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This article covers the history of the Kingdom of Denmark and of the areas comprising modern-day Denmarkmarker.

Ancient Denmark

People lived in the area of Denmark more than 100,000 years ago, but probably had to leave because of the ice-cap that spread over the land during the period of the Weichsel glaciation (ca 70,000 BC to ca 12,000 BC). Traces of permanent human habitation in Denmark exist from around 12,000 BC; agricultural settlers made inroads around 3,000 BC. The Nordic Bronze Age period in Denmark featured a culture which buried its dead, with their worldly goods, beneath burial mounds. Many dolmens and rock tombs (especially "passage graves") date from this period. The many finds of bronze from this era include beautiful religious artifacts and musical instruments, and provide the earliest evidence of social classes and stratification.

During the pre-Roman Iron Age (from the 4th to the 1st century BC), the climate in Denmark and southern Scandinavia became cooler and wetter, limiting agriculture and setting the stage for local groups to migrate southward into Germania. At around this time people began to extract iron from the ore in peat-bog. Evidence of strong Celtic cultural influence dates from this period in Denmark and in much of northwest Europe, and survives in some of the older place-names.

The Roman provinces, whose frontiers stopped short of Denmark, nevertheless maintained trade-routes and relations with Danish or proto-Danish peoples, as attested by finds of Roman coins. The earliest-known runic inscription dates back to ca. 200 — literacy as well probably came from the south. Depletion of cultivated land in the last century BC seems to have contributed to increasing migrations in northern Europe and increasing conflict between Teutonic tribes and Roman settlements in Gaul. Roman artifacts occur especially commonly in finds from the first century. It seems clear that some part of the Danish warrior-aristocracy served in the Roman army.

Occasionally during this time killings occurred and bodies got thrown into bogs. In some of these bog bodies have emerged very well-preserved, providing valuable information about the people who lived in Denmark during this period.

The Germanic Iron Age

Historians refer to the material culture of northern Europe during the mass-migrations of the 5th to the 7th centuries as the Germanic Iron Age. Some of the best-known remains from the period include the "peat bog corpses", among them the well-preserved bodies of two people deliberately strangled: Tollund Man and Haraldskær Woman.

Middle Ages

Earliest literary sources

The Old English poems Widsith and Beowulf, as well as works by later Scandinavian writers — notably by Saxo Grammaticus (c. 1200) — provide some of the earliest descriptions of Danish culture. Much remains mythical and legendary. Like Homer, these writers described an earlier culture imperfectly from a later perspective. However, their works may reflect some historical facts.

The Vikings

People who became known as Vikings inhabited much of Denmark from the 8th to the 11th centuries. They had a more complicated social structure than most of the societies which had previously lived in the area, and became famous for raiding and trading throughout the rest of Europe.

During the Viking period the Danes became a great power based on the Jutland Peninsulamarker, the island of Zealandmarker, and the southern part of present-day Swedenmarker. In the early 11th century King Canute (died 1035) ruled Denmark and Englandmarker as a single realm for almost 20 years.

Christianity, expansion and the establishment of the Kingdom of Denmark





Various petty kingdoms existed throughout the area now known as Denmark for many years. Around 980 Harold Bluetooth appears to have established a unified kingdom of Denmark. Around the same time, he received a visit from a German missionary who, according to legend , survived an ordeal by fire, which convinced Harold to convert to Christianity. The new religion, which replaced the old Norse religious practices, had many advantages for the king. Christianity brought with it some support from the Holy Roman Empire. It also allowed the king to dismiss many of his opponents who adhered to the old mythology. The Church would bring to his lands a stable administration that he could hopefully use to exercise some control over them.

After the death of Canute the Great in 1035, Englandmarker broke away from Danish control and Denmark fell into disarray for some time. Vikings from Norwaymarker raided Denmark sporadically. Canute's nephew Sweyn Estridson (1020–1074) re-established strong royal Danish authority and built a good relationship with the Archbishop of Bremen — at that time the Archbishop of all of Scandinavia.

In the early 12th century Denmark became the seat of an independent church province of Scandinavia. Not long after that, Swedenmarker and Norwaymarker established their own archbishoprics, free of Danish control. The mid-12th century proved a difficult time for the kingdom of Denmark. Violent civil wars rocked the land. Eventually, Valdemar the Great (1131-1182), gained control of the kingdom, stabilizing it and reorganizing the administration. King Valdemar and Absalon (ca 1128-1201), the bishop of Roskilde, rebuilt the country. During Valdemar's reign construction began of a castle in the village of Havn, leading eventually to the foundation of Copenhagenmarker, the modern capital of Denmark. Valdemar and Absalon built Denmark into a major power in the Baltic Seamarker, a power which later competed with the Hanseatic League, the Counts of Holstein, and the Teutonic Knights for trade, territory, and influence throughout the Baltic. In 1168, Valdemar and Absalon gained a foothold on the southern shore of the Baltic, when they subdued the Principality of Rügen.

In the 1180s, Mecklenburg and the Duchy of Pomerania came under Danish control, too. In the new southern provinces, the Danes promoted Christianity (mission of the Rani, monasteries like Eldena Abbeymarker) and settlement (Danish participation in the Ostsiedlung). The Danes lost most of their southern gains after the Battle of Bornhöved (1227), but the Rugian principality stayed with Denmark until 1325.

