6th June

National Yo-yo Day: To celebrate the birthday of businessman Donald F. Duncan Sr who introduced the yo-yo to the US.

1984 Tetris releasedgreat for thinking about shapes tessellating and turning – play it here.

1944 Normandy Landings – find out more at the BBC’s children’s page. We have a Mulberry Harbour, used in the landings, on the beach near us that we could go visit.

Sweden’s National Day: The Swedes started out as reindeer-hunting tribes and gradually grew into Goths which swept down and kiiind of destroyed the Roman Empire.

Viking society ruled from 8th to 11th century and raided everywhere else. The Byzantine emperor was impressed by their fighty-fightiness, and hired them as his bodyguards, the Varangian Guard.

The Vikings’ travels are recorded in runestones. See 17th May for more Viking activities.

Eric the Victorious, in 970 A.D., was the first king to rule all of Sweden.

They never really had feudalism, like the rest of Europe did, so the peasants remained free farmers, and in 1335 King Magnus Erikson forbade the use of slavery. In 1319 the same king had united Sweden and Norway, and in 1397 Denmark joined in too.

Some of the later monarchs came to power when they were just children, so Sweden would chose a regent from a noble family to rule until the king came of age. In 1513 Denmark elected a king that Sweden didn’t want, Christian II. He invaded anyway and in 1520 massacred Swedish nobles in the ‘Stockholm bloodbath’.

Surprisingly, after that, Sweden still didn’t want him as a king, and they elected Gustav Vasa as king on 6 June 1523. This is what is celebrated today.

He is considered the founder of modern Sweden as he booted out the Hanseatic merchants which were dominating the economy.

In the 17th century Sweden started to build an empire, taking land from Russia and Poland-Lithuania and destroying nearly a third of all towns in Germany. The king, Gustavus Adolphus, managed to conquer nearly half the Holy Roman Empire; Sweden was the third-biggest country in Europe. Adolphus planned on becoming Holy Roman Emperor, but he was killed in battle and the German states went off the idea of being ruled by Sweden.

Then Sweden kept on invading Poland-Lithuania for like 50 years, called ‘The Deluge’, until its money started to run out. They built up their economy and arsenal again, defeated Poland and then tried to invade Russia. Mistake. And then there was the plague, that was no fun, then the king, Charles XII, was shot dead while trying to invade Norway. And that was the end of the Swedish Empire.

In the 18th century Russia took the eastern half of Sweden, which became Finland. In 1814 Sweden forced Norway to become part of it, by swapping it for some north-German states with Napoleon.

Between 1850 and 1910, Sweden was still a poor farming country and about 1 million emigrated to America.

In WWI Sweden was officially neutral, although they did put mines in the Oresund channel so the Allies couldn’t get through and did a few other bits that could be seen as ‘actually being on the German side’; in WWII they were also seen to be rather German, because Germany had blockaded them off from the rest of Europe, but in fairness they actually rescued hundreds of thousands of Jews and other refugees.

After the war Sweden was much better off than the rest of us and its industry supplied the rebuilding of Europe.

Why not celebrate today with Swedish meatballs while listening to Abba?

UN Russian Language Day – you can learn the basics at the wonderful BBC.

Queensland (Australia) Day – see 26th January


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