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Denmark - History

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Postwar recovery

1948 - Faroe Islands granted self-government within the Danish state.

1949 - Denmark joins Nato.

1952 - Denmark becomes founder member of Nordic Council.

1953 - Constitutional change leads to a single-chamber parliament elected by proportional representation female accession to the Danish throne is permitted Greenland becomes integral part of Denmark.

1959 - Denmark joins European Free Trade Association.

1972 - King Frederick IX dies and is succeeded by his daughter Margrethe II.

History of Denmark

For a relatively small country, the history of Denmark is a bit of a convoluted one. The culture of Denmark, too, has taken many twists and turns throughout the years. The Danes were actually a Swedish tribe who migrated south to Jylland in 500 AD. For three hundred years they maintained this land, before unleashing themselves onto Europe under the name &ldquoThe Vikings.&rdquo

This is a bit of a misnomer, however &ndash thanks to cultural ignorance and competing stories, the term Vikings has been cast upon hundreds of different tribes and groups of warriors. Since many of the tales of Vikings were related by fleeing victims that didn&rsquot see the point in taking the time to question the invaders about their cultural heritage, various Viking clans were attributed to Norse marauders when really they were Danes, and vice versa. Swedish clans only helped to confuse things. One thing they all had in common (and its influence on the culture of Denmark today is obvious) is extremely advanced shipbuilding skills, a trade that has earned many a Dane a paycheck throughout the years.

One of the most interesting questions in Denmark History is: why did the Vikings, after hundreds of years of living in the wildernesses of Scandinavia, suddenly decide to explode across Europe, delving into lengthy battles with the British and Germanic tribes, even going so far south as to fight the Muslims in Seville? Many historians continue to debate whether it was over economic or religious issues. The former was only exacerbated by lengthy warfare, while the latter was solved by the Vikings gradual conversion to Christianity. Either way, Viking descendants were scattered all across the continent, with large populations in France, Germany, and even Spain during this time in Denmark history.

Denmark Map

The reign of the Vikings was short, but an important chapter in the history of Denmark. As the dark ages moved along, the people of Europe grew better skilled at defend themselves, and the Vikings continued a crippling war against England. Though they eventually won, trying to keep the two kingdoms aligned proved even harder.

The shift towards a kingdom also came gradually, and the oldest monarchy in the world was born. In the 14 th century, the kingdom had stretched to include Sweden, Norway, Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands. With such a vast empire at this point in Denmark history, it&rsquos no wonder why the culture of Denmark influenced both Western Europe and Scandinavia. It also set the seeds for civil war, though, as the Swedes eventually broke away in the 1500s, and then promptly began a long and brutal war between the two countries for hundreds of years. The most volatile era in the history of Denmark since the days of the Vikings, the siege of Copenhagen lasted three years just by itself, and the Danes were never to return to rule in Sweden.

The renaissance was kind to the culture of Denmark, marked mainly by an architectural boom throughout the islands, as castles and cathedrals sprouted up all across the countryside. Everything seemed to be going well for the Danes, and would continue until the kingdom foolishly (in hindsight anyway) sided with Napoleon in the early 1800s. Mercilessly attacked by the British for this transgression, much of Copenhagen was destroyed. Disheartened, this period of Denmark history also saw the loss of Norway to Sweden in 1814.

Since then - outside of an unfortunate Nazi occupation in World War II - Denmark has been at peace, quietly growing into one of the most advanced and progressive nations in the world. Their high standard of living was derived from their post-war efforts to look inward and focus on their shipping and agricultural industries, as well as a highly successful welfare and healthcare systems. While Denmark may never again enjoy the political relevancy of the past, it has carved its niche out as a land of prosperity, a land of highly educated people that preach responsibility and affability.

We don't mind admitting that some of our Danish traditions seem rather weird to the modern eye, as they include batting at a black cat in a barrel at the annual carnival "fastelavn" and burning a witch on a bonfire at Sankt Hans (midsummer's eve). But don't worry, we've toned down the craziness a bit, so nowadays the barrels are simply decorated with cut out versions of black cats and the bonfires only burn doll versions of witches.