In 1202, Valdemar II became king and launched various "crusades" to claim territories, notably modern Estoniamarker. Legend has it that the Danish flag, the Dannebrog fell from the sky during the Battle of Lyndanissemarker in Estonia in 1219. A series of Danish defeats culminating in the Battle of Børnehoved on 22 July 1227 cemented the loss of Denmark's north German territories. Valdemar himself was saved only by the courageous actions of a German knight who carried Valdemar to safety on his horse.

From that time on Valdemar focused his efforts on domestic affairs. One of the changes he instituted was the feudal system where he gave properties to men with the understanding that they owed him service. This increased the power of the noble families (Danish: højadelen) and gave rise to the lesser nobles (Danish:lavadelen) who controlled most of Denmark. Free peasants lost the traditional rights and privileges they had enjoyed since Viking times.[3]

The king of Denmark had difficulty maintaining control of the kingdom in the face of opposition from the nobility and from the Church. An extended period of strained relations between the crown and the Popes of Romemarker took place, known as the "archiepiscopal conflicts".

By the late 13th century, royal power had waned, and the nobility forced the king to grant a charter, considered Denmark's first constitution. Following the Battle of Bornhöved in 1227, a weakened Denmark provided windows of opportunity to both the Hanseatic League and the Counts of Holstein. The Holstein Counts gained control of large portions of Denmark because the king would grant them fiefs in exchange for money to finance royal operations.

Valdemar spent the remainder of his life putting together a code of laws for Jutland, Zealandmarker and Skåne. These codes were used as Denmark's legal code until 1683. This was a significant change from the local law making at the regional assemblies (Danish:landting) had been the long-standing tradition. Several methods of determining guilt or innocence were outlawed including trial by ordeal and trial by combat. The Code of Jutland (Danish:Jyske Lov) was approved at meeting of the nobility at Vordingborg in 1241 just prior to Valdemar's death. Because of his position as ”the king of Dannebrog” and as a legislator, Valdemar enjoys a central position in Danish history. To posterity the civil wars and dissolution that followed his death made him appear to be the last king of a golden age.

The Middle Ages saw a period of close cooperation between the Crown and the Roman Catholic Church. Thousands of church buildings sprang up throughout the country during this time. The economy expanded during the 12th century, based mostly on the lucrative herring-trade, but the 13th century turned into a period of difficulty and saw the temporary collapse of royal authority.

Difficulties for the kings

During the disastrous reign of Christopher II (1319-1332), most of the country was pawned off to the counts (except Skane, which went to Sweden) after peasant revolts and conflicts with the Church. For eight years after Christopher's death, Denmark had no king, and was instead controlled by the counts. But after one of them was assassinated in 1340, Christopher's son Valdemar was chosen as king, and gradually began to recover the pawned territories, which was completed in 1360. The Black Death, which came to Denmark during these years, also aided his campaign. His continued efforts to expand the kingdom after 1360 brought him into open conflict with the Hanseatic League. He conquered Gotlandmarker, much to the displeasure of the League, which lost Visbymarker, an important trading town located there.

The Hanseatic alliance with Sweden to attack Denmark initially proved a fiasco since Danish forces captured a large Hanseatic fleet, and ransomed it back for an enormous sum. Luckily for the League, the Jutland nobles revolted against the heavy taxes levied to fight the expansionist war in the Baltic; the two forces worked against the king, forcing him into exile in 1370. For several years, the Hanseatic League controlled the fortresses on "the soundmarker" between Skåne and Zealand.

Margaret and the Kalmar Union

Margaret I, the daughter of Valdemar Atterdag, found herself married off to Håkon VI of Norway in an attempt to join the two kingdoms, along with Sweden, since Håkon had kinship ties to the Swedish royal family. The dynastic plans called for her son, Olaf II to rule the three kingdoms, but after his early death in 1387 she took on the role herself (1387 - 1412). During her lifetime (1353-1412) the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden (including the Faroe Islandsmarker, as well as Icelandmarker, Greenlandmarker, and present-day Finlandmarker) became linked under her capable rule, in what became known as the Kalmar Union, made official in 1397.

Her successor, Eric of Pomerania (King of Denmark from 1396 to 1439), lacked Margaret's skill and thus directly caused the breakup of the Kalmar Union. Eric's foreign policy engulfed Denmark in a succession of wars with the Holstein counts and the city of Lubeck. When the Hanseatic League imposed a trade embargo on Scandinavia, the Swedes (who saw their mining industry adversely affected) rose up in revolt. The three countries of the Kalmar Union all declared Eric deposed in 1439. However, support for the idea of regionalism continued, so when Eric's nephew Christopher of Bavaria came to the throne in 1440, he managed to get himself elected in all three kingdoms, briefly reuniting Scandinavia (1442-1448). The Swedish nobility grew increasingly unhappy with Danish rule and the union soon became merely a legal concept with little practical application. During the subsequent reigns of Christian I (1450-1481) and Hans (1481-1513), tensions grew, and several wars between Sweden and Denmark erupted.

