Denmark History – from the Origins to 1940
From the origins to the 18th century
Around 120 BC, the Cimbri and Teutoni, originally from Jylland, invaded Gaul, where they defeated the Romans who tried to prevent their raids, but were later defeated by C. Mario. In the Roman imperial age there were commercial exchanges with the Denmark, whose residents, in exchange for tools and luxury objects, offered amber, animal skins and slaves; after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, these trades continued with the Byzantine Empire along the Oder, Vistula and Danube rivers.
According to a2zdirectory, the first written records on the history of the Denmark date back to the end of the 8th century. The first historically documented king of Denmark, Goffredo, was the victim of a conspiracy in Germany where he was preparing to fight Charlemagne ; he made peace with his successor Hemming, and the River Eider became the southern border of Denmark. King Aroldo Klat, threatened by the sons of Godfrey, regained the throne in exchange for the conversion of his people (826), but the following kings remained pagans. The Denmark, unified under Gorm the Elder, whose son Aroldo II (d. 988) definitively introduced the Catholic religion, fought the Vikings, took possession of Norway and Holstein. His son Svend occupied England in 1013, which was then lost, but Canute the Great reconquered it and extended Danish sovereignty over the entire North Sea, with control of a large part of the Baltic. With Canuto’s death in 1035, the great empire fell apart and the attempts of his successors to recapture England were useless.
After averting a Slavic invasion (Lyrskov, 1043), Denmark regained independence with Svend Estridson (1047-76), son of a sister of Cnut the Great, who separated the Danish Church from the archbishopric of Hamburg-Bremen. A bloody civil war broke out between the descendants of Svend, from which Valdemaro I (1157-82) emerged victorious ; under Valdemaro II (1202-41), the kingdom extended in the Baltic with the conquest of Estonia, and in Germany with those of the lands between the Eider and the Elbe, conquests recognized by the emperor Frederick II, but to which the same king later owed give up (Bornhoeved, 1227). Upon his death, Denmark became a field of internal strife and external aggression, which conditioned the politics of the country for over 100 years. In 1282 a Magna Carta of rights was signed, with which the sovereign undertook to govern the country in collaboration with the nobles and also conferred legislative powers on Parliament and some assemblies. The pact would last until the second half of the 17th century, when monarchical absolutism triumphed.
The struggle for the reign between Christopher II and Valdemar III, in the second decade of the 14th century, led to the occupation of the country by German nobles, but Valdemar IV (1340-75) re-established the authority of the monarchy with a expansionist in the Baltic, even if the Hanseatic League forced him to recognize in 1370 (Peace of Stralsunda) his own commercial domain in the Baltic. In 1397, Queen Margaret formed the union of Kalmar between the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway (Iceland also depended on it), and Sweden (then also including Finland). However, under Margaret’s successors there were attempts of detachment by Sweden, which in 1523 ended the union of Kalmar.
With the Lutheran reform of King Christian III in 1536, the monarchy was strengthened, which was able to dispose of the assets confiscated from the Catholic Church. Frederick II tried in vain with the Nordic Seven Years War (1563-70), fought alongside the Hanseatic League, to recover the Swedish throne, but the hegemony on the Baltic Sea, after the intervention of the Denmark in the War of the Thirties’ years, it passed to Gustavo Adolfo’s Sweden. Denmark was forced to cede the island of Gotland and the Norwegian provinces of Jämtland and Härjedalen to Sweden (1645), to which the remaining Danish possessions in southwestern Scandinavia were added.
The monarchy from elective became hereditary (1660) and the Kongelov (“royal law”) of 1665 conferred on Frederick III absolute powers. The affirmation of monarchical absolutism and a centralized bureaucracy accompanied a strengthening of the great landed aristocracy, which between the 16th and 18th centuries. it controlled almost all of the arable land, subjecting the Danish peasants to a heavy servile condition. The policy of reforms, from 1784 to the end of the century, however, initiated a process of social transformation, progressively abolishing feudal burdens, liberalizing trade and initiating a redistribution of land ownership. After the Great Northern War (1700-21) the Denmark definitively renounced the lost territories in southern Scandinavia and pursued a policy of equilibrium that led to a long period of peace.
From the Napoleonic Wars to the Nazi occupation of 1940
The Napoleonic wars heavily affected the Denmark and the clash with England had serious economic and financial consequences, to which was added in 1814 the loss of Norway, ceded to Sweden with the peace of Kiel. However, the Norwegian dependencies of Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland remained at Denmark The economic recovery, starting in the 1830s, was accompanied by a growth of the liberal movement and nationalist agitation in the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. The attempt to integrate Schleswig into the Danish state resulted in the war of 1864 against Austria and Prussia, which ended with the loss of Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg. The liberal claims achieved their first success in 1849, with the promulgation of a new Constitution which established a bicameral Parliament and enshrined fundamental freedoms. The constitutional reform of 1866, however, by limiting the powers of the lower house (Folketing) with respect to the sovereign and the upper house (Landsting), dominated by large landowners, opened a long period of conflict between conservative governments, supported by the king and the Landsting, and the Folketing liberal majority. Only in 1901 the sovereign definitively accepted the principle of parliamentary majority allowing the rise of the liberals to the government.
On the economic-social level, the development of modern agriculture in the second half of the nineteenth century, linked to the spread of peasant property and cooperative companies, was accompanied by a process of industrialization; with the birth of the workers’ movement, the traditional conflict between liberals and conservatives was complicated by the formation of a social democratic party. After the detachment of the radicals from the liberal streak (1905), their advent to the government (1909-10; 1913-20) with the support of the Social Democrats caused an acceleration of the policy of reforms, while in the face of the world war the neutral position of the country.
The constitutional reform of 1915 sanctioned the full affirmation of the parliamentary system and the advent of universal suffrage (including women) in both chambers. In 1918 Iceland obtained self-government and in 1920 the question of northern Schleswig, with a Danish majority, was also resolved, which decided to annex it to Denmark; in the same year it became part of the League of Nations. Starting in 1924, the Social Democrats became the country’s main political force, leading the government until 1940. In the 1930s, extensive social legislation alleviated the consequences of the Great Depression, while maintaining a neutral position in foreign policy did not save the Denmark from the Nazi aggression. After having signed the non-aggression pact with Germany (1939), the only one among the Scandinavian states, the Denmark was invaded in 1940, maintaining a semblance of autonomy until 1943, when, faced with the development of the resistance movement, the German military authorities imposed the occupation regime. The war situation contributed in 1944 to the definitive detachment of Iceland from Denmark.