The history of
Denmark as a unified kingdom began in the 8th century,
but historic documents describe the geographic area and the people
living there—the Danes—as early as 500 AD. These early documents
include the writings of
Jordanes and Procopius. With the
Christianization of the
Danes c. 960 AD, it is clear that there
existed a kingship speaking. Queen
Margrethe II can trace her lineage
back to the
Gorm the Old
Gorm the Old and
Harald Bluetooth from this
time, thus making the Monarchy of
Denmark the oldest in Europe. The
area now known as
Denmark has a rich prehistory, having been populated
by several prehistoric cultures and people for about 12,000 years,
since the end of the last ice age.
Denmark's history has particularly been influenced by its geographical
location between the North and Baltic seas, a strategically and
economically important placement between
Sweden and Germany, at the
center of mutual struggles for control of the
Baltic Sea (dominium
Denmark was long in disputes with
Sweden over control
Skånelandene and with
Germany over control of
Schleswig (a Danish
Holstein (a German fief).
Denmark lost these conflicts and ended up ceding first
Sweden and later Schleswig-
Holstein to the German
Empire. After the eventual cession of
Norway in 1814,
control of the old Norwegian colonies of the Faroe Islands, Greenland
and Iceland. During the 20th century,
Iceland gained independence,
Greenland and the Faroese became integral parts of the Kingdom of
Denmark and North
Schleswig reunited with
Denmark in 1920 after a
referendum. During World War II,
Denmark was occupied by Nazi Germany,
but was eventually liberated by British forces of the Allies in
1945, after which it joined the United Nations. In the aftermaths
of World War II, and with the emergence of the subsequent Cold War,
Denmark was quick to join the military alliance of
NATO as a founding
member in 1949.
1 Prehistoric Denmark
1.1 Stone and Bronze Age
1.2 Iron Age
2 Middle Ages
2.1 Earliest literary sources
2.3 Christianity, expansion and the establishment of the Kingdom of
2.4 Count rule
2.5 Margaret and the
Kalmar Union (1397–1523)
3 Early Modern Denmark
3.1 The Reformation
3.1.1 Dissatisfaction with the Catholic Church
Count's Feud (1534–1536)
3.1.3 State Lutheranism
3.2 The loss of Eastern Denmark
Torstenson War (1643–1645)
Second Northern War
Second Northern War (1655–1660)
Great Northern War
Great Northern War (1700–1721)
3.3.2 Changes in the agricultural economy
3.3.3 The Enlightenment and Danish nationalism
3.4 Colonial ventures
4 The 19th century
4.1 The Napoleonic Wars
Nationalism and liberalism
4.4 Monetary union
5 The 20th century
5.2 Second World War
6 See also
8 Further reading
8.1 Political history
8.2 Culture and religion
8.3 Economic and social history
8.4 Relations with Germany
8.5 Historiography, memory, teaching
8.6 In German
9 External links
Prehistory of Scandinavia
The Scandinavian region has a rich prehistory, having been populated
by several prehistoric cultures and people for about 12,000 years,
since the end of the last ice age. During the ice age, all of
Scandinavia was covered by glaciers most of the time, except for the
southwestern parts of what we now know as Denmark. When the ice began
retreating, the barren tundras were soon inhabited by reindeer and
elk, and Ahrenburg and Swiderian hunters from the south followed them
here to hunt occasionally. The geography then was very different from
what we know today. Sea levels were much lower; the island of Great
Britain was connected by a land bridge to mainland Europe and the
large area between
Great Britain and the Jutlandic peninsula - now
North Sea and known as
Doggerland - was inhabited by
tribes of hunter-gatherers. As the climate warmed up, forceful rivers
of meltwater started to flow and shape the virgin lands, and more
stable flora and fauna gradually began emerging in Scandinavia, and
Denmark in particular. The first human settlers to inhabit
Scandinavia permanently were the Maglemosian people, residing in
seasonal camps and exploiting the land, sea, rivers and lakes. It was
not until around 6,000 BC that the approximate geography of
we know it today had been shaped.
Denmark has some unique natural conditions for preservation of
artifacts, providing a rich and diverse archeological record from
which to understand the prehistoric cultures of this area.
Stone and Bronze Age
Dolmen near Vinstrup, Nørhald. Built in the 3rd millennium BC.
See also: Neolithic, Nordic Stone Age, and Nordic Bronze Age
The Weichsel glaciation covered all of
Denmark most of the time,
except the western coasts of Jutland. It ended around 13,000 years
ago, allowing humans to move back into the previously ice-covered
territories and establish permanent habitation. During the first
post-glacial millennia, the landscape gradually changed from tundra to
light forest, and varied fauna including now-extinct megafauna
appeared. Early prehistoric cultures uncovered in modern Denmark
Maglemosian Culture (9,500-6,000 BC); the Kongemose
culture (6,000-5,200 BC), the
Ertebølle culture (5,300-3,950 BC), and
Funnelbeaker culture (4,100-2,800 BC).
Trundholm sun chariot
Trundholm sun chariot (called
Solvognen in Danish), a
sculpture of the sun pulled by a mare. Scholars have dated it to some
time in the 15th century BC and believe that it illustrates an
important concept expressed in
Nordic Bronze Age
Nordic Bronze Age mythology.
The first inhabitants of this early post-glacial landscape in the
so-called Boreal period, were very small and scattered populations
living from hunting of reindeer and other land mammals and gathering
whatever fruits the climate was able to offer. Around 8,300 BC the
temperature rose drastically, now with summer temperatures around 15
degrees Celsius, and the landscape changed into dense forests of
aspen, birch and pine and the reindeer moved north, while aurochs and
elk arrived from the south. The
Koelbjerg Man is the oldest known bog
body in the world and also the oldest set of human bones found in
Denmark, dated to the time of the
Maglemosian culture around 8,000
BC. With a continuing rise in temperature the oak, elm and hazel
Denmark around 7,000 BC. Now boar, red deer, and roe deer
also began to abound.
