Dec 292016

Click image to be taken to the film

Viking Cronholm was born in 1874 in Sweden into a typical late 19th century bourgeois family. Interested in sports and generally curious, he nevertheless choose the road less travelled. After a few years at sea, he trained as a physiotherapist, and in 1904 he relocated to South Africa. He was no stranger to martial arts; among other things he had boxed during his period in Chicago in the 1890s. However, in South Africa (of all places) he discovered jujitsu and apparently never looked back.

In 1907, he returned to Sweden and started teaching jujitsu in Stockholm. He became a popular instructor and his book Jiu-Jiutsu Tricks which was published in 1908 has been printed in numerous editions. Above you can see a clip from 1919 where he demonstrates some moves on an unfortunate young man. Kudos, I must say, for looking quite the gentleman while doing it!

Sep 232016
Source: Stockholm City Museum Year: 1925-26 Object ID: F83205 License: CC BY-NC-SA 2.5 SE

Source: Stockholm City Museum Year: 1925-26 Object ID: F83205 License: CC BY-NC-SA 2.5 SE

During the early 20th century housing was a scarce resource in many European cities, and many families lacked adequate living quarters. Many of the social problems experienced in connection with the rapid urbanisation process were also blamed on poor housing. One way to remedy that was to construct temporary living quarters as a sort of emergency measure.

This image shows a temporary arrangement in the gymnasium in the Central Police Building in Stockholm, 1925-1926. It makes you acutely aware of how living standards have risen in Western Europe in the past century, doesn’t it?

May 182016

Here’s a couple (called Oscar and Anna Tropp if the info supplied by the National Film Archive is correct) demonstrating some of the hippest new dance floor moves, including tango, foxtrot, one-step, and, I have been told, maxixe. I have it on good authority that it’s unusual to find this extensive footage of dancing from the period so this was rather a nice find.

(click on the image below to be taken to the National Film Archive to see the clip).


Mar 242016
Beach life at Mölle, 1911

Beach life at Mölle, 1911 (click image to be taken to the Swedish National Film Archive in order to see the entire film)

In 1911, this film was shot at Mölle, an early seaside resort, in Sweden. It shows people of all ages frolicking together in the waves, clearly enjoying themselves immensely. It’s a rare look at Edwardian swimming costumes in action, and it’s interesting to see that men and women are clearly bathing together, completely unashamedly. On the other hand, you can also note that when this film was shown in the cinemas in Sweden, it had been censored in parts and was rated R…

Therefore, only click the image (in order be taken to the Swedish National Film Archive and see the entire film clip) if you are sure that you are of an age and mental maturity to be able to handle Edwardians in saggy woollen bathing suits!

Mar 222016

Hedvig Elisabeth Charlotte of Holstein-Gottorp, shortly after her wedding. Portrait by Alexander Roslin, 1774.

Why today: Hedvig Elisabeth Charlotte was born on this day in 1759.

Name: Hedvig Elisabeth Charlotte of Holstein-Gottorp
Character class:Queen
Lived: 1759-1818
Also known as: Duchess of Södermanland, “Little Duchess”, “Duchess Lotta”, Queen Charlotte
Special powers: Malicious gossip (+5 reputation damage on all rolls)
Known affiliates: Sophie Piper von Fersen, Fabian von Fersen, King Charles XIII
Quote: “You have to admit, my dear friend, that woman is truly an unhappy creature: while men have their complete freedom, she is always burdened by prejudice and circumstance”. Continue reading »

Feb 062016
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Portrait of Maria Persdotter Länta, aged 45, from Sirkas Sami village (from Flickr Commons)

Today is the international Sami Day. If you don’t know the word, the Sami are the indigenous people inhabiting the far northern region of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola peninsular of Russia that is sometimes called “Sàpmi” or “Sami land”. The Sami are traditionally hunters, gatherers and reindeer herders and were continually pushed north from part of their traditional lands by settlers, and their way of life, religion and language has been under threat for hundreds of years. The old Swedish word for the Sami is “Lapps”, which is now considered derogatory and no longer in use. The word “Lappland” derives from that, and it is still used for parts of northern Sweden and Finland. Continue reading »

Feb 052016

As the IWM states on its website “(h)unger stalked the civilian populations of all the combatant nations” during World War I. What is perhaps less well-known is that hunger also stalked the populations of non-combatant nations.

Swedish rationing card for bread and flour from 1919 (from my personal collection)

Swedish rationing card for bread and flour from 1919 (from my personal collection)

Sweden was one such nation. Although rather strong pro-German sympathies were probably prominent among the population, Sweden remained staunchly neutral all through the war. Due to sheer geographical misfortune, it was nevertheless hit hard by the blockade of Germany, since all naval traffic for the Baltic area by necessity had to pass Germany. Thus, when Germany starved, so did Sweden.

Continue reading »

Aug 102014
Model of Vasa

A picture of a model of Vasa in what is believed to be the original colours
Source: Wikipedia, image by Peter Isotalo, used under a CC Attribution 3.0 Unported license

On 10 August, 1628, the Swedish navy suffered an extreme embarrassment when the proud new 72-gun-warship Vasa, meant to be employed in the war against the Poles, sank just outside the harbour of Stockholm after sailing only a measly 20 minutes, or about 1300 metres. Continue reading »

Jul 082014

In the Lake Malar, some 30 km from Stockholm, is the island of Björkö, which was the place of one of the earliest urban settlements in Scandinavia, and one of the most important trading places of the Viking era.


View of part of Birka – this is not the site of the actual city area, but a bay likely used as a secondary harbour. You can see the museum (the dark building to the left) and the surrounding are, looking not unlike what it probably did a millenium ago.

The picture looks like it’s a pretty cold and dismal day, but it’s an illusion – it was almost 30°C and extremely humid, so it actually felt more tropic than Nordic. Continue reading »