A Warrior Dynasty

The Rise and Fall of Sweden as a Military Superpower 1611–1721

Henrik O. Lunde

This book examines the meteoric rise of Sweden as the pre-eminent military power in Europe during the Thirty Years War during the 1600s, and then follows its line of warrior kings into the next century until the Swedes finally meet their demise, in an overreach into the vastness of Russia.
Publication date:
October 2014
Publisher :
Illustration :
16pp illustrations
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ISBN : 9781612002422

Dimensions : 229 X 152 cm
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• The first purely military focussed publication on the Thirty Years War in English for over 40 years

There has been a recent trend in history to interpret the rise and fall of great powers in terms of economics, or demographics, or geography. This is not always true, as this book proves, because sometimes pure military skill can propel a nation to prominence, if it is simply able to crush all its opponents on a battlefield. No better example arises than that of Sweden beginning in the 17th century, which held supremacy over northern Europe for 100 years without any technological, geographic or demographic advantages at all.

This fascinating book describes how the Swedes first arrived in continental Europe during the 30 Years War, under their king Gustavus Adolfus. Just in time to roll back the reactionary Catholic tide and buttress the Lutherans, the Swedes proved more innovative in battle than their opponents, using the new arm of artillery plus tactical formations to establish supremacy on the battlefield. This horrific war still exists in collective memory as the worst travail in German history, even worse than the world wars; however along with the salvation of Protestantism the emergence of the Swedes as a power to be reckoned with meant new geopolitical complications for the existing powers of Europe.

Adolphus was eventually killed in battle, but a successor, Charles XII, renewed Swedish aggression—this time for the object of conquest—as he found that no army on the Continent could stand against his legions from the north. As later military leaders would find, however, the conquest of Russia comprised a considerable overreach, and Charles was eventually trapped and defeated deep in the Ukraine, at Poltava.

In this work renowned military historian Henrik O. Lunde unveils a fascinating chapter in the foundation of Western history that is seldom seen or recognized by English or American readers.


The idea that Sweden has played a key role in shaping European history at first seems unlikely. But by telling that history from an entirely Swedish perspective, Lunde demonstrates how his country both broke the Holy Roman Empire, and then woke Russia from sleeping-giant status. An intriguing read: file under "surprisingly insightful".
History of War