If this isn't a fun fact, we don't know what is! Because Denmark is home to the world's oldest amusement park, Bakken, as well as the second oldest one, Tivoli Gardens. You find Bakken located just a short 20 minute train ride from Copenhagen central station and Tivoli Gardens is located just on the opposite side of the street from the station in the centre of our vibrant capital. Both of them are brilliant suggestions if you're looking for a fun-filled day - and that's a fact! (okay that was cheesy but it was right for the picking. )

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Most national surveys dealing with social strata do not divide the population into different income groups. Instead, the population is categorized into five social layers, according to level of education and occupation.

Those social categories are academics, owners of large farms, and persons with more than fifty employees (4 percent) farmers with at least four employees, owners of companies with more than six employees, and college-educated business owners (7 percent) farmers with a maximum of three employees, owners of small companies, and persons with jobs requiring expertise (21 percent) skilled workers, small landowners, and workers with a professional education (37 percent) and workers without skills training (32 percent).

In the adult population, there has been an increase in unemployed people who receive public support from 6 percent in 1960 to 25 percent today. Increasing demands for skills in reading, writing, mathematics, computers, and stress management are among the factors that have caused this development. Unemployment rates are somewhat higher among ethnic minorities, with persons of Turkish descent having the highest rate.

Figures from 1996 show inequality in income distribution: Twenty percent of the lowest-income families accounted for 6 percent of total income, while 20 percent of the highest-income families accounted for 40 percent of the income.

Symbols of Social Stratification. According to a code of morality (the "Jante Law") which was formulated by the author Aksel Sandemose in his 1933 novel A Refugee Crosses His Tracks, a person should not display superiority materially or otherwise. Wealth and high social position are downplayed in public in regard to dress, jewelry, and housing. The point is to be discreet about individual distinction and avoid public boasting while allowing one's wealth to be recognized by persons in a similar economic position.

Denmark: History

The Danes probably settled Jutland by c.10,000 BC and later (2d millennium BC) developed a Bronze Age culture there. However, little is known of Danish history before the age of the Vikings (9th–11th cent. AD), when the Danes had an important role in the Viking (or Norse) raids on Western Europe and were prominent among the invaders of England who were opposed by King Alfred (reigned 871–99) and his successors. St. Ansgar (801–65) helped convert the Danes to Christianity Harold Bluetooth (d. c.985) was the first Christian king of Denmark. His son, Sweyn (reigned c.986–1014), conquered England. From 1018 to 1035, Denmark, England, and Norway were united under King Canute (Knut). The southern part of Sweden (Skåne, Halland, and Blekinge) was, with brief interruptions, part of Denmark until 1658.

After Canute's death, Denmark fell into a period of turmoil and civil war. Later, Waldemar I (reigned 1157–82) and Waldemar II (reigned 1202–41) were energetic rulers who established Danish hegemony over N Europe. With the end of the Viking raids and the development of a strong and independent church, the nobles were able to impose their will on the weaker kings. In 1282, Eric V (reigned 1259–86) was forced to submit to the Great Charter, which established annual parliaments and a council of nobles who shared the king's power. This form of government persisted until 1660.

Waldemar IV (reigned 1340–75) again brought Danish power to a high point, but he was humiliated by the Hanseatic League in the Treaty of Stralsund (1370). Waldemar's daughter, Queen Margaret, achieved (1397) the union of the Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish crowns in her person (see Kalmar Union). Sweden soon escaped effective Danish rule, and with the accession (1523) of Gustavus I of Sweden the union was dissolved. However, the union with Norway lasted until 1814.

In 1448, Christian I became king and established on the Danish throne the house of Oldenburg, from which the present ruling family (Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg) is descended. He also united (1460) Schleswig and Holstein with the Danish crown. The Reformation (early 16th cent.) gradually gained adherents in Denmark, and during the reign of Christian III (1534–59) Lutheranism became the established religion. In the late 16th and early 17th cent., Denmark had a brilliant court, with a brisk intellectual and cultural life the astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546–1601) was a major figure, and the Danish Renaissance style of architecture (strongly influenced by that of the Low Countries) was developed.

The division of power in Denmark between the king and the nobles seriously handicapped the country's attempt to gain supremacy in the Baltic region. Denmark was involved in numerous wars with Sweden and other neighbors the participation of Christian IV (reigned 1588–1648) in the Thirty Years War (1618–48) and the wars of Frederick III (reigned 1648–70) with Sweden caused Denmark to lose its hegemony in the north to Sweden. The Danish-Swedish Treaty of Copenhagen (1660) confirmed most of the Danish losses imposed by the Treaty of Roskilde (1658).