A burial from Bøgebakken at
Vedbæk dates to c. 6,000 BC and contains
22 persons - including four newborns and one toddler. Eight of the 22
had died before reaching 20 years of age - testifying to the hardness
of hunter-gatherer life in the cold north. Based on estimates of
the amount of game animals, scholars estimate the population of
Denmark to have been between 3,300-8,000 persons in the time around
7,000 BC. It is believed that the early hunter-gatherers lived
nomadically, exploiting different environments at different times of
the year, gradually shifting to the use of semi permanent base
With the rising temperatures, sea levels also rose, and during the
Denmark evolved from a contiguous landmass around
11,000 BC to a series of islands by 4,500 BC. The inhabitants then
shifted to a seafood based diet, which allowed the population to
Agricultural settlers made inroads around 3,000 BC. Many dolmens and
rock tombs (especially passage graves) date from this period. The
Nordic Bronze Age
Nordic Bronze Age period in Denmark, from about 1,500 BC, featured a
culture which buried its dead, with their worldly goods, beneath
burial mounds. The many finds of gold and bronze from this era include
beautiful religious artifacts and musical instruments, and provide the
earliest evidence of social classes and stratification.
See also: Nordic Iron Age
The silver Gundestrup Cauldron, with what some scholars interpret as
Celtic depictions, exemplifies the trade relations of the period.
Pre-Roman Iron Age
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 bogs. 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.
From the first to the fifth century the
Roman Empire interacted with
Jutland and the Danish isles in many ways, ranging from commerce to a
possible "client state" relationship. This period is therefore
referred to as the Roman Iron Age.
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 c. 200 AD. 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
are especially common in finds from the 1st century. It seems clear
that some part of the Danish warrior aristocracy served in the Roman
Occasionally during this time, both animal and human sacrifice
occurred and bodies were immersed in bogs. In recent times[update]
some of these bog bodies have emerged very well-preserved, providing
valuable information about the religion and people who lived in
Denmark during this period. Some of the most well-preserved bog bodies
Nordic Iron Age
Nordic Iron Age are the
Tollund Man and the Grauballe Man.
From around the 5th to the 7th century,
Northern Europe experienced
mass migrations and this period and its material culture are referred
to as the Germanic Iron Age.
The face of Tollundmanden, one of the best preserved bog body finds.
Dejbjerg wagon from the Pre-Roman Iron Age, thought to be a
The Nydam oak boat, a ship burial from the Roman Iron Age. At Gottorp
Castle, Schleswig, now in Germany.
Copies of the
Golden Horns of Gallehus from the Germanic Iron Age,
thought to be ceremonial horns but of unknown purpose.
Earliest literary sources
Further information: Etymology of
Danes (Germanic tribe)
The extent of the Danish Realm before the expansion of the
It is not known when, but the tribal
Danes divided the realm into
"herreder" (marked by red lines).
In his description of
Scandza (from the 6th century work, Getica), the
Jordanes says that the Dani were of the same stock as
the Suetidi (Swedes, Suithiod?) and expelled the
Heruli and took their
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 references to Danes.
The Ladby ship, the largest ship burial found in Denmark.
With the beginning of the
Viking Age in the 9th century, the
prehistoric period in
Denmark ends. The Danish people were among those
known as Vikings, during the 8th–11th centuries.
first discovered and settled in
Iceland in the 9th century, on their
way from the Faroe Islands. From there,
Greenland and Vinland
(probably Newfoundland) were also settled. Utilizing their great
skills in shipbuilding and navigation they raided and conquered parts
France and the
British Isles and Ireland.
Viking town of Aros (Aarhus), 950 AD.
They also excelled in trading along the coasts and rivers of Europe,
running trade routes from
Greenland in the north to
the south via Russian and Ukrainian rivers, most notably along the
Dnieper and via Kiev, then being the capital of Kiev Rus. The
Danish Vikings were most active in Britain, Ireland, France, Spain,
Portugal and Italy where they raided, conquered and settled (their
earliest settlements included sites in the Danelaw,
Danelaw resulted when
Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great was forced to
cede half his kingdom to the Vikings, who then settled there for a
time and engaged in peaceful trade, but attacks eventually resumed and
the English kings had to pay tribute (Danegeld).
In the early 9th century, Charlemagne's Christian empire had expanded
to the southern border of the Danes, and Frankish sources (e.g. Notker
of St Gall) provide the earliest historical evidence of the Danes.
These report a King Gudfred, who appeared in present-day
a navy in 804 where diplomacy took place with the Franks; In 808, King
Gudfred attacked the
Obotrites and conquered the city of
population was displaced or abducted to Hedeby. In 809, King Godfred
and emissaries of
Charlemagne failed to negotiate peace, despite the
sister of Godfred being a concubine of Charlemagne, and the next year
King Godfred attacked the
Frisians with 200 ships.
Danevirke and Hærvejen.
Viking raids along the coast of
France and the
large-scale. Paris was besieged and the Loire Valley devastated during
the 10th century. One group of
Danes was granted permission to settle
France under the condition that they defend the place
from future attacks. As a result, the region became known as
"Normandy" and it was the descendants of these settlers who conquered
England in 1066.
In addition, the
Danes and Norwegians moved west into the Atlantic
Ocean, settling on Iceland, Greenland, and the Shetland Isles. Brief
Viking expeditions to North America around 1000 did not result in any
settlements, and they were soon driven off by natives. Other Viking
Germany and the Mediterranean were short-lived and had no
The oldest parts of the defensive works of
least date from the summer of 755 and were expanded with large works
in the 10th century. The size and number of troops needed to man it
indicates a quite powerful ruler in the area, which might be
consistent with the kings of the Frankish sources. In 815 AD, Emperor
Louis the Pious
Louis the Pious attacked
Jutland apparently in support of a contender
to the throne, perhaps Harald Klak, but was turned back by the sons of
Godfred, who most likely were the sons of the above-mentioned Godfred.
At the same time St.
Ansgar travelled to
Hedeby and started the
Catholic Christianisation of Scandinavia.
