalry between the Swedes and the Danes over control of the region and the increasingly valuable Baltic trade. From 1536 to 1660, Danish territory was second in size only to the Spanish Empire, and its royal coffers were swollen with income from the dues paid by merchants traversing the straits controlled by its navy. By the beginning of the 17th century, these resources, together with Denmark’s early embrace of Protestantism, provided the realm with an opportunity to play a leading role in European affairs. But Denmark’s moment was fleeting, and it would be Sweden’s impact that would be far heavier in the Thirty Years War and would continue over the course of the 17th century to develop a Baltic empire that would include portions of modern-day Estonia, Poland, and Germany, as well as all of Denmark’s former holdings on the Scandinavian peninsula. By the 14th century, the majority of Scandinavia had long been part of the Christian fold and to a large degree was incorporated into European culture. There was a steady trickle of students from the Nordic realms to European universities in the later Middle Ages, and domestic universities were established at Lund in 1425, at Uppsala in 1477, and at Copenhagen in 1479. The region’s strong economic ties to England, Germany, and the Netherlands helped to accelerate the process of cultural integration with the Continent and to shape Scandinavian artistic, architectural, and cultural development, particularly in urban centers. The consolidation of royal power in 16th-century Denmark and Sweden and the inception of the Reformation brought about the more aggressive introduction of Renaissance culture and encouraged its dissemination, particularly through the agency of the royal court and the reformed church. The history of Scandinavia between 1350 and 1650 was typified by tremendous diversity and difference as well as similarity and integration. This article attempts to provide a sense of this variety and to point to connections, common themes, and unifying elements.

General Overviews

No single work provides an overview of Scandinavia from 1350 to 1650; however, the works listed in this section span both the time period and the region and explore the relationship among the kingdoms and their environmental and cultural-political context.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.