The wars weakened the nobility by reducing its numbers and strengthened the monarchy by increasing the power and importance of the royal army. Frederick III and Christian V (reigned 1670–99), aided by their minister Count Griffenfeld, were able to make the kingdom an absolute monarchy with the support of the peasants and townspeople. Denmark maintained an imperial status by continuing to rule over Iceland and by establishing (late 17th cent.) the Danish West Indies (see Virgin Islands). In the Northern War (1720–21) against Charles XII of Sweden, Frederick IV (reigned 1699–1730) gained some financial awards and the union of ducal Schleswig with royal Schleswig.

The later 18th cent. was marked by important social reforms carried out by the ministers Johann Hartwig Ernst Bernstorff, Andreas Peter Bernstorff, and Johann Friedrich Struensee. Serfdom was abolished (1788), and peasant proprietorship was encouraged. In the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, Denmark, having sided with Napoleon I, was twice attacked by England (see Copenhagen, battle of Copenhagen). By the Treaty of Kiel (1814), Denmark lost Norway to Sweden and Helgoland to England, but retained possession of Greenland, the Faeroe Islands, and Iceland.

In the early 19th cent., Denmark's modern system of public education was started, and there was a flowering of literature and philosophy (led by Hans Christian Andersen and Søren Kierkegaard). As a result of plans for a liberal, centralized constitution, Frederick VII (reigned 1848–63) became involved in a war with Prussia (1848–50) over the status of Schleswig-Holstein. Denmark was defeated and agreed in the London Protocol of 1852 to preserve a special status for the two duchies. In the meantime, a new constitution was promulgated (1849), ending the absolute monarchy and establishing wide suffrage.

The new government attempted (1855) to incorporate Schleswig into the Danish constitutional system, and soon after the accession (1863) of Christian IX war broke out again (1864), this time with Prussia and Austria. Denmark was defeated badly and lost Schleswig-Holstein. This loss of about one third of the Danish territory was, however, offset by great economic gains that transformed Denmark, in the second half of the 19th cent., from a land of poor peasants into the nation with the most prosperous small farmers in Europe. This change was achieved largely by persuading the farmers to specialize in dairy and pork products rather than in grain (which was more expensive to produce than the grain imported from the United States). The folk high schools, originated by N. F. S. Grundtvig (1783–1872), played an important role in reeducating the Danish farmers. At the same time, the cooperative movement flourished in Denmark. Electoral reforms (1914–15) granted suffrage to the lower classes and to women and strengthened the lower chamber of the legislature.

Denmark remained neutral in World War I and recovered North Schleswig after a plebiscite in 1920. In the interwar period and after World War II, Denmark adopted much social welfare legislation and a system of progressive taxation. Although the Social Democratic government of Denmark had signed a 10-year nonaggression pact with Germany in 1939, the country was occupied by German forces in Apr., 1940. Christian X (reigned 1912–47) and his government remained, but in Aug., 1943, the Germans established martial law, arrested the government, and placed the king under house arrest.

Most of the Jewish population (including refugees from other countries) escaped, with Danish help, to Sweden. Among the escapees was Neils Bohr, the Danish physicist who went on to the United States and worked on the atomic bomb project at Los Alamos. The Danish minister in Washington, although disavowed by his government, signed an agreement granting the United States military bases in Greenland. Danish merchant vessels served under the Allies, and a Danish resistance force operated (1945) under the supreme Allied command. Denmark was liberated by British troops in May, 1945. After the war, Denmark recovered quickly, and its economy, especially the manufacturing sector, expanded considerably.

Denmark became (1945) a charter member of the United Nations and, breaking a long tradition of neutrality, joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949. Frederick IX became king in 1947. In 1960, Denmark became part of the European Free Trade Association, which it left in 1972 in order to join the European Community (now the European Union). Denmark granted independence to Iceland in 1944 and home rule to the Faeroe Islands in 1948 and to Greenland in 1979. Frederick IX died in 1972 and was succeeded by Margaret II. In 1982, the first Conservative-led government since 1894, a center-right coalition headed by Poul Schlüter, came to power.