Gorm the Old
Gorm the Old (Danish: Gorm den Gamle, Old Norse: Gormr gamli, Latin:
Gormus Senex), also called Gorm the Languid (Danish: Gorm
Løge, Gorm den Dvaske), was the first historically recognized ruler
of Denmark, reigning from c. 936 to his death c. 958. He
ruled from Jelling, and made the oldest of the
Jelling Stones in
honour of his wife Thyra. Gorm was born before 900 and died c. 958.
His rule marks the start of the Danish monarchy and royal house (see
Danish monarchs' family tree.
Danes were united and officially Christianized in 965 AD by Gorm's
Harald Bluetooth (see below), the story of which is recorded on
Jelling stones. The extent of Harald's Danish Kingdom is unknown,
although it is reasonable to believe that it stretched from the
defensive line of Dannevirke, including the
Viking city of Hedeby,
across Jutland, the Danish isles and into southern present day Sweden;
Scania and perhaps
Halland and Blekinge. Furthermore, the Jelling
stones attest that Harald had also "won" Norway.
In retaliation for the
St. Brice's Day massacre of
Danes in England,
the son of Harald,
Sweyn Forkbeard mounted a series of wars of
conquest against England. By 1014,
England had completely submitted to
the Danes. However, distance and a lack of common interests prevented
a lasting union, and Harald's son
Cnut the Great
Cnut the Great barely maintained the
link between the two countries, which completely broke up during the
reign of his son Hardecanute. A final attempt by the Norwegians under
Harald Hardrada to reconquer
England failed, but did pave the way for
William the Conqueror's takeover in 1066.
Following the death of Canute the Great,
England were left
divided and despite some attempts (see below) were never reunited.
Canute thanked the Norwegians for their patience and then went from
assembly to assembly (Danish:landsting) outlawing any sailor, captain
or soldier who refused to pay a fine which amounted to more than a
years harvest for most farmers. Canute and his housecarls fled south
with a growing army of rebels on his heels. Canute fled to the royal
property outside the town of Odense on
Funen with his two brothers.
After several attempts to break in and then bloody hand-to-hand
fighting in the church, Benedict was cut down and Canute struck in the
head by a large stone and then speared from the front. He died at the
base of the main altar 10 July 1086, where he was buried by the
Benedictines. When Queen Edele came to take Canute's body to Flanders,
a light allegedly shone around the church and it was taken as a sign
that Canute should remain where he was.
The death of St. Canute marks the end of the
Viking Age. Never again
would massive flotillas of Scandinavians meet each year to ravage the
rest of Christian Europe.
Christianity, expansion and the establishment of the Kingdom of
North Sea Empire
Often regarded as Denmark's "birth certificate", the large Jelling
Stone announces the unification and
Harald Bluetooth c. 980
Northern countries during the 13th and early 14th centuries
Denmark in 1219
Livonia before 1343
The history of
Denmark overlaps with that of the
Viking Age. Various petty kingdoms existed throughout the area now
Denmark for many years. Between c. 960 and the early 980s,
Harald Bluetooth appears to have established a kingdom in the lands of
Danes which stretched from
Jutland to Skåne. Around the same
time, he received a visit from a German missionary who, according to
legend, survived an ordeal by fire, which convinced Harald 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. At
this early stage there is no evidence that the Danish Church was able
to create a stable administration that Harald could use to exercise
more effective control over his kingdom, but it may have contributed
to the development of a centralising political and religious ideology
among the social elite which sustained and enhanced an increasingly
England broke away from Danish control in 1035 and
Denmark fell into
disarray for some time. Sweyn Estridsen's son, Canute IV, raided
England for the last time in 1085. He planned another invasion to take
the throne of
England from an aging William I. He called up a fleet of
1,000 Danish ships, 60 Norwegian long boats, with plans to meet with
another 600 ships under Duke Robert of Flanders in the summer of 1086.
Canute, however, was beginning to realise that the imposition of the
tithe on Danish peasants and nobles to fund the expansion of
monasteries and churches and a new head tax (Danish:nefgjald) had
brought his people to the verge of rebellion. Canute took weeks to
arrive at Struer where the fleet had assembled, but he found only the
Norwegians still there. Canute's nephew Sweyn Estridson (1020–74)
re-established strong royal Danish authority and built a good
Archbishop Adalbert of Hamburg-Bremen — at that
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,
Sweden and Norway
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
(1131–82), gained control of the kingdom, stabilizing it and
reorganizing the administration. King Valdemar and
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 Copenhagen, the
modern capital of Denmark. Valdemar and
Denmark into a
major power in the Baltic Sea, 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,
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
Duchy of Pomerania came under Danish
control, too. In the new southern provinces, the
Christianity (mission of the Rani, monasteries like Eldena Abbey) and
settlement (Danish participation in the Ostsiedlung). The
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 Estonia. Once these efforts were
successful, a period in history known as the Danish
Legend has it that the Danish flag, the Dannebrog fell from the sky
Battle of Lyndanisse
Battle of Lyndanisse in
Estonia in 1219. A series of Danish
defeats culminating in the Battle of Bornhöved 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
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
Rome 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,
Zealand 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.
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.
The kingless time 1332–1340
During the disastrous reign of Christopher II (1319–1332), most of
the country was seized by the provincial counts (except Skåne, which
was taken over by Sweden) after numerous 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. After one of
them was assassinated in 1340, Christopher's son Valdemar was chosen
as king, and gradually began to recover the territories, which was
finally completed in 1360.
The Black Death, which came to
Denmark during these years, also aided
Valdemar's campaign. His continued efforts to expand the kingdom after
1360 brought him into open conflict with the Hanseatic League. He
conquered Gotland, much to the displeasure of the League, which lost
Visby, 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 sound" between
Margaret and the
Kalmar Union (1397–1523)
Main article: 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 Islands,
as well as Iceland, Greenland, and present-day Finland) became linked
under her capable rule, in what became known as the Kalmar Union, made
official in 1397.
