Norrland comprises of the historical provinces (landskap) Gästrikland, Medelpad, Ångermanland, Hälsingland, Jämtland, Härjedalen, Västerbotten, Norrbotten and Lappland, roughly 59% of Sweden's total area. Historically, Jämtland and Härjedalen belonged to Norway until 1645, and are thus not part of the historical Norrland.
Except for the coast areas, the area is sparsely populated. 12% of the population in Sweden live in Norrland. Unlike the much more densely populated Svealand and Götaland, which are better known for big cities (Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö etc) with landmarks & tourist attractions, Norrland is known for its nature: wide forests, large rivers and untouched wilderness. Many people live in rural areas & small villages rather than urban towns and cities along the coast.
In the 19th century, it became the source for the important wood and pulp industry. All of the major Norrland rivers but four have been exploited for water power. The rivers in Norrland account for the bulk of hydroelectical power in Sweden - in many countries a limited energy source, but in Sweden hydroelectrical power accounts for approximately 40% of Sweden's total production of electricity.
Mines for producing precious metals have also been located in Norrland. In older history, the administration in Stockholm viewed Norrland pretty much as a colony consisting of natural resources to be exploited. "In Norrland we have an India within our borders, if only we realize we should be taking advantage of it" (I Norrland hava vi inom våra gränser ett Indien, blott vi förstå att bruka det) is a quote attributed to Axel Oxenstierna that fairly well describes the attitude. In the official history of Sweden not much is written about the northern parts of the country.
Kebnekaise, Sweden's tallest mountain at 2,111 metres (6,926 feet), is located in Lappland in upper Norrland.
In older history, Norrland is one of the four lands of Sweden. To the west it represented the northern half of Sweden bounded to the south by Svealand and to the east it represented the northern half of Finland - which was then a part of Sweden - bounded to the south by Österland. In Svealand and Götaland, the land boundaries were of major juridical and administrative importance, but this was not the case with Norrland. The name Norrland just gradually became a denomination of everything north of Svealand. Up to the middle ages,the northern part of Norrland (Norrbotten and Lappland) was basically a no man's land. The area was sparsely populated by sami, kvens and different tribes/people related to the Finns. In the southern part of Norrland, Swedish and Norwegian settlers lived side by side with the Sami population. From the Middle ages on, the Swedish kings tried hard to colonize and Christianize the area. But it took time - even today, Finnish and Sami minorities live in the northern parts of Norrland and have maintained their culture and customs.
As a result of the changing relations to Finland, the northern borders of Norrland have shifted. While the word Finland meant only the southern parts of what is now the country Finland, the border of Norrland was drawn at the rivers Kaakamojoki or, later, Simojoki. This changed when Sweden lost Finland to Russia, and the new border was drawn at Torne River. The southern border was first everything north of the Gästrikland province (until the 14th or 15th century a part of Uppland), but from the mid 17th century further also Gästrikland is considered a part of Norrland. The name can be first traced from Karl's Chronicle, explaining how Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson in 1433 sent a letter to Erik Puke requesting assistance to conquer entire Norrland (al norland vnte han honom wolla).