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Scots in Sweden
Scots in Sweden, by Jonas Berg and Bo Lagercrantz
The Middle Ages


The Swedish runestones tell of many who took part in Viking expeditions to the west. The majority probably sailed to England to exact Danegeld, the tribute imposed on the English from the end of the tenth century. Many, even so, certainly visited the Scottish coast both to raid and to trade. But we have no detailed knowledge of this at all.

Contemporary Catholic pamphlet
Contemporary Catholic pamphlet against Gustavus Adolphus and "the barbarians"
which he brought to Germany

Sweden’s most intimate contacts during the Middle Ages were with Central Europe, particularly Germany. Parallel with these we find less extensive, but (even so) important, cultural influences from the British Isles. It is worth noting that throughout this period it was Norway that was most strongly influenced by Britain, owing to her geographical position.

Ansgar (died 865), a monk from Hamburg, was the first missionary to Sweden, but his work can hardly be said to have had any far-reaching consequences. Not until the 11th century did Christianity gain a firm foothold in Sweden, and this was mainly through missionaries from Britain. We know the names of some of these but it is uncertain whether any of them were Scottish. The centre of the British mission was Vastergotland, and the bishop’s seat in Skara was occupied by churchmen of British origin. Sweden’s first Archbishop, Stefan, who was enthroned in 1164 and his seat in Upsala, was also an Englishman. In areas where the British mission gained a foothold there are still traces of British influence in church art and architecture. This is true not only in Vastergotland but also in Ostergotland (Linkoping) and, for example, at Sigtuna, where Sweden’s first Christian King, Olof Skotkonung, in the early 11th century had his English mint master strike coins marked with a cross.

At the beginning of the 13th century, the German church and Germanic culture became dominant in Sweden, and we find in the sources only a few travellers from the west. These include the Scot Jacob Teit, who was in the service of Birger Jarl in the middle of the 13th century. Descendents of Teit are still to be found in Finland.


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