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Gotland

Gotland (gŏt´lənd), Swed. Gotlands län, county (1995 pop. 58,240), 1,225 sq mi (3,173 sq km), SE Sweden, in the Baltic Sea. The county comprises the large island of Gotland and several smaller islands, including Fårön, Gotska Sandön, and Karlsö. Visby is the capital. Gotland island is made up of a limestone plateau and has a steep coastline and a few hills. Its climate is temperate, and there is much fertile soil. Cereals, sugar beets, and vegetables are grown, and sheep are raised. Fishing, cement making, and tourism are the main industries. Archaeological remains indicate that Gotland, inhabited since the Stone Age, had wide commercial contacts from early times, especially under the Vikings (9th–11th cent.). In the 12th cent. German merchants settled at Visby, which became one of the chief towns of the Hanseatic League. From the 11th to the 14th cent. Gotland prospered as a major trade center of N Europe, but internal strife between the Hanse merchants and local tradesmen weakened the county. Gotland was conquered by the Swedish king, Magnus I (Magnus Ladulas) in 1280, and later was taken by Waldemar IV of Denmark in 1361 and by the Hanseatic League in 1370. Soon after, Gotland became the base of wide-ranging pirates, and it gradually declined in importance. By the Treaty of Stettin in 1570, Gotland passed under Danish rule; by the Peace of Brömsebro in 1645 it was returned to Sweden. The county has many fine churches and ruined castles.

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