In the early 16th century, Christian II (reigned 1513-1523) came to power. He allegedly declared, "If the hat on my head knew what I was thinking, I would pull it off and throw it away." This quotation apparently refers to his devious and machiavellian political dealings. He conquered Sweden in an attempt to reinforce the union, and had about 100 leaders of the Swedish anti-unionist forces killed in what came to be known as the Stockholm Bloodbath of November 1520. The bloodbath destroyed any lingering hope of Scandinavian union.

In the aftermath of Swedenmarker's definitive secession from the Kalmar Union in 1521, civil war and the Protestant Reformation followed in Denmark and Norway. When things settled down, the Privy Council of Denmark had lost some of its influence, and that of Norway no longer existed. The two kingdoms, known as Denmark-Norway, operated in a personal union under a single monarch. Norway kept its separate laws and some institutions, such as a royal chancellor, separate coinage and a separate army. As an hereditary kingdom, Norway's status as separate from Denmark remained important to the royal dynasty in its struggles to win elections as kings of Denmark. The two kingdoms remained tied until 1814.

Early Modern Denmark

The Reformation

The Reformation, which originated in the German lands in the early 16th century from the ideas of Martin Luther (1483-1546), had a considerable impact on Denmark. The Danish Reformation started in the mid-1520s. Some Danes wanted access to the Bible in their own language. In 1524 Hans Mikkelsen and Christiern Pedersen translated the New Testament into Danish; it became an instant best-seller. Those who had traveled to Wittenbergmarker in Saxony and come under the influence of the teachings of Luther and his associates included Hans Tausen, a Danish monk in the Order of St John Hospitallers. On Good Friday in 1525, Tausen used the pulpit at Antvorskovmarker Abbey Church to proclaim Luther's reforms. His scandalized superiors ordered him out of Zealand and held him in the priory at Viborgmarker under close confinement until he should come to his senses.Townspeople came to see the troublesome monk, and Tausen preached to them from the window of his cell. Within days Tausen's ideas swept through the town. The then radical ideas of Luther found a receptive audience. Tausen's preaching converted ordinary people, merchants, nobles, and monks and even the Prior grew to appreciate Tausen and ordered his release. Tausen preached openly: much to the consternation of Bishop Jøn Friis, who lost his ability to do anything about the Lutherans and retreated to Hald Castle. After preaching in the open air, Tausen gained the use of a small chapel, which soon proved too small for the crowds who attended services in Danish. His followers broke open a Franciscan Abbey so they could listen to Tausen, who packed the church daily for services. The town leaders protected Tausen from the Bishop of Viborg.Viborg became the center for the Danish Reformation for a time. Lutheranism spread quickly to Aarhus and Aalborg.

Within months King Frederick appointed Tausen as one of his personal chaplains (October 1526) in order to protect him from Catholics. Tausen's version of Luther's ideas spread throughout Denmark. Copenhagen became a hotbed of reformist activity and Tausen moved there to continue his work. His reputation preceded him and the excitement of hearing the liturgy in Danish brought thousands of people out to hear him. With the kings' permission, churches in Copenhagen opened their doors to the Lutherans and held services for Catholics and for Lutherans at different times of the day. But at Our Lady Church, the main church of Copenhagen, Bishop Ronnow refused to admit the "heretics". In December 1531 a mob stormed the Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen, encouraged by Copenhagen's fiery mayor, Ambrosius Bogbinder. They tore down statues and side-altars and destroyed artwork and reliquaries. Frederick I's policy of toleration insisted that the two competing groups share churches and pulpits peacefully, but this satisfied neither Lutherans nor Catholics.

Luther's ideas spread rapidly as a consequence of a powerful combination of popular enthusiasm for church reform and a royal eagerness to secure greater wealth through the seizure of church lands and property. In Denmark the reformation increased the crown's revenues by 300%.

Dissatisfaction with the established Catholic Church had already been widespread in Denmark. Many people viewed the tithes and fees — a constant source of irritation for farmers and merchants — as unjust. This became apparent once word got out that King Frederick and his son, Duke Christian had no sympathy with Franciscans who persistently made the rounds of the parishes to collect food, money, and clothing in addition to the tithes. Between 1527 and 1536 many towns petitioned the king to close the Franciscan houses. Frederick obliged by sending letters authorizing the closure of the monasteries, often offering a small sum of money to help the brothers on their way. With the royal letter in hand, mobs forcibly closed Franciscan abbeys all over Denmark. They beat up monks, two of whom died.The closure of Franciscan houses occurred systematically in Copenhagen, Viborg, Aalborg, Randers, Malmo and ten other cities; in all, 28 monasteries or houses closed. People literally hounded Franciscan monks out of the towns.No other order faced such harsh treatment. Considering how strongly many people felt about removing all traces of Catholic traditions from Danish churches, surprisingly little violence took place. Luther's teaching had become so overwhelmingly popular that Danes systematically cleared churches of statues, paintings, wall-hangings, reliquaries and other Catholic elements without interference. The only exceptions came in individual churches where the local churchmen refused to permit reform.

