The Age of Discovery was the period between 1500-1800 C.E. in which European countries expanded their territories and explored previously unknown areas. In Sweden, the Union of Kalmar, which had united the Nordic countries under Queen Margaret I of Denmark, had just dissolved, and the Swedish Royalty attempted to unify Sweden and reform social, financial, and religious institutions.
During the 16th century, the Swedish Royalty, led by the family of Gustav Vasa, rebelled against Denmark and the Papacy. The economy grew in leaps as Swedish trade took the place of the Hanseatic monopolies, allowing better use of farmland and the first modern army in Europe. However, involvement in the Thirty Years War drained their resources and while King Charles XII won important battles in the later Great Northern War, they were ultimately beaten back by Russia, causing a huge setback in urban and cultural development; part of their overreach came from an ingrained desire to conquer the Russians, who were already a powerful military force in Europe.
The Swedish culture took a turn for religious freedom during this time. King Gustav used the Protestant Reformation to break the Catholic hold over religious institutions, and allowed a certain amount of religious freedom, including protection for Lutheran reformers, which eventually became the state religion. Experiments with the Slave Trade in the Caribbean failed, as did the small colony of New Sweden on the Delaware River. However, Sweden became an important player in trade supplies including metals, wood, and fur, taking control of the Baltic region and dictating terms to trade unions.
By the time of the Enlightenment in 1700, Sweden had lost a greal deal of their influence, and although they continued to engage in war with Russia until the 1800s, they never regained the height of their power, instead taking refuge in export of iron and wood to rebuild their status.