Småland is a historical province (landskap) in southern Sweden. Småland borders Blekinge, Scania or Skåne,Halland, Västergötland, Östergötland and the island Öland in the Baltic Sea. The name Småland literally means Small Lands. The latinized form Smolandia has been used in other languages. The highest summit in Småland is Tomtabackenwith its 377 m.
Towns with former city status were: Eksjö (chartered around 1400), Gränna (1652), Huskvarna (1911), Jönköping (1284), Kalmar (approximately 1100), Ljungby (1936), Nybro (1932), Nässjö (1914), Oskarshamn (1856), Sävsjö (1947), Tranås (1919), Vetlanda (1920), Vimmerby(approximately 1400), Värnamo (1920), Västervik (approximately 1200), Växjö (1342)
The area was probably populated in the Stone Age from the south, by people moving along the coast up to Kalmar. Småland was populated by Stone Age peoples by at least 6000 BC, since the Alby People are known to have crossed the ice bridge across the Kalmar Strait at that time.
Migration period, Smolandian tumulus (grave mound)
The name Småland (“small lands”) comes from the fact that it was a combination of several independent lands, Kinda (today a part of Östergötland), Tveta, Vista, Vedbo, Tjust, Sevede, Aspeland, Handbörd, Möre, Värend, Finnveden and Njudung. Every small land had its own law in the Viking age and early middle age and could declare themselves neutral in wars Sweden was involved in, at least if the King had no army present at the parliamentary debate. Around 1350, under the king Magnus Eriksson a national law was introduced in Sweden, and the historic provinces lost much of their old independence.
The city of Kalmar is one of the oldest cities of Sweden, and was in the medieval age the southernmost and the third largest city in Sweden, when it was a center for export of iron, which, in many cases, was handled by German merchants.
Nils Dacke.18th century painting
Småland was the center of several peasant rebellions, the most successful of which was Dackefejden led by Nils Dacke in 1542–1543. When officials of king Gustav Vasa were assaulted and murdered, the king sent small expeditions to pacify the area, but all failed. Dacke was in reality the ruler of large parts of Småland during the winter, though heavily troubled by a blockade of supplies, before finally being defeated by larger forces attacking from both Västergötland and Östergötland. Dacke held a famous battle defence at the (now ruined)Kronoberg Castle, and was shot while trying to escape to then Danish-ruled Blekinge.
In the 19th century, Småland was characterized by poverty, and had a substantial emigration to North America, which additionally hampered its development. The majority of emigrants ended up in Minnesota, with a geography resembling Sweden, combining arable land with forest and lakes.
Max Von Sydow and Liv Ullman from the film "The Emigrants" (novel by V.Moberg)
An image from a canyon in the forested Småland.
In comparison with much of Sweden, Småland has a higher level of religious intensity and church participation (Lutheran).
In the 20th century, Småland has been known for its high level of entrepreneurship and low unemployment, especially in the Gnosjöregion. Some suggest the harsh conditions have throughout history forced the inhabitants of the region to be cunning, inventive and cooperative.
This is how the old Swedish encyclopedia Nordisk familjebok described the people:
- the Smalandian is by nature awake and smart, diligent and hard-working, yet compliant, cunning and crafty, which gives him the advantage of being able to move through life with little means.
- A running joke, or stereotype, in Sweden, is that of the Smalandian being very economical, or even cheap. Ingvar Kamprad said that the Smalandian are seen as the Scotsmen of Sweden.
The local language is a Swedish dialect known as Småländska (Smalandian). This may in turn be separated in two main branches, with the northern related to the Götaland dialects and the southern to the Scanian dialects.
The first coat of arms for Småland, granted in 1560 pictured a red crossbow with roses on a golden shield but at the coronation ofJohan III in 1569 a new coat of arms was granted. A lion was wielding the crossbow and the roses had fallen off. There was also a revision in 1944, but no alterations were made. Småland is also considered a duchy and has the right to carry a ducal coronet with the arms.
Blazon: “Or a lion rampant Gules langued and armed Azure holding in front paws a Crossbow of the second bowed and stringed Sable with a bolt Argent.”