Frederick I died in 1533; the Viborg Assembly (Danish:landsting) proclaimed his son, Duke Christian of Schleswig, King Christian III. The State Council (Danish: Rigsråd) on Zealand, led by the Catholic bishops took control of the country and refused to recognize the election of Christian III, a staunch Lutheran. The regents feared Christian's zeal for Luther's ideas would tip the balance and disenfranchise Catholics — both peasants and nobles. The State Council encouraged Count Christopher of Oldenburg to become Regent of Denmark. Christian III quickly raised an army to enforce his election, including mercenary troops from Germany. Count Christopher raised an army (including troops from Mecklenburg and Oldenburgmarker and the Hanseatic League, especially Lűbeckmarker) to restore his Catholic uncle King Christian II (deposed in 1523). This resulted in a three-year civil war called the Count's Feud (Danish: Grevens Fejde).

Armed rebellion by Catholic peasants led by Skipper Clement started in northern Jutland. Rebellion swept across Funenmarker, Zealand and Skåne. Christian III's army soundly defeated an army of Catholic nobles at Svenstrup on 16 October 1534. Christian forced a truce with the Hanseatic League, which had sent troops to help Count Christopher. Christian III's army, under Johan Rantzau, chased the rebels all the way back to Aalborgmarker and then massacred over two thousand of them inside the city in December 1534. The Protestants captured Skipper Clement (1534), and later executed him in 1536. Christian III's mercenary troops put an end to Catholic hopes on Zealand and then Funen. Skåne rebels went as far as proclaiming Christian II king again. King Gustav Vasa of Sweden sent two separate armies to ravage Hallandmarker and Skåne into submission. Besiegers finally starved the last hold-outs in the rebellion, Copenhagen and Malmømarker, into surrender in July 1536. By the spring of 1536 Christian III had taken firm control.

Denmark became officially Lutheran on 30 October 1536 when King Christian III and the reconstituted State Council approved the Lutheran Ordinances, based on Luther's Augsburg Confession and Luther's Little Catechism. The government established the Danish National Church (Danish: Folkekirken) as the state church. All of Denmark's Catholic bishops went to prison until such time as they accepted Luther's reforms. The authorities released them when they promised to marry and to support the reforms. If they agreed, they received property and spent the rest of their lives as wealthy landowners. If they refused, they died in prison. The State confiscated Church lands to pay for the armies that had enforced Christian III's election. Priests swore allegiance to Lutheranism or found new employment. The new owners turned monks out of their monasteries and abbeys. Nuns in a few places gained permission to live out their lives in nunneries, though without governmental financial support. The Crown closed churches, abbeys, priories and cathedrals, giving their property to local nobles or selling it. The King appointed Danish superintendents (later bishops) to oversee Lutheran orthodoxy in the church. Denmark became part of a Lutheran heartland extending through Scandinavia and northern Germany. The Catholic Church everywhere in Scandinavia had sealed its fate by supporting hopeless causes: Christian II and the emperor Charles V in Denmark, Norwegian independence in that country, and in Sweden the Kalmar Union. Geographical distance also prevented them from receiving anything more than a sympathetic ear from Rome.

The 17th century saw a period of strict Lutheran orthodoxy in Denmark, with harsh punishments visited on suspected followers of either Calvinism or Huldrych Zwingli. Lutheran authorities treated Catholics harshly — in the fear that they might undermine the king, government, and national church. In a delayed result of the Reformation, Denmark became involved in the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) on the Protestant side. As a result Denmark lost its Baltic possessions and Skåne.

Early Modern politics

Denmark grew wealthy during the sixteenth century, largely because of the increased traffic through the Øresundmarker, which Danes could tax because Denmark controlled both sides of the Sound. The trade in grain exports from Polandmarker to the Netherlandsmarker and to the rest of Europe grew enormously at this time, and the Danish kings did not hesitate to cash in on it. The Sound duty was only repealed in the 1840s.

The Danish economy benefited from the Eighty Years' War (1568-1648) in the Netherlandsmarker because a large number of skilled refugees from that area (the most economically advanced in Europe) came to Denmark. This helped to modernize many aspects of society and to establish trading links between Denmark and the Netherlands.

Denmark had a reputation as a relatively powerful kingdom at this time. European politics of the 16th century revolved largely around the struggle between Catholic and Protestant forces, so it seemed almost inevitable that Denmark, a strong, unified Lutheran kingdom, would get drawn into the larger war when it came. The Thirty Years' War went badly for the Protestant states in the early 1620s, and a call went out to Denmark to "save the Protestant cause". Christian IV then decided to intervene. The campaign ended in defeat and the occupation of Jutland by the imperial army of Albrecht von Wallenstein. Afterwards, Christian made peace and agreed to not intervene in Germany again. In 1643, Sweden's armies, ostensibly occupied in the war in Germany, invaded Denmark under the command of Lennart Torstenson in what became known as the Torstenson War. The result proved disastrous for Denmark: in the 1645 treaty of Brömsebro Denmark ceded to Sweden the Norwegian provinces Jemtlandmarker, Herjedalenmarker and Idre & Sernamarker as well as the Danish islands of Gotlandmarker and Øselmarker. Hallandmarker went to Sweden for a period of 30 years.