Having initially rejected (June, 1992) the European Community's Maastricht Treaty, an agreement that represented a major step toward European unification, Danish voters approved the treaty with exemptions in May, 1993. In 1993, Schlüter resigned Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, a Social Democrat, became prime minister, heading a center-left coalition that was returned to office in 1998. In a blow to Rasmussen, Danish voters rejected adoption of the euro (see European Monetary System) in a referendum in Sept., 2000. Parliamentary elections in 2001 brought a Liberal party–led conservative coalition to power, and Anders Fogh Rasmussen became prime minister in the minority government. The government remained in office after the 2005 elections.

The publication of cartoons with images of the Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper in Sept., 2005, brought protests from Danish Muslims and ambassadors from Muslim nations, because of Islamic prohibitions on any representation of Muhammad. The protests initially drew tepid responses from the newspaper and Danish officials. The subsequent distribution by Muslim clerics of the cartoons combined with even more offensive images, and the republication of the original cartoons in some other Western and non-Western papers, sparked sometimes violent anti-Danish and anti-Western protests and boycotts of Danish goods in many Muslim nations in early 2006, and led to apologies from the newspaper and Denmark.

After snap parliamentary elections in Nov., 2007, the Liberal-led government remained in office. Rasmussen stepped down in Apr., 2009, to become NATO's secretary-general (beginning in August) Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the finance minister, succeeded him as prime minister. Parliamentary elections in Sept., 2011, resulted in a narrow victory for a three-party center-left alliance led by the Social Democrats, and Social Democratic leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt subsequently became prime minister (and the first woman to hold the post). The June, 2015, elections were won by the Liberal-led center-right coalition, but after Lars Løkke Rasmussen failed to reach an agreement with other center-right parties, he formed a Liberal party minority government it became a three-party center-right minority government in Nov., 2016. In the June, 2019, elections the Social Democrats won a plurality and formed a minority government with Mette Frederiksen as prime minister.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Scandinavian Political Geography

Where is Denmark?

Denmark is a country located in north central Europe and is the southernmost of the Scandinavian countries. Denmark is geographically positioned both in the Northern and Eastern hemispheres of the Earth. Denmark occupies the Jutland Peninsula and an archipelago of more than 443 islands, located to the east of the peninsula. Denmark shares its land border with Germany in the south. It is surrounded by bodies of water including the Baltic Sea, North Sea, Kattegat Bay, Kiel Bay and the Skaggerak Strait. Denmark shares its maritime borders with Norway, Sweden, Poland and UK.

Denmark Bordering Countries: Germany.

Regional Maps: Map of Europe

Folk Music

A very special branch of folk music comes from the Danes. While there is no particular Danish instrument, the country's folk music comes with a distinguished sound that is pleasing to the ear. It's often easy to identify which part of Denmark a folk song came from based on linguistic expressions, intonation, and dialects. During the national Romantic movement of the 1800s, many classical composers incorporated local Danish folk music to give their music a unique national character.

Facts about Danish people

40. There are more women in Denmark then men because of the high mortality rate among men in the country. [35]

41. The average age in Denmark as of January 2017, is 41.3 years. Also, at the same time, there were 1,143 people that were older than 100 years. [35]

42. As of January 2017, immigrants and descendants comprised 12.9 percent of the total
Danish population. There are people from over 200 different countries living in Denmark. The largest of these comes from Turkey. [35]

43. The country has one of the highest fertility rates in the European Union. [35]

44. One-quarter of all deaths in Denmark are caused by cancer. Breast and prostate cancer were among the most common among women and men respectively. [35,36]

45. The average age to get married for men and women in Denmark is 34.8 and 32.2 years respectively. [35]

46. Peter and Jens are the most common first names for men while Anne and Kirsten were most famous for women in Denmark. [35]

47. Denmark has world’s highest social mobility and a high level of income equality. [44]

48. The country also has the lowest perceived level of corruption in the world along with Sweden, Finland, and New Zealand. [45]

49. Use of the first name is common in Denmark. [5]

50. In Denmark pregnant ladies get a 4 week paid off before delivering the baby and 14 weeks paid off after the delivery. In total, parents in Denmark get 52 weeks of paid parental leave. Thus, the Danish enjoy a lot of support from the government and the employer. [58]


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