The tomb of Margaret I in Roskilde Cathedral.
Her successor, Eric of Pomerania (King of
Denmark from 1412 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 Lübeck. 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
However, support for the idea of regionalism continued, so when Eric's
Christopher of Bavaria
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
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.
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 Sweden'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
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
Abraham Ortelius's 1570 map of
Denmark including parts on the
Reformation in Denmark–
Norway and Holstein
Hans Tausen was one of the first Lutheran preachers, and later a
bishop, in Denmark.
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
Danes wanted access to the
Bible in their own
language. In 1524 Hans Mikkelsen and
Christiern Pedersen translated
New Testament into Danish; it became an instant best-seller.
Those who had traveled to
Wittenberg 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
Antvorskov Abbey Church to
proclaim Luther's reforms. His scandalized superiors ordered him out
Zealand and held him in the priory at Viborg 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.
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 Catholic Church
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
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, Malmö 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.
King Christian III carried out the
Protestant Reformation in Slesvig,
Denmark and Norway.
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
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
the Hanseatic League, especially Lűbeck) to restore his Catholic
Christian II (deposed in 1523). This resulted in a
three-year civil war called the
Count's Feud (Danish: Grevens Fejde).
Count's Feud (1534–1536)
Armed rebellion by Catholic peasants led by
Skipper Clement started in
northern Jutland. Rebellion swept across Funen,
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
Aalborg 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
Zealand and then Funen.
Skåne rebels went as far as
Christian II king again. King Gustav Vasa of
two separate armies to ravage
Skåne into submission.
Besiegers finally starved the last hold-outs in the rebellion,
Copenhagen and Malmø, into surrender in July 1536. By the spring of
1536 Christian III had taken firm control.
Denmark became officially Lutheran on 30 October 1536 by decree of
King Christian III, and in 1537 the reconstituted State Council
approved the Lutheran Ordinances which was worked out by Danish
theologians and Johannes Bugenhagen, based on the 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
converted to Luther's reform. 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 conversion, 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
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
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
Denmark became embroiled in the Thirty Years' War
(1618–1648) on the Protestant side.
The loss of Eastern Denmark
See also: Dominium maris baltici
The Danog-Norwegian Kingdom grew wealthy during the 16th century,
largely because of the increased traffic through the Øresund, which
Danes could tax because
Denmark controlled both sides of the Sound.
The trade in grain exports from
Poland to the
Netherlands 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
The Danish economy benefited from the
Eighty Years' War
Eighty Years' War (1568–1648)
Netherlands 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.
Norway 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–
Norway to "save the Protestant
King Christian IV, who was also a duke of the Holy
Roman Empire on the
basis of his possessions in Holstein, decided to intervene in the
conflict raging in northern Germany. The campaign ended in defeat, and
Jutland was occupied by the imperial army of Albrecht von Wallenstein.
In the Treaty of Lübeck, Christian made peace and agreed to not
Germany again. The war in
Germany had been very expensive
and Christian IV saw no other recourse than to raise the Sound tolls.
Unfortunately, this act pushed the
Netherlands away from
into the arms of Sweden.
Torstenson War (1643–1645)
Denmark before 1645
In 1643, Sweden's armies, under the command of Lennart Torstensson,
Denmark without declaring war. The ensuing conflict
became known as the Torstenson War. The Netherlands, wishing to end
the Danish stranglehold on the Baltic, joined the Swedes in their war
against Denmark–Norway. In October 1644 a combined Dutch-Swedish
fleet destroyed 80 percent of the Danish fleet in the Battle of
Femern. The result of this defeat proved disastrous for
Denmark–Norway: in the
Second treaty of Brömsebro (1645)
Second treaty of Brömsebro (1645) Denmark
Sweden the Norwegian provinces Jemtland,
Älvdalen as well as the Danish islands of
Gotland and Øsel. Halland
Sweden for a period of 30 years and the
exempted from paying the Sound Duty.
Denmark before 1658
Treaty of Roskilde, 1658.
Halland, previously occupied by
Sweden for a 30-year
period under the terms of the Peace of Brömsebro negotiated in 1645,
was now ceded
the Scanian lands and Bohus County were ceded
Bornholm provinces, which were ceded in
1658, but rebelled against
Sweden and returned to Danish rule in 1660.
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
Denmark date from his reign. After the death of Christian IV in
1648, his son Frederick succeeded him.
Second Northern War
Second Northern War (1655–1660)
In 1657, during the Second Northern War, Denmark–
Norway launched a
war of revenge against
Sweden (then distracted in Poland) which turned
into a complete disaster. The war became a disaster for two reasons:
Primarily, because Denmark's new powerful ally, the Netherlands,
remained neutral as
Denmark was the aggressor and
Sweden the defender.
Secondly, the Belts froze over in a rare occurrence during the winter
of 1657-1658, allowing Charles X Gustav of
Sweden to lead his armies
across the ice to invade Zealand.
In the following Treaty of Roskilde, Denmark–
Norway capitulated and
gave up all of Eastern
Denmark (Danish: Skåne, Halland,
Bornholm), in addition to the counties of
Trøndelag in Norway. Holstein-
Gottorp was also tied to
Sweden, providing a gateway for future invasions from the south.
Second Northern War
Second Northern War was not yet over. Three months after the
peace treaty was signed, Charles X Gustav of
Sweden held a council of
war where he decided to simply wipe
Denmark from the map and unite all
Scandinavia under his rule. Once again the Swedish army arrived
outside Copenhagen. However, this time the
Danes did not panic or
surrender. Instead, they decided to fight and prepared to defend
March across the Belts in 1658
Frederick III of
Denmark had stayed in his capital and now encouraged
the citizens of
Copenhagen to resist the Swedes, by saying he would
die in his nest. Furthermore, this unprovoked declaration of war by
Sweden finally triggered the alliance that Denmark–
Norway had with
the Netherlands. A powerful Dutch fleet was sent to
vital supplies and reinforcements, which saved the city from being
captured during the Swedish attack. Furthermore, Brandenburg-Prussia,
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and the
Habsburg monarchy had
gathered large forces to aid Denmark–
Norway and fighting continued
Battle of Køge Bay in 1677
Charles X Gustav of
Sweden suddenly died of an illness in early 1660,
while planning an invasion of Norway. Following his death,
peace in the Treaty of Copenhagen. The Swedes returned
Bornholm to Denmark, but kept both
Bahusia and Terra
Netherlands and other European powers accepted the
settlement, not wanting both coasts of the Sound controlled by
Denmark. This treaty established the boundaries between Norway,
Sweden that still exist today.
