Denmark Old History

By | January 2, 2023

Denmark is an independent nation in Northern Europe. With the capital city of Copenhagen, Denmark 2020 population is estimated at 5,792,213 according to countryaah. In Danish soil, archaeologists have found single traces of people from the Middle Ages some 100,000 years ago. After the last ice age around 10,000 BC, reindeer hunters began to emerge in the area, and when a few millennia later covered the country, there was a resident population consisting of hunters and fishermen.

  • Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Denmark, covering history, economy, and social conditions.

The residents began to use the land around 4,000 BC. From 2,000 BC they were able to manufacture weapons and implements of imported bronze and from about 500 BC of iron.  For Denmark political system, please check computerminus.

Perhaps the country united under a single king already at the beginning of the Viking era in the late 600s AD. Then the construction of the huge defense plant Danevirke, a 30 kilometer long complex of defense ramparts built in southern Jutland (now Schleswig-Holstein in Germany), began between the strong trading town of Hedeby on the fjord Slien in the east to the marshlands in the west (the ramparts were being expanded and will be strengthened over the next 500-600 years, and the remains are counted as the largest archaeological monument in the Nordic countries).

In any case, Denmark agreed at the latest in the mid-900s when King Harald (Blåand), according to his own statement (which is engraved on a rune stone in Jellinge), won all of Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christian. Around 980, among other things, he built the five (possibly seven) impressive circular “trelleborgs” at strategic locations in the country (one each in Skåne, on Zealand, on Funen and two on Jutland plus possibly one in Skåne and one in Zealand).

The Vikings’ North Sea Empire

In 1013 his son Sven (Tveskägg) conquered the whole of England. Then, for over 100 years, Danish Vikings had ruled parts of eastern and central England (the so-called Danelagen) with capital in York. Sweden’s son Knut (the Great) ruled 1018-1035 over a “North Sea Empire” that included Denmark, Norway and England.

The many internal feuds of the Middle Ages, and wars with the German Hanseatic League and with Sweden, meant constant alternations between rise and fall for Denmark. A highlight was when a Nordic Archbishop’s seat 1103 was established in Lund in Skåne (Danish until 1658). In the following century, more than 1,000 stone churches were built around the country. Another highlight occurred during King Valdemar Victory in the early 13th century. When Estonia was conquered, among other things, the landscape laws were written down and the king had a “land register” containing a list of all property in the kingdom. A century later, from 1330 to 1340, Denmark was almost dissolved, pledged and administered by Countess of German Holstein.

King Valdemar Atterdag, and not least his daughter Margrethe (Margareta), rebuilt the divided Danish empire and strengthened the royal power vis-à-vis the nobility. In 1397, through the so-called Kalmar Union, Margrethe succeeded in bringing together the three Nordic kingdoms under his rule: Denmark, Norway (with Orkney, Shetland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland) and Sweden with Finland. After a few decades, certain groups in Sweden began to question the benefits of the union and in 1523 Sweden left union cooperation. Norway remained in union with Denmark until 1814. A union between Denmark and the duchy Schleswig-Holstein lasted from 1460 to 1864.

Defeat against Sweden

The Reformation was carried out by the last great civil war in Denmark in 1534–1536, which meant that Denmark adopted the Protestant doctrine and broke with the Pope. The king seized the church’s many goods and sold them to the nobility. Thus the nobility owned most of all land, and the peasants were, after a series of rebellions, injured.

During the 1600s, the Union-Denmark-Norway weakened significantly in relation to Sweden, and after wars in the years 1643-1645 and 1658, Denmark-Norway had lost the Norwegian areas Jämtland, Härjedalen and Bohuslän as well as the Danish areas Skåne, Halland and Blekinge – Denmark’s richest third – plus the islands Ösel and Gotland which have been in Danish possession for 300 years. In 1659, the rest of Denmark was also occupied by Swedish forces, but their carefully prepared storming of Copenhagen failed. The Denmark that remained after 1658 thus avoided sharing fate with Skåne, Halland and Blekinge.

During the war, Denmark had been supported by the Netherlands, which at that time was Europe’s strongest trade and maritime power and wanted to prevent a single country from gaining control of the entrance to the Baltic Sea. For the same reason, Denmark did not receive support when, during the war with Sweden in 1675–1679 (the Scanian War) and the Great Nordic War in 1700–1720, they tried to take back the lost areas. However, Denmark gained little by the fact that the residents of Bornholm, shortly after the loss of Skåne, rebelled against the Swedish government and then donated the island to the Danish king, who must then compensate Sweden’s king with 18 Danish-owned goods in Skåne (Bornholm’s remuneration). By the peace of 1720, Denmark-Norway and Sweden had in effect been fighting each other for almost 80 years.

1660 – one empire

The noblemen had been given their privileges and power in exchange for their primary responsibility for the defense of the country. The dramatic defeats in the war against Sweden gave King Fredrik III the opportunity to impose a single government in 1660. This happened after a coup d’état against the nobility, where the king was supported by the priesthood and the citizens, who under the king’s leadership had succeeded in defending Copenhagen and thus all of Denmark against complete Swedish conquest..

The monarchy gave the king almost unlimited power, but the royal decisions were made in consultation with the secret council, which consisted of leading officials. During the single empire, an extensive expansion of the army and the navy was carried out. At the same time, the administration was reformed to become more efficient, and the state got a uniform and advanced European legislation: Danske Lov in 1683 and Norske Lov in 1687.

After 1720 followed a long period of peace with growing shipping, trade and economic boom. Extensive agricultural reforms were carried out in 1788, which meant, among other things, that the farmers got their land gathered around their own farm, which was often allowed to be moved out of the village.

