The Swedish Empire refers to the Kingdom of Swedens territorial control of much of the Baltic region during the 17th and early 18th centuries, a time when Sweden was one of the great European powers. The beginning of the Empire is usually taken as the reign of Gustavus Adolphus, who ascended the throne in 1611, in Swedish history, the period is referred to as stormaktstiden, literally meaning the Great Power era. The interests of the high nobility contrasted with the uniformity policy, in territories acquired during the periods of de facto noble rule, serfdom was not abolished, and there was also a trend to set up respective estates in Sweden proper. The Great Reduction of 1680 put an end to efforts of the nobility. However, in the course of this war as well as in the subsequent Scanian War, Sweden was able to maintain her empire only with support of her closest ally. Charles XI of Sweden consolidated the empire and ensured a period of peace, before Russia, Saxony and Denmark started an attack on his successor. Sweden emerged as a great European power under Axel Oxenstierna and King Gustavus Adolphus, during the Thirty Years War, Sweden managed to conquer approximately half of the member states of the Holy Roman Empire. After France had intervened on the side as Sweden, the fortunes would shift again. As the war continued, it turned more and more grim, although exact population estimates do not exist, historians estimate that as many as one-third of the people in the Holy Roman Empire may have died as a result of the war. At the same time, Sweden joined the other important northern European nations in founding overseas colonies, New Sweden was founded in the valley of the Delaware River in 1638, and Sweden later laid claim to a number of Caribbean islands. A string of Swedish forts and trading posts was constructed along the coast of West Africa as well, at the conclusion of the Thirty Years War, the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 granted Sweden territories as war reparations. Sweden demanded Silesia, Pomerania pay a sum of 200,000 Riksdaler out of the lands they would receive, or 2) surrender a fourth of the property itself. Against this, the over-taxed lower estates protested, and the Diet had to be suspended, the king intervened, not to quell the commons, as the senate insisted, but to compel the nobility to give way. He proposed a committee to investigate the matter before the meeting of the next Riksdag. Charles X Gustav had done his best to recover from the extravagance of Christina. However, his own desire for military glory may have caused problems for his country, in three days, he persuaded the Swedish estates of the potential of his attack on the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. However, when he left Stockholm for Warsaw on July 10,1654, the Polish-Swedish War expanded into a general European war. He achieved passage over the Belts and emerged triumphant, only to die of sheer exhaustion, immediately after his death, a regency was appointed to govern Sweden during the minority of his only son and successor, Charles XI of Sweden, who was four years old
Sweden's coat of arms (with erroneous tinctures) on a wall of City Hall at Lützen in Germany
Swedish possessions in 1658. The years in parentheses indicate when the possession was given up or lost.