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's main objective in the
following decades was the recovery of its lost provinces from Sweden.
In the 1670s Denmark–
Norway had regained enough strength to start a
Sweden to recover its lost provinces. However, in spite of
Denmark's outside support, naval dominance and initial support from
the population of the former eastern provinces, the war ended in a
Great Northern War
Great Northern War (1700–1721)
A renewed attack during the Third Northern War (1700–1721) first
resulted in the unfavourable Peace of Travendal, but after Denmark's
re-entry into the war and Sweden's ultimate defeat by a large
Sweden was no longer a threat to Denmark. However, the great
powers opposed any Danish territorial gains, which meant the Treaty of
Frederiksborg did not return the former eastern provinces to Denmark.
Denmark was even forced to return Swedish Pomerania, held
by Danish forces since 1715, to Sweden.
Denmark now had no hope of
recovering its lost provinces from Sweden. As noted earlier, the rest
of Europe was simply against the Sound being controlled by a single
nation ever again.
For most of the 18th century,
Denmark was at peace. The only time when
war threatened was in 1762, when the Duke of Holstein-
Tsar Peter III of
Russia and declared war on
Denmark over his
ancestral claims in Schleswig. Before any fighting could begin,
however, he was overthrown by his wife, who took control of
Tsarina Catherine II. Empress Catherine withdrew her husband's
demands and negotiated the transfer of ducal Schleswig-
Holstein to the
Danish crown in return for Russian control of the County of Oldenburg
and adjacent lands within the Holy Roman Empire, an exchange that was
formalized with the 1773 Treaty of Tsarskoye Selo. The alliance that
accompanied the territorial exchange tied Denmark's foreign policy to
Russia's and led directly to Denmark's involvement in a series of wars
over the succeeding decades.
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
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.
Changes in the agricultural economy
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
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, peasants 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
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
The Enlightenment and Danish nationalism
Denmark's social reformers Struensee and Brandt quartered and
displayed on the wheel on 28 April 1772
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-18th 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
Denmark became the model of enlightened despotism, partially
influenced by the ideas of the French Revolution.
Denmark thus adopted
liberalizing reforms in line with those of the French Revolution, with
no direct contact.
Danes were aware of French ideas and agreed with
them, as it moved from Danish absolutism to a liberal constitutional
system between 1750-1850. The change of government in 1784 was caused
by a power vacuum created when King Christian VII took ill, and
influence shifted to the crown prince (who later became King Frederick
VI) and reform-oriented landowners. 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. In contrast to
France under the ancien regime, agricultural
reform was intensified in Denmark, civil rights were extended to the
peasants, the finances of the Danish state were healthy, and there
were no external or internal crises. That is, reform was gradual and
the regime itself carried out agrarian reforms that had the effect of
weakening absolutism by creating a class of independent peasant
freeholders. Much of the initiative came from well-organized liberals
who directed political change in the first half of the 19th
Danish news media first appeared in the 1540s, when handwritten fly
sheets reported on the news. In 1666, Anders Bording, the father of
Danish journalism, began a state paper. The royal privilege to bring
out a newspaper was issued to Joachim Wielandt in 1720. University
officials handled the censorship, but in 1770
Denmark became one of
the first nations of the world to provide for press freedom; it ended
in 1799. The press in 1795-1814, led by intellectuals and civil
servants, called out for a more just and modern society, and spoke out
for the oppressed tenant farmers against the power of the old
In 1834, the first liberal newspaper appeared, one that gave much more
emphasis to actual news content rather than opinions. The newspapers
championed the Revolution of 1848 in Denmark. The new constitution of
1849 liberated the Danish press. Newspapers flourished in the second
half of the 19th century, usually tied to one or another political
party or labor union. Modernization, bringing in new features and
mechanical techniques, appeared after 1900. The total circulation was
500,000 daily in 1901, more than doubling to 1.2 million in 1925. The
German occupation brought informal censorship; some offending
newspaper buildings were simply blown up by the Nazis. During the war,
the underground produced 550 newspapers—small, surreptitiously
printed sheets that encouraged sabotage and resistance.
Danish colonization of the Americas
Danish colonization of the Americas and Danish colonial
Map showing Denmark–
Norway and its colonial possessions c. 1800
Denmark maintained a number of colonies outside Scandinavia, starting
in the 17th century and lasting until the 20th century.
controlled traditional colonies in
Iceland in the north Atlantic, obtained 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 Tranquebar, or Trankebar, on India's south coast,
Denmark started a colony on St Thomas in 1671, St
John in 1718, and purchased
Saint Croix from
France 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 East Indian 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.
Denmark also maintained
other colonies, forts, and bases in West Africa, primarily for the
purpose of slave-trading.
The 19th century
Further information: Danish Golden Age
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
Russia. The British fleet attacked
Copenhagen in 1801, destroying much
of Denmark's navy.
Denmark nonetheless managed to remain largely
uninvolved in the
Napoleonic Wars until 1807. The British fleet
Copenhagen again that year, causing considerable destruction
to the city. They then captured the entire Danish fleet so that it
could not 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
criticised in Britain.