Defeat against England – and Germany

During the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century, a new national disaster occurred. Britain, which was at war with France’s Emperor Napoleon, forced the neutral Denmark-Norway over to the French losing side by bombing Copenhagen in 1807 and destroying the fleet so that it would not fall into France’s hands. Denmark’s shipping, trade and economy were destroyed by the war and the victors left Norway to Sweden in 1814, while the former Norwegian areas of Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands remained Danish.

Despite – or perhaps because of – the defeat, the next half-century became dynamic for Denmark. This period is called in the Danish art and literature history for the golden age (see Culture), but it was also a golden age for education and research.

The next major upheaval was also part of a larger drama. With the French February Revolution of 1848, liberal and nationalist ideas swept through Europe. Danish intellectuals, citizens and peasants worked together to bring an end to the one-world power, while the German majority in Schleswig-Holstein took up arms and demanded independence.

The new, weak king Frederick VII did not oppose the demands of democracy and the monarchy was abolished in 1849 as bloodily as it had been introduced in 1660. The country gained a democratic constitution when the king signed the Constitution on June 5, 1849. The revolt in Schleswig-Holstein, which became the last civil war. in the kingdom, was wounded at the battle of Isted Hede – the largest and one of the bloodiest in Denmark’s history.

A small state in Europe

But the victory was short-lived. In a war in 1864 against Prussia and Austria, Denmark lost not only the German Holstein but also the whole of Schleswig, where a large part of the population was Danish-speaking and Danish-friendly. The Danish kingdom thus lost about a third of its area, about 40 percent of its population and a large part of its national self-reliance.

By the defeat of 1864, Denmark had seriously become a small state in Europe. Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish volunteers had participated in the war on the Danish side, but despite centuries of hostility with Sweden being replaced by a growing sense of Scandinavian community, neither a defense alliance nor a new Nordic union could be established. Denmark stood alone against its new giant neighbor in the south, and a new resignation (often called the 1864 syndrome) came to characterize foreign and defense policy for more than 100 years.

At home, the Danish nation brought in new forces under the motto “What is lost outwards must be won inward”. The great Jutland moors were cultivated or transformed into forest plantations, large swamp areas were dried up and agriculture developed. The reforms of 1788 had opened up opportunities that the better educated peasants understood. They formed a cooperative movement with, among other things, dairies and cooperative slaughterhouses, which drove the modernization. Meat and milk production was multiplied. With the Business Freedom Act 1857, the monopoly on the trade and crafts of the trading towns was abolished, which subsequently developed rapidly. During these years, industrialism also gained its breakthrough in Denmark as the state expanded roads, railways and ports and modernized the financial sector.

The labor movement is growing – system change

After the defeat against Prussia and Austria in 1864, the national liberal academics and the officials from Copenhagen lost power. The landowner-dominated right-wing party Højre came to rule the country from 1866 to 1901, initially with the support of the peasant party Venstre. But when Venstre in 1872 had won a majority in the parliament (parliament) and demanded to take power, Højre opposed this and ruled further under the leadership of the strongly conservative landlord JBS Estrup, supported by the king and the county council (parliament’s upper house) could stay at power by applying an emergency clause in the Constitution.

There was also a conflict between the city and the country between the well-off and the poor. In 1871 a socialist party was formed, but strikes and workers’ demonstrations were fought down hard. The leaders were imprisoned and later paid to emigrate to America.

Under the pressure of the growing labor movement, Højre and Venstre approached each other and in 1901 Højre released government power. The Left formed government in accordance with the majority of the parliament. Thus, parliamentarism was established, that is, the principle that a government must have the confidence of parliament to be able to govern. It was a political turning point in Denmark and was already called a system change.

Then followed a series of reforms, including the introduction of general voting rights for both men and women in 1915, and in 1924 the workers’ party Social Democrats were elected to the parliament and for the first time formed a government. Prime Minister Thorvald Stauning became party leader.

Denmark managed to remain neutral during the First World War 1914-1918, and in 1920 the country regained the northern part of Schleswig after a referendum that the victors of the war forced Germany to hold. The new border was drawn 4–5 km north of the Vikings’ Danevirke, with the aim that the minorities on both sides would be as small as possible, and it has not changed since then.

Nazi occupation

The global economic crisis in the 1930s hit export-dependent Denmark hard. Agriculture faced major problems and in the industry unemployment rose to 40 percent. This made a number of government interventions in the economy necessary, and with the implementation of a major social policy reform program laid the foundation for the Danish welfare society.

During the 1920s and 1930s, coalition governments between the Social Democrats and the pacifist middle party Radical Left had come to regard military defense against Germany as futile, and the defense had been drastically reduced. When Hitler’s troops entered Denmark on April 9, 1940, the Danish forces were hopelessly inferior. The fight against the attack thus became very short-lived. The small Danish resistance had a certain symbolic value. Since Denmark was occupied by Germany, the United Kingdom occupied for the preventive purpose of the Faroe Islands and Iceland, and Denmark’s ambassador to Washington placed Greenland under American protection under its own responsibility.

A Danish unity government under Thorvald Stauning ruled the country during the first years of the war, but from August 1943 the country was in practice under German dictatorship. In October 1943, the Berlin regime ordered all Danish Jews arrested, but a German diplomat revealed the plan and the Danes warned the Jews. Almost all of the country’s 8,000 Jews went underground. 481 were arrested, of which 52 died in concentration camps. More than 7,000 were smuggled to Sweden.

At the same time, the resistance movement grew to include an estimated 80,000 more or less active people, and it became better organized. The Danish Freedom Council acted as a kind of illegal government, an illegal army was formed and resistance groups carried out sabotage. A brigade of 5,000 voluntary refugees was set up in Sweden but never deployed. The liberation came on May 4, 1945, except for Bornholm, which the Soviet Union bombed on May 7 and May 8 and occupied until April 1946.

Denmark Old History