The first Stone Age settlers came to Gotland about 7 000 years ago, and many traces of their dwelling-places can still be seen. From the Bronze Age there are an abundance of large stone cairns and stone ship graves. During the Viking era the merchants and wealthy farmers of Gotland were active participants in the midst of world trade for 500 years. Vast treasures were accumulated on the island. Well-preserved stone churches (over ninety in number), were constructed during the Middle Ages. Gradually the burghers of Visby overtook the farmers' trade. Visby became a town with strong German interests and a member of the Hanseatic League. During the late Middle Ages, trade declined, diminishing Gotland's position. The Danish king, Valdemar Atterdag's conquest of Gotland in 1361 marked the final turning point. Gotland became thereafter, after different periods of Danish, Swedish and German rule, finally Swedish in 1679.
At present there are 58 000 inhabitants on Gotland, representing 0,7% of the population of Sweden. The approximate 1500 refugees now staying on Gotland not included. The population of Gotland declined dramatically through migration from the island during the 1940's and 50's.
The structure of the economy differs markedly from that of the rest of the country. The most pronounced difference is seen in the high proportion of people employed in the agriculture and forestry sector and in the public sector. Tourism is also a growing sector. And with the new cruise quay completed in spring 2018 bigger cruise vessels will be able to come into the port of Visby.
There must be an increase in population in order to retain and develop the level of service on Gotland, both in terms of quantity and quality. To be able to increase the population Gotland needs more employment opportunities, to replace lost jobs, to reduce unemployment, and for new residents.