In 1809 Danish forces fighting on the French side participated in
defeating the anti-Bonapartist German rebellion led by Ferdinand von
Schill, at the Battle of Stralsund. By 1813,
Denmark could no longer
bear the war costs, and the state was bankrupt. When in the same year
the Sixth Coalition isolated
Denmark by clearing Northern
French forces, Frederick VI had to make peace. Accordingly, the
Treaty of Kiel
Treaty of Kiel was concluded in January 1814 with Sweden
and Great Britain, and another peace was signed with
Congress of Vienna
Congress of Vienna demanded the dissolution of the
Dano-Norwegian union, and this was confirmed by the
Treaty of Kiel
Treaty of Kiel in
1814. The treaty transferred
Great Britain and Norway
from the Danish to the Swedish crown,
Denmark was to be satisfied with
Swedish Pomerania. 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. In favour of the Kingdom of Prussia,
Denmark renounced her
Swedish Pomerania at the
Congress of Vienna
Congress of Vienna (1815), and
instead was satisfied with the
Duchy of Lauenburg
Duchy of Lauenburg and a Prussian
payment of 3.5 million talers.
Prussia also took over a Danish
600,000-taler debt to Sweden.
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
Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875) became popular
not only in Denmark, but all over Europe and in the United States.
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
Nationalism and liberalism
See also: History of Schleswig-Holstein
Den Grundlovgivende Rigsforsamling
The Constitutional Assembly created The Danish constitution,
1860–1864 painting by Constantin Hansen.
The Danish liberal and national movements gained momentum in the
1830s, and after the European revolutions of 1848
Denmark became a
constitutional monarchy on 5 June 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 Folketing, comprising members elected by
the general population, and the Landsting, elected by landowners.
Denmark also gained an independent judiciary.
Another significant result of the revolution was the abolition of
slavery in the Danish West Indies, the Danish colony in the Caribbean,
which at an earlier part of its history witnessed the biggest slave
auctions in the world. In 1845 Denmark's other tropical colony,
Tranquebar in India, was sold to Britain.
The Danish king's realm still consisted of the islands, the northern
half of the
Jutland peninsula, and the Duchy of
Schleswig in real
union with the Duchy of Holstein
Danish Infantry regiment in a fight with regiment "Martini".
Contemporary illustration of the 1864 Second
The islands and
Jutland together constituted the kingdom, whereas the
monarch held the duchies in personal union with the kingdom. The duchy
Schleswig constituted a Danish fief, while the Duchy of Holstein
remained a part of the German Confederation.
Since the early 18th century, and even more so from the early 19th
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
Schleswig War (1848–1851) broke out after
constitutional change in 1849 and ended with the status quo because of
the intervention of Britain 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
Schleswig and Denmark, but stated that
Holstein could do as it
pleased. However, international events overtook domestic Danish
Denmark faced war against both
what became known as the Second
Schleswig War (1864). The war lasted
from February to October 1864.
Denmark was easily beaten by Prussia
and Austria, and obliged to relinquish both
Schleswig and Holstein.
The war caused
Denmark as a nation severe trauma, forcing it to
reconsider its place in the world. The loss of Schleswig-
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:
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,
Industrialisation 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.
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
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
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 Fælleden 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 Danish door of independence alarmed many of the existing elites,
since it inevitably empowered 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.
Main article: Scandinavian Monetary Union
Two golden 20 kr coins from the Scandinavian Monetary Union, which was
based on a gold standard. The coin to the left is Swedish and the
right one is Danish.
The Scandinavian Monetary Union, a monetary union formed by
Denmark on 5 May 1873, fixed both their currencies against gold at par
to each other. Norway, 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
Sweden (.403 gram). 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
World War I in 1914 brought an end to the monetary
Sweden abandoned the tie to gold on 2 August 1914, and without
a fixed exchange rate the free circulation came to an end.
The 20th century
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 purchased some of
Denmark's colonial holdings: the three islands of St. John, St. Croix,
and St. Thomas in the West Indies. The period also saw Denmark
inaugurating important social and labour-market reforms, laying the
basis for the present[update] welfare state.
Denmark remained neutral during
World War I
World War I (entry into the war on
either side would have been suicidal), 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
Denmark had no choice but to sell many of its exports to
Germany instead of overseas nations. Widespread profiteering 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. In
Denmark was forced by Berlin to mine the Sound to prevent
British ships from entering it. Following the defeat of
Germany in the
war (1918), the
Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles (1919) mandated the Schleswig
Plebiscites, which resulted in the return of Northern Schleswig
(now[update] South Jutland) to Denmark. The king and parts of the
opposition grumbled that Prime Minister
Carl Theodor Zahle
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
Schleswig War in 1864. The king and the opposition wanted to take over
the city of Flensburg, 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
Denmark or remain within Germany. 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
Constitution was not amended at that time, Danish monarchs
have stayed out of politics since then. The end of the war also
prompted the Danish government to finish negotiating with Iceland,
Iceland becoming a sovereign Kingdom on 1 December 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
Denmark joined the
League of Nations
League of Nations in 1920 and during the interwar
period was active in promoting peaceful solutions to international
issues. With the rise of
Adolf Hitler in
Germany during the 1930s, the
country found itself in a very precarious situation. Berlin refused to
recognize its post-1920 border with Denmark, however the Nazi regime
was preoccupied with more important matters and did not make any issue
of it. The
Danes tried unsuccessfully to obtain recognition of the
border from their neighbor, but otherwise went out of their way to
avoid antagonizing Germany.
Second World War
Main article: Occupation of Denmark
During the German occupation, King Christian X became a powerful
symbol of national sovereignty. This image dates from the King's
birthday, 26 September 1940. Note the lack of a guard.
In 1939, Hitler offered nonaggression pacts to the Scandinavian
Denmark readily accepted.
With the beginning of WWII that fall,
Copenhagen declared its
Germany (so as to secure communications for
its invasion of Norway) occupied
Denmark on April 9, 1940, meeting
limited resistance. British forces, however, occupied the Faroe
Islands (12 April 1940) and invaded
Iceland (10 May 1940) in
pre-emptive moves to prevent German occupation. Following a
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
Monarchy remained. 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.