Nevertheless, Danes remember Christian IV as one of the great kings of Denmark. He had a very long reign, from 1588 to 1648, and has become known as "the architect on the Danish throne" because of the large number of building projects he undertook. Many of the great buildings of Denmark date from his reign.

After the death of Christian IV in 1648, his son Frederick succeeded him. In 1657, Denmark launched a war of revenge against Sweden (then distracted in Poland) which turned into a complete disaster. During the winter of 1657-1658, the Sound froze over in a rare occurrence, allowing Charles X of Sweden to lead his armies across the ice to Jutland. Denmark capitulated and gave up Bohuslan and Skane, in addition to the county of Trondheim in Norway. Gottorp was also given over to Sweden, providing a gateway for invasion from the south. But Charles still wasn't satisfied. Three months after the peace treaty was signed, he held a council of war where he decided to simply wipe Denmark from the map and unite all of Scandinavia under his rule. The Swedish fleet arrived outside Copenhagen, which was poorly defended. The population of the city panicked. The Danes prepared for a desperate resistance, but Charles' ambitions were against the wishes of the other European powers, who did not want both sides of the Sound controlled by one nation. The Dutch fleet arrived at Copenhagen and saved the city from Swedish attack. Fighting continued into 1659, with Charles planning an invasion of Norway. He died of an illness in early 1660, and Sweden made peace, returning Trondheim to Norway, but keeping Bohuslän (norwegian: Båhuslen) and Skåne, and establishing the boundaries between Norway, Denmark, and Sweden that still exist today.



Absolutism

As a result of the disaster in the war against Sweden, King Frederick III (reigned 1648-1670) succeeded in convincing the nobles to give up some of their powers and their exemption from taxes, leading to the era of absolutism in Denmark. The country also had no hope of recovering its lost provinces from Sweden. As noted above, the rest of Europe was opposed to the Sound being controlled by one nation, and in the 1670s, when Denmark started a war with Sweden to recover Skane, it received no outside support. In any case, the population of Skane did not particularly welcome the prospect of returning to Danish rule. The war ended in a stalemate. But after the Great Northern War (1700-1718), Sweden was no longer a threat to Denmark.

For most of the 18th century, Denmark was at peace. The only time when war threatened was in 1762 when the Duke of Gottorp became Tsar Peter III of Russia and declared war on Denmark. But he was soon deposed, and the threat ended.

With the suspension of the Danish diet, that body disappeared for a couple of centuries. During this time power became increasingly centralized in Copenhagen. Frederick's government reorganized itself in a much more hierarchical manner, built around the king as a focal point of administration. Crown officials dominated the administration, as well as a new group of bureaucrats, much to the dismay of the traditional aristocracy, who saw their own influence curtailed even further. The absolutist kings of Denmark were quite weak compared to their Swedish counterparts, and non-noble landlords became the real rulers of the country. They used their influence to pass laws that favored themselves.

The administration and laws underwent "modernization" during this period. In 1683 the Danske lov 1683 (Danish Code) standardized and collected all the old provincial laws.

Other initiatives included the standardization of all weights and measures throughout the kingdom, and an agricultural survey and registry. This survey allowed the government to begin taxing landowners directly, moving it beyond dependence on revenue from crown lands.

The population of Denmark rose steadily through this period, from 600,000 in 1660 (after the loss of territory to Sweden) to 700,000 in 1720. By 1807 it had risen to 978,000.

Attempts to diversify the economy away from agriculture failed. During this period little industry existed, except for a very small amount in Copenhagen (population: 30,000). In the late 17th century a small amount of industry did develop, catering to the military. Denmark suffered in part because of its lack of natural resources. It had nothing much to export except agricultural products. The Netherlands bought the largest share of Denmark's exports. The landlords, only about 300 in number, nevertheless owned 90% of the land in the country.

Rural administration remained primarily the preserve of the large landholders and of a few law-enforcement officials. In 1733, low crop prices caused the introduction of adscription, an effort by the landlords to obtain cheap labor. The effect of this was to turn the previously free Danish peasantry into serfs. The adscription system tied rural laborers to their place of birth and required them to rent farms on the estates. As rent, they were required to work the landlords' plots and could not negotiate contracts or demand payment for improvements made to the farm. Peasants who refused to rent a farm were subject to six years of military service. Danish agriculture was very inefficient and unproductive as a result, since the peasants had no motivation to perform anything more than the absolute minimum of work. Attempts to sell Danish grain in Norway failed because of its low quality compared to grain from the Baltic.

In the late 18th century, extensive agricultural reforms took place, involving the abolition of the old open-field system and the amalgamation of many smaller farms into larger ones. With the abolition of the adscription system, the military could now only obtain manpower through conscription. These reforms were possible because agricultural prices steadily rose in the second half of the century.

Throughout the 18th century the Danish economy did very well, largely on the basis of expanded agricultural output to meet growing demand across Europe. Danish merchant ships also traded around Europe and the North Atlantic, venturing to new Danish colonies in the Caribbean and North Atlantic.

