Västergötland (Westrogothia) Prehistory and middle ages



There are many ancient remains in Västergötland. Most prominent are probably the dolmens from the Funnelbeaker culture, in the Falköping area south of lake Vänern. Finnestorp, nearLarv, was a weapons sacrificial site from the Iron Age.

The population of Västergötland, the Geats appear in the writings of the Greek Ptolemaios (as Goutai), and they appear as Gautigoths in Jordanes‘ work in the 6th century. The province of Västergötland represents the heartland of Götaland, once an independent petty kingdom with a long line of Geatish kings. These are mainly described in foreign sources (Frankish) and through legends.

It is possible that Västergötland had the same king as the rest of Sweden at the time of the monk Ansgar‘s mission to Sweden in the 9th century, but both the date and nature of its inclusion into the Swedish kingdom is a matter of much debate. Some date it as early as the 6th century, based on the Swedish-Geatish wars in Beowulf epos; others date it as late as the 12th century.

Västergötland received much early influence from the British isles and is generally considered to be the bridgehead of Christianity‘s advance into Sweden. Recent excavations at Varnhem suggest that at least its central parts were Christian in the 9th century. Around 1000, King Olof Skötkonung is held to have received baptism in Husaby, near lake Vänern. However, the Christianization was met with heavy opposition in the rest of his kingdom, and so Olof had to restrict the Christian activities to Västergötland. The Christian faith spread, and by the time the provincial law Västgötalagen was written in the 13th century, Västergötland had 517 churches. The seat of the area’sdiocese seems to originally have been Husaby, but since 1150 the city Skara (just some 20 kilometers south) held that distinction.

From the election of Stenkil in the 11th century, Swedish and Geatish dynasties vied for the control of Sweden during long civil wars. For instance, the Swedish king Ragnvald Knaphövde was elected king by the Swedes, but when he entered Västergötland, he chose not to demand hostage from the powerful Geatish clans and was slain by the Geats near Falköping. Several times, Västergötland was independent from Sweden with kings such as Inge I of Sweden and Magnus the Strong. In later years the area was progressively tied more closely to the Swedish kingdom.

Being in peace with Sweden did not mean being in peace. Located along the when borders of Denmark (with the so called Scanian lands) and Norway (with Bohuslän), the area was often involved in armed disputes and invaded by hostile armies.

Some places and dates of early battles were the Battle of Älgarås (1205), the Battle of Lena (1208), the Battle of Hova (1275), the Battle of Gälakvist (1279) and the Battle of Falköping (1389). Thereafter Sweden was involved in the Sweden-Danish wars; some notable years 1452, 1511, 1520, 1566, 1612, 1676.

In 1658 the current borders of Sweden were established when Sweden annexed both the Scanian lands and Bohuslän. Västergötland became less exposed as it was further from the country borders. Seaside battles at the end of Scanian War in the 1670s was the last combat on Västergötland soil.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s