From that point, an armed resistance movement grew against the
occupying forces. Towards the end of the war,
increasingly difficult for
Germany to control, but the country
remained under occupation until near the end of the war. On 4 May
1945, German forces in Denmark, North West Germany, and the
Netherlands surrendered to the Allies. On 5 May 1945, British troops
liberated Copenhagen. Three days later, the war ended.
Denmark succeeded in smuggling most of its Jewish population to
Sweden, in 1943, when the Nazis threatened deportation; see Rescue of
the Danish Jews. Danish doctors refused to treat German citizens
fleeing from Germany, which resulted in the deaths of 13,000
Denmark granted home rule to the Faroe Islands. 1953 saw
further political reform in Denmark, abolishing the Landsting (the
elected upper house), colonial status for
Greenland and allowing
female rights of succession to the throne with the signing of a new
After the war,
Denmark became a founding charter-member of the United
Nations in 1945. With the Soviet occupation of Bornholm, the emergence
of what evolved to become the
Cold War and with the lessons of World
War II still fresh in Danish minds, the country abandoned its former
policy of neutrality and became one of the original founding members
of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1949.
originally tried to form an alliance with
Sweden only, but
this attempt had failed. A
Nordic Council later emerged however, with
the aim of co-ordinating Nordic policies. Later on, in a referendum in
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 the country rejected in a referendum in 2000. In 2001, the
Folketing agreed to enter the war in Afghanistan. A total of 43
Danish soldiers were killed in Afghanistan since the first deployment
Faroe Islands portal
List of Danish monarchs
Danish monarchs' family tree
List of Danish chronicles
Christianity in Denmark
Politics of Denmark
Politics of the Faroe Islands
Politics of Greenland
^ The remote Danish island of
Bornholm in the
Baltic Sea was liberated
by Soviet forces of the Allies. This led to some political turmoil and
conflict, occasionally resurfacing in modern times.
^ "Koelbjergkvinden fra Danmark" (in Danish). Archived from the
original on 2005-03-06. Retrieved 2011-11-30.
^ "Koelbjerg Woman". Bodies of the Bogs. Archeology Magazine. 1997.
Retrieved 21 March 2013.
^ "Koelbjerg". og Fund Fortidsminder (in Danish). Retrieved
^ Jensen 2003:12-18
^ Jensen 2003:24
^ Jensen 2003:32
^ Jensen 2003:34
^ Roman "client state" in Denmark
^ Birger Storgaard, Cosmopolitan aristocrats, pp. 106-125 in: The
Spoils of Victory - The North in the shadow of the Roman Empire,
Nationalmuseet, 2003. ISBN 87-7602-006-1.
^ Jordanes. Mierow (1908), ed. Getica III (23).
^ Zoega, Georg (1797-01-01). De origine et usu obeliscorum (in Latin).
Typis Lazzarinii Typographi Cameralis.
^ Torfaeus, Thormodus (1711-01-01). Thormodi Torfæi ... Historia
rerum Noruegicarum in quatuor tomos diuisa. In qua, præter Noruegiæ
descriptionem, primordia gentis, instituta, mores, incrementa; ...
& inprimis heroum ac regum, tam ante qvàm post monarchiam
institutam, successiones, eorumque domi juxta ac foris gesta, cumque
vicinis gentibus commercia; genealogia item, chronologia, &
qvæcunque ad regni Norvegici illustrationem spectant, singula ex
archivis regiis, & optimis, qvæ haberi potuerunt, membranis,
aliisque fide dignissimis authoribus, eruta, luci publicæ exponuntur.
Cum prolegomenis & indicibus necessariis: Thormodi Torfæi
Historiae rerum Noruegicarum pars tertia, continens ea quæ à tempore
introductæ in Noruegiam christianæ religionis ad initium usque regni
Suerreris acta sunt (in Latin). ex typographeo Joachimi
^ a b "The Royal Lineage - The Danish Monarchy". kongehuset.dk.
Archived from the original on 6 July 2015. Retrieved 15 May
^ a b Staff. Saint Brices Day massacre, Encyclopædia Britannica.
Retrieved 26 December 2007.
^ Adam of Bremen, History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen, trans.
Francis J. Tschan (New York, 2002), pp. 77–78.
^ a b c d C. F. Bricka (editor) (1903). "Tausen, Hans, 1494-1561,
evangelisk Reformator og Biskop". Dansk Biografiske Lexicon (in
Danish). Gyldendal. pp. 100–114. Retrieved 2008-09-09. CS1
maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
^ a b c Krønike om Gråbrodrenes Udjagelse
^ Tytler Woodhouselee, Lord Alexander Fraser (1823). Elements of
General History, Ancient and Modern. H. Hill. pp. 428–429.
Retrieved 4 November 2016.
^ Henrik Horstboll, and Uffe Ostergård, "Reform and Revolution: The
French Revolution and the Case of Denmark, Scandinavian Journal of
History (1990) 15#3 pp 155-179
^ Thorkild Kjærgaard, "The rise of press and public opinion in
eighteenth‐century Denmark—Norway." Scandinavian journal of
History 14.4 (1989): 215-230. He stresses the role
^ Kenneth E. Olson, The history makers: The press of Europe from its
beginnings through 1965 (LSU Press, 1966) pp 50 – 64, 433
^ Sven Hakon Rossel, ed. (1996). Hans Christian Andersen: Danish
Writer and Citizen of the World. Rodopi. pp. 52–54.
access-date= requires url= (help)
^ Neville A.T. Hall, and B. W. Higman, Slave Society in the Danish
West Indies: St. Thomas, St. John, and
St. Croix (Aarhus
^ From silver standard to gold standard Archived 2013-11-03 at the
Wayback Machine., retrieved 2008-08-05
^ Manfred Ertel. A Legacy of Dead German Children Spiegel Online, 16
(in Danish). Retrieved 2017-11-06
History of Scandinavia
History of Scandinavia § Further reading
Derry, T. K. A History of Scandinavia: Norway, Sweden, Denmark,
Finland and Iceland. (U of Minnesota Press, 1979.)