New propriety and Enlightenment ideas became popular among the middle classes of Denmark, arousing increased interest in personal liberty. In the last 15 years of the 18th century the authorities relaxed the censorship which had existed since the beginning of the 17th century. At the same time, a sense of Danish nationalism began to develop. Hostility increased against Germans and Norwegians present at the royal court. Pride in the Danish language and culture increased, and eventually a law banned "foreigners" from holding posts in the government. Antagonism between Germans and Danes increased from the mid-eighteenth century on. In the 1770s, during the reign of the mentally unstable Christian VII (1766-1808), the queen's lover, a German doctor named Johann Friedrich Struensee, became the real ruler of the country. Filled with the ideas of the Enlightenment, he attempted a number of radical reforms including freedom of the press and religion. But it was short-lived. The landlords feared that the reforms were a threat to their power, while the commoners believed that religious freedom was an invitation to atheism. In 1772, Struensee was arrested, tried, and convicted of crimes against the majesty, his right hand was cut off following his beheading, his remains were quartered and put on display on top of spikes on the commons west of Copenhagen. The next 12 years were a period of unmitigated reaction until a group of reformers gained power in 1784.

Denmark became the model of enlightened despotism, partially influenced by the outbreak of the French Revolution. Between 1784 and 1815, the abolition of serfdom made the majority of the peasants into landowners. The government also introduced free trade and universal education.

Colonialism

Map showing Denmark-Norway's colonial possessions in 1800


Denmark maintained a number of colonies outside Scandinavia, starting in the 17th century and lasting until the 20th century. Denmark also controlled traditional colonies in Greenland and Iceland in the north Atlantic — held through the union with Norway. Christian IV (reigned 1588-1648) first initiated the policy of expanding Denmark's overseas trade, as part of the mercantilist trend then popular in European governing circles. Denmark established its own first colony at Tranquebarmarker, or Trankebar, on India's south coast, in 1620. In the Caribbeanmarker Denmark started a colony on St Thomasmarker in 1671, St Johnmarker in 1718, and purchased Saint Croixmarker from Francemarker in 1733. Denmark maintained its Indian colony, Tranquebar, as well as several other smaller colonies there, for about two hundred years. The Danish East India Company operated out of Tranquebar. During its heyday, the Danish company and the Swedish East India Company imported more tea than the British East India Company — and smuggled 90% of it into Britain, where it sold at a huge profit. Both of the Scandinavia-based East India Companies folded during the course of the Napoleonic Wars. Danes also maintained other colonies, forts, and bases in West Africa, primarily for the purpose of slave-trading.

The 19th century

The Napoleonic Wars

The Battle of Copenhagen, 1801.


The long decades of peace came to an abrupt end during the Napoleonic Wars. Britain felt threatened by the Armed Neutrality Treaty of 1794, which originally involved Denmark and Sweden, and later Prussia and Russia. The British fleet attacked Copenhagen in 1801 (Battle of Copenhagen marker), destroying much of Denmark's navy. Denmark nonetheless managed to remain uninvolved in the Napoleonic Wars until 1807. The British fleet bombarded Copenhagen again that year, causing considerable destruction to the city. They then captured the entire Danish fleet so that it couldn't be used by France to invade Britain (as the French had lost their own fleet at Trafalgar in 1805), leading to the Gunboat War (1807-1814). The confiscation of the Danish navy was widely criticized in Britain.

In 1809 Danish forces fighting on the French side participated in defeating the anti-Baonapartist German rebellion led by Ferdinand von Schill, at the Battle of Stralsund.

The Treaty of Kiel transferred Norwaymarker from the Danish to the Swedish crown in 1814, as a reward to Sweden — which had chosen the victorious side. But the Norwegians revolted, declared their independence, and elected crown-prince Christian Frederick (the future Christian VIII) as their king. However, the Norwegian independence movement failed to attract any support from the European powers. After a brief war with Sweden, Christian had to abdicate in order to preserve Norwegian autonomy, established in a personal union with Sweden.

Denmark suffered terribly as a result of the Napoleonic Wars, it's economy broken, Norway lost, and Copenhagen badly damaged.

Interestingly, this period also counts as "the Golden Age" of Danish intellectual history. A sign of renewed intellectual vigor was the introduction of compulsory schooling in 1814. Literature, painting, sculpture, and philosophy all experienced an unusually vibrant period. The stories of Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) became popular not only in Denmark, but all over Europe and in the United States of Americamarker . The ideas of the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) spread far beyond Denmark, influencing not only his own era, but proving instrumental in the development of new philosophical systems after him. The sculptures of Thorvaldsen (1770-1834) grace public buildings all over Denmark and other artists appreciated and copied his style. Grundtvig (1783-1872) tried to reinvigorate the Danish National Church and contributed to the hymns used by the church in Denmark.

Nationalism and liberalism

The Danish liberal and national movements gained momentum in the 1830s, and after the European revolutions of 1848 Denmark became a constitutional monarchy on June 5, 1849. The growing bourgeoisie had demanded a share in government, and in an attempt to avert the sort of bloody revolution occurring elsewhere in Europe, Frederick VII gave in to the demands of the citizens. A new constitution emerged, separating the powers and granting the franchise to all adult males, as well as freedom of the press, religion, and association. The king became head of the executive branch. The legislative branch consisted of two parliamentary chambers; the Folketingmarker, comprising members elected by the general population, and the Landsting, elected by landowners. Denmark also gained an independent judiciary. In 1845 Denmark sold its colony of Tranquebarmarker in Indiamarker to Britainmarker.

