S V Helander EmigrantsThe Emigrants by S. V. Helander (1839-1901) A young farmer takes a sober farewell of friends and relatives.

"They were the first of many to leave their village. They came from a land of small cottages and large families. They were people of the soil, and they came of a stock which for thousands of years had tilled the ground they were now leaving". Vilhelm Moberg - The emigrants (Utvandrarna)

During the Swedish emigration to the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries, about 1.3 million Swedes left Sweden. Not only did they leave for the U.S. A large number of Swedish citizens also left for Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South America, Germany, England, Denmark and Norway among several countries. Some factors especially encouraged Swedish emigration.

Why did they leave?

The reasons why people left Sweden for homes elsewhere are called "push" factors. These factors are varied and often work in conjunction with the "pull" factors (reasons to migrate to particular area)of a certain part of the world. One reason people left Sweden was due to a lack of available land. By the mid-1800s, the population of Sweden was on the rise due to improvements in modern medicine and a more stable food supply. This increase in population led to a strain on the amount of land available, especially for farming, forcing many Swedes to leave their homeland and to search for land in other countries. To make matters worse, work was scarce because of the invention of laborsaving machinery.

Religious persecution was another factor that pushed Swedes to leave their homeland. The government of Sweden was connected to the State Lutheran Church, and, until 1858, people who practiced another religion faced being fined, put in jail, or exiled from the country. Even though these practices stopped in 1858, many Swedes continued to be intolerant of their fellow countrymen and -women who practiced a religion other than that of the state. Because of this, many Swedes left Sweden between 1840 and 1860.

Some people chose to leave Sweden because of the mandatory military service required by the government. In 1860 young men were required to train in the Swedish military for 30 days out of the year. The Swedish conscription laws became increasingly strict and demanding. Some young men decided to leave the country rather than to face this conscription.

Other reasons include a lack of social mobility in Sweden due to its social system, as well as a political system which was unfriendly to certain groups. Other people may have had their own personal reasons for leaving Sweden. 

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