Lauring, Palle. A History of Denmark. (3rd ed. Copenhagen: Høst,
1995). ISBN 87-14-29306-4.
Jespersen, Knud J. V. A History of
Denmark (Palgrave Essential
Histories) (2nd ed. 2011) excerpt and text search
Oakley, Stewart. A short history of
Denmark (Praeger Publishers, 1972)
Barton, H. A.
Scandinavia in the Revolutionary Era, 1760-1815
Campbell, John L., John A. Hall, and Ove Kaj Pedersen, eds. National
Identity and the Varieties of Capitalism: The Danish Experience
Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict) (2006)
Etting, Vivian. Queen Margrete I, 1353-1412, and the Founding of the
Nordic Union (Brill, 2004) online edition
Gouges, Linnea de (2014) From Witch Hunts to Scientific Confidence;
The Influence of British and Continental Currents on the Consolidation
of the Scandinavian States in the 17th Century (Nisus Publications).
Jespersen, Leon. "Court and
Nobility in Early Modern Denmark,"
Scandinavian Journal of History, September 2002, Vol. 27 Issue 3, pp
129–142, covers 1588 to 1650
Munck, Thomas. "Absolute Monarchy in Later 18th-century Denmark:
Centralized Reform, Public Expectations, and the
Historical Journal, March 1998, Vol. 41 Issue 1, pp 201–24 in JSTOR
Munck, Thomas. The peasantry and the early absolute monarchy in
Denmark, 1660-1708 (Copenhagen, 1979)
Culture and religion
Eichberg, Henning. "Sporting history, moving democracy, challenging
body culture: The development of a Danish approach." Stadion (2011)
37#1 pp: 149-167.
Jacobsen, Brian Arly. "Islam and Muslims in Denmark." in Marian
Burchardt and Ines Michalowski, eds. After integration: Islam,
conviviality and contentious politics in Europe (Springer Fachmedien
Wiesbaden, 2015) pp: 171-186.
Kirmmse, Bruce. Kierkegaard in Golden Age
Denmark (Indiana University
Michelson, William. "From Religious Movement to Economic Change: The
Grundtvigian Case in Denmark," Journal of Social History, (1969) 2#4
Mordhorst, Mads. "Arla and Danish national identity–business history
as cultural history." Business History (2014) 56#1 pp: 116-133.
Rossel, Sven H. A History of Danish Literature (University of Nebraska
Press, 1992) 714pp online edition
Schwarz, Martin. Church History of
Denmark (Ashgate, 2002). 333
pp. ISBN 0-7546-0307-5
Economic and social history
Abildgren, Kim. "Consumer prices in
Denmark 1502-2007," Scandinavian
Economic History Review, (2010) 58#1 pp: 2–24
Abildgren, Kim. "Estimates of the national wealth of Denmark
Danmarks Nationalbank Working Papers No. 92., 2015) online
Hornby, Ove. "Proto-
Industrialisation Before Industrialisation? The
Danish Case," Scandinavian Economic History Review, April 1982, Vol.
30 Issue 1, pp 3–33, covers 1750 to 1850
Christiansen, Palle Ove. "Culture and Contrasts in a Northern European
Village: Lifestyles among Manorial Peasants in 18th-Century Denmark,
Journal of Social History Volume: 29#2 (1995) pp 275+.
Johansen, Hans Chr. Danish Population History, 1600-1939 (Odense:
University Press of Southern Denmark, 2002) 246
pp. ISBN 978-87-7838-725-7 online review
Johansen, Hans Chr. "Trends in Modern and Early Modern Social History
Denmark after 1970," Social History, Vol. 8, No. 3 (Oct.
1983), pp. 375–381
Kjzergaard, T. The Danish Revolution: an ecohistorical interpretation
(Cambridge, 1995), on farming
Olson, Kenneth E. The history makers;: The press of Europe from its
beginnings through 1965 (LSU Press, 1966) pp 50 – 64
Topp, Niels-Henrik. "Unemployment and Economic Policy in
the 1930s," Scandinavian Economic History Review, April 2008, Vol. 56
Issue 1, pp 71–90
Relations with Germany
Barfod, Jörgen H.: The Holocaust Failed in Denmark. Kopenhagen 1985.
Berdichevsky, Norman. The Danish-German Border Dispute, 1815–2001:
aspects of cultural and demographic politics. (2002)
Buckser, Andrew: After the Rescue: Jewish identity and community in
contemporary Denmark. ORT 2003.
Lund, Joachim. "
Denmark and the European New Order, 1940-1942,"
Contemporary European History, August 2004, Vol. 13 Issue 3, pp
Historiography, memory, teaching
Brincker, Benedikte. "When did the Danish nation emerge? A review of
Danish historians' attempts to date the Danish nation," National
Identities, December 2009, Vol. 11 Issue 4, pp 353–365
Haue, Harry. "Transformation of history textbooks from national
monument to global agent." Nordidactica: Journal of Humanities and
Social Science Education (2013) 1 (2013): 80-89. online
Jørgensen, Simon Laumann. "The History We Need: Strategies of Citizen
Formation in the Danish History Curriculum." Scandinavian Journal of
Educational Research (2014): 1-18.
Pedersen, Christian Damm. "Empire and the Borders of Danish History."
Robert Bohn: Dänische Geschichte. München: Beck, 2001. –
(Beck'sche Reihe; 2162). – ISBN 3-406-44762-7
Eva Heinzelmann / Stefanie Robl / Thomas Riis (Hrsg.): Der dänische
Gesamtstaat, Verlag Ludwig, Kiel 2006, ISBN 978-3-937719-01-6.
Erich Hoffmann: „Der heutige Stand der Erforschung der Geschichte
Skandinaviens in der Völkerwanderungszeit im Rahmen der
mittelalterlichen Geschichtsforschung.“ In: Der historische Horizont
der Götterbild–Amulette aus der Übergangsepoche von der
Spätantike zum Frühmittelalter. Göttingen 1992. S. 143–182.
Jörg-Peter Findeisen: Dänemark. Von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart.
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