The Danish king's realm still consisted of four parts:

  1. the islands
  2. Jutland
  3. the Duchy of Schleswig
  4. the Duchy of Holstein


The islands and Jutland together constituted the kingdom, whereas the monarch held the duchies in personal union with the kingdom. The duchy of Schleswig constituted a Danish fief, while the Duchy of Holstein remained a part of the German Confederationmarker. Since the early 18th century, and even more so from the early 19th century, the Danes had become used to viewing the duchies and the kingdom as increasingly unified in one state. This view, however, clashed with that of the German majority in the duchies, also enthused by liberal and national trends, which lead to a movement known as Schleswig-Holsteinism. Schleswig-Holsteinists aimed for independence from Denmark. The First War of Schleswig (1848-1851) broke out after constitutional change in 1849 and ended with the status quo only thanks to the intervention of Britainmarker and other Great Powers. Much debate took place in Denmark as to how to deal with the question of Schleswig-Holstein. National-Liberals demanded permanent ties between Schleswig and Denmark, but stated that Holstein could do as it pleased. However, international events overtook domestic Danish politics, and Denmark faced war against both Prussia and Austriamarker in what became known as the Second War of Schleswig (1864). The war lasted from February to October 1864. Denmark was easily beaten by Prussia and Austria, and obliged to relinquish Schleswig-Holstein.

The war caused Denmark as a nation severe trauma, forcing it to reconsider its place in the world. The loss of Schleswig-Holstein came as the latest in the long series of defeats and territorial loss that had begun in the 17th century. The Danish state had now lost some of the richest areas of the kingdom: Skåne to Sweden and Schleswig to Germany, so the nation focused on developing the poorer areas of the country. Extensive agricultural improvements took place in Jutland, and a new form of nationalism, which emphasized the "small" people, the decency of rural Denmark, and the shunning of wider aspirations, developed. Industrialization came to Denmark in the second half of the 19th century. The nation's first railroads were constructed in the 1850s, and improved communications and overseas trade allowed industry to develop in spite of Denmark's lack of natural resources. Trade unions developed starting in the 1870s. There was a considerable migration of people from the countryside to the cities, and Danish agriculture became centered around the export of dairy and meat products.

The two concepts of internationalism and nationalism have become very much part of the history of the Danish Labour movement.

The Labour movement gathered momentum when social issues became associated with internationalism. Socialist theory and organisational contact with the First International, which linked labour movements in various countries, paved the way. Louis Pio emerged as the driving force. In 1871, following the bloody defeat of the Paris Commune, he started publishing socialist journalism. He campaigned strongly for an independent organisation of the workers under their own management, and organised a Danish branch of the First International. This became the foundation stone for the Social Democratic Party under the name of Den Internationale Arbejderforening for Danmark (The International Labour Association for Denmark). As a combination of union and political party, it adroitly brought together national and international elements.

Pio saw internationalism as vital for the success of the workers' struggle: without internationalism, no progress. He pointed out that the middle classes cooperated across national frontiers and used nationalistic rhetoric as a weapon against the workers and their liberation.

The Danish section started organising strikes and demonstrations for higher wages and social reforms. Moderate demands, but enough to provoke the employers and the forces of law and order. Things came to a head in the Battle of Fælledenmarker on 5 May 1872. The authorities arrested the three leaders, Louis Pio, Poul Geleff and Harald Brix, charged them and convicted them of high treason. The three left Denmark for the United States to set up the ill-starred and short-lived socialist colony near Hays City, in Ellis County, Kansas.

Back in Denmark, the emerging political situation made possible by the new constitution alarmed many of the existing elites, since it inevitably empower the peasantry. Simple men with little education replaced professors and professionals in positions of power. The peasants, in coalition with liberal and radical elements from the cities, eventually won a majority of seats in the Folketing. Even though constitutional changes had taken place to boost the power of the Landsting, the Left Venstre Party demanded to form the government, but the king, still the head of the executive branch, refused. However in 1901, king Christian IX gave in and asked Johan Henrik Deuntzer, a member of Venstre, to form a government, the Cabinet of Deuntzer. This began a tradition of parliamentary government, and with the exception of the Easter Crisis of 1920, no government since 1901 has ruled against a parliamentary majority in the Folketing.

Monetary union



The Scandinavian Monetary Union, a monetary union formed by Sweden and Denmark on May 5, 1873, fixed both their currencies against gold at par to each other. Norwaymarker, governed in union with Sweden, entered the monetary union two years later in 1875 by pegging its currency to gold at the same level as Denmark and Sweden (.403 grams).The monetary union proved one of the few tangible results of the Scandinavist political movement of the 19th century.

The union provided fixed exchange-rates and stability in monetary terms, but the member-countries continued to issue their own separate currencies. In an outcome not initially foreseen, the perceived security led to a situation where the formally separate currencies circulated on a basis of "as good as" the legal tender virtually throughout the entire area.

The outbreak of World War I in 1914 brought an end to the monetary union. Sweden abandoned the tie to gold on August 2, 1914, and without a fixed exchange rate the free circulation came to an end.

The 20th century

1901-1939

In the early decades of the 20th century the new Radical Party and the older Venstre Party shared government. During this time women gained the right to vote (1915), and the United States of America purchased some of Denmark's colonial holdings: the three islands of St. Johnmarker, St. Croixmarker, and St. Thomasmarker in the West Indiesmarker. The period also saw Denmark inaugurating important social and labour-market reforms, laying the basis for the welfare state.

Denmark remained neutral during World War I, but the conflict affected the country to a considerable extent. As its economy was heavily based on exports, the unrestricted German submarine warfare was a serious problem. Denmark had no choice but to sell many of its exports to Germany instead of overseas nations. Widespread profiteer took place, but commerce also suffered great disruption because of the conflict and because of the ensuing financial instability in Europe. Rationing was instituted, and there were food and fuel shortages. Following the defeat of Germany in the war (1918), the Treaty of Versailles (1919) mandated the Schleswig Plebiscites, which resulted in the return of Northern Schleswig ( South Jutland) to Denmark. The king and parts of the opposition grumbled that Prime Minister Carl Theodor Zahle (in office 1909-1910 and 1913-1920) did not use Germany's defeat to take back a bigger portion of the province, which Denmark had lost in the Second War of Schleswig in 1864. The king and the opposition wanted to take over the city of Flensburgmarker, while the cabinet insisted on only claiming areas where a majority of Danes lived, which led to a plebiscite in the affected areas over whether they wanted to become a part of Denmarkmarker or remain within Germanymarker. Believing that he had the support of the people, King Christian X used his reserve power to dismiss Zahle's cabinet, sparking the Easter Crisis of 1920. As a result of the Easter Crisis, the king promised to no longer interfere in politics. Although the Danish Constitution remained un-amended, Danish monarchs have stayed out of politics since then. The end of the war also prompted the Danish government to finish negotiating with Icelandmarker, resulting in Iceland becoming a sovereign Kingdom on December 1, 1918 while retaining the Danish monarch as Head of State.

In the 1924 Folketing election the Social Democrats, under the charismatic Thorvald Stauning, became Denmark's largest parliamentary political party, a position they maintained until 2001. Since the opposition still held a majority of the seats in the Landsting, Stauning had to co-operate with some of the right-wing parties, making the Social Democrats a more mainstream party. He succeeded in brokering an important deal in the 1930s which brought an end to the Great Depression in Denmark, and also laid the foundation for a welfare state.

World War II



Denmark declared its neutrality at the beginning of World War II and signed a non-aggression agreement with Nazi Germany. Nevertheless, Germany (so as to secure communications for its invasion of Norway) occupied Denmark on April 9, 1940, meeting only token resistance. British forces, however, occupied the Faroe Islandsmarker (12 April 1940: see British occupation of the Faroe Islands in World War II) and invaded Icelandmarker (10 May 1940) in pre-emptive moves to prevent German occupation. Following a plebiscite, Iceland declared its independence on June 17, 1944 and became a republic, dissolving its union with Denmark.

The Nazi occupation of Denmark unfolded in a unique manner. The conditions of occupation started off very leniently (although the authorities banned Danmarks Kommunistiske Parti (the Communist party) when the Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941), and Denmark retained its own government. The new coalition government tried to protect the population from Nazi rule through compromise. The Germans allowed the Folketing to remain in session, the police remained under Danish control, and the German authorities stayed one step removed from the population. However, the Nazi demands eventually became intolerable for the Danish government, so in 1943 it resigned and Germany assumed full control of Denmark. After that point, an armed resistance movement grew against the occupying forces. Toward the end of the war, Denmark grew increasingly difficult for Germany to control, but the country remained under occupation until the end of the war in May 1945.

Denmark succeeded in smuggling most of its Jewish population to Sweden in 1943 when the Nazis threatened deportation; see Rescue of the Danish Jews.

Post-war

In 1948 Denmark granted home rule to the Faroe Islandsmarker. 1953 saw further political reform in Denmark, abolishing the Landsting (the elected upper house), colonial status for Greenlandmarker and allowing female rights of succession to the throne with the signing of a new constitution.

After the war, with the perceived threat posed by the USSRmarker and the lessons of World War II still fresh in Danish minds, the country abandoned its policy of neutrality. Denmark became a charter-member of the United Nations in 1945 and one of the original members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisationmarker in 1949 (though Denmark had originally tried to form an alliance only with Norway and Sweden). A Nordic Council later emerged with the aim of co-ordinating Nordic policy. Later, in a referendum in 1972, Danes voted in favour of joining the European Community, the predecessor of the European Union, and Denmark became a member on 1 January 1973. Since then, Denmark has proven a hesitant member of the European community, opting out of many proposals, including the Euro which it rejected in a referendum in 2000.

See also



Further reading

  • Derry, T. K. A History of Scandinavia: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1979. ISBN 0-8166-3799-7.
  • Lauring, Palle. A History of Denmark. 3rd ed. Copenhagen: Høst, 1995. ISBN 87-14-29306-4.


External links



Footnotes

  1. Krønike om Gråbrodrenes Udjagelse
  2. From silver standard to gold standard, retrieved 2008-08-05



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