The Danish society has roots that extend several thousand years back in time. Denmark’s history is important to know if you want to understand the Danish society, as it seems today. The welfare society, the political system, culture and everyday life are the results of a long historical development. Geographically Denmark is the gateway to the Baltic Sea . The various European powers have over the years been interested in having free access to this sea. Therefore, they have often wanted to weaken Denmark without destroying the state guarding the entrance to the Baltic Sea. Denmark, once part of a large North Atlantic empire with many different populations, has gradually been reduced to a small national state with a relatively uniform population.

Throughout its long history, Denmark has had several different forms of governance. Although they all have had the monarchy as state form, the royal power has played very different roles. The current regime is called confined monarchy. That is, the royal power does not influence the policy pursued. But it was not always so. The original election conquest was replaced by a hereditary kingdom in 1660, in which the king decided everything. The monarchy abolished and was replaced by Denmark’s first free constitution, the Kingdom of Denmark’s Kingdom Act, from 1849. It was the starting point for the development towards the existing parliamentary democracy. Today, the king or queen is still formally the head of state. But it is the elected politicians who decide the political line.

This chapter gives an overview of some of the historical events and epochs that have had a significant impact on Denmark’s development until today. It is not an exhaustive Denmark history. Many other historical events and people have made their mark on Denmark’s development. The purpose is to describe in particular the historical main features and trends that point to the three key elements of Danish society, which are discussed in the following chapters:

– Danish democracy – Welfare society – Denmark’s relationship with the outside world. When in the study material after a person, periods are given in brackets, the time period refers to regents for the king or queen’s reign, while the time period for other persons indicates their life. Examples include Christian 4. (1588-1648), who ruled from 1588 to 1648, and Karen Blixen (1885-1962), who lived from 1885 to 1962.


In the Viking age, Denmark was gathered under one king, and power in the country began to be centralized. It was also during this period that the Christian Danish Church was founded. The vikings are often described as brutal warriors, and they were also. But in reality, the vast majority of Danes were not brutal warriors at the time. Many were farmers who cultivated the earth and kept animals, or peaceful merchants who were in contact with many other peoples. The society was developed politically and economically, and the Viking king was given power over a large geographical area. The first known king, Angantyr , already assembled around 700, part of the area that later became Denmark. And during the 900’s, the oldest Danish empire began to take shape.

The very word “Denmark” is known from the late 800’s. “Dan” comes from “daner” and denotes the people who lived in the Danish area. “Mark” means “border area”. Denmark was thus the “Danish border area”. The name probably refers to the border with the Saxons who lived in northern Germany. The first time you see the name Denmark used within the country is on a runestone from about 955. The text is written with the Viking Age’s script, runes. The stone is found in the town of Jelling in Jutland. On the stone it is said that it was raised by King Gorm the Old. About 10 years later, in about 965, another jungle was being erected in Jelling. According to the text on the stone, it was raised by Gorm the Old-age son Harald Blåtand. On the stone it is written that King Harald won all Denmark and Norway and made the Danish Christians. Harald Blåtands Jellingsten is therefore called for Denmark’s baptism certificate. In order to safeguard his empire, Harald Blåtand built around 980 a number of ring bells in defense. They were later called trelleborge after the name of a ring castle at Slagelse in Zealand . Similar plants were built in Jutland, in Funen and in Skåne in southern Sweden. These impressive military facilities indicated that Denmark was now a single empire under one central power.


The Danes had much contact with foreigners in the Viking Age. The development of the Viking ships made it possible to travel far. The Viking ships were far more sober than previous ships. The Vikings therefore reached far around both to shop and when they were on war rides. The Vikings traded with the rest of Europe. Among other things, they had contact with merchants from Russia and the Arab countries. In the 800s, Danish Vikings went on a war trip to England and France and as far away as Constantinople (Istanbul). On these voyages, they expelled the monasteries and cities and demanded treasure by the locals.

Some Vikings settled in the areas they conquered, for example, in Normandy, France. The conquests of the Vikings reached the pinnacle when the Vikings conquered parts of England in the late 900s. Knud the Great (1018-1035) ruled from 1016 over England and from 1018 also across Denmark. 10 years later he became king of Norway. Thus, the Viking kingdom reached its greatest extent. However, it fell quite quickly from each other again.


In the Middle Ages, the king, the church and the nobility often fought for power. Congregation and church, however, became closely connected in time. In addition, the Middle Ages was a period of important innovations such as the Jyske Law and Stender Assembly.


After the death of Knud den Stores in 1035 followed an unstable period. The royal force weakened that a number of Danish kings were murdered. For example, Knud the Holy (1080-1086) was killed in a church in Odense in 1086. The perpetrators were storm men, the richest in the country. They were dissatisfied with the fact that the king imposed fines if they did not participate in military service. The rebellion and murder of the king made it clear that in the future the kings could only rule if they entered into binding agreements with the rulers. These agreements gradually developed into actual contracts of the division of power between the king and the great men, the so-called hand fastenings. The last handwritten was signed by Frederik 3. in 1648. It was canceled in connection with the introduction of the inheritance in 1660.

The kings of the Middle Ages should both secure the support of the great men and the church. Some hundred years after Christianity was introduced, the church had gained great power. The Catholic Church was an international organization with great influence in Europe, and the church quickly came to own large land areas in Denmark. The Danish kings of the Middle Ages therefore had to make sure that the church was on their side. In Denmark, the royal power and Christianity were thus closely linked in the Middle Ages. For example, Bishop Absalon, who became a bishop in 1158, received great political power.

From the mid-1100s to the mid-1200s, the royal government won renewed strength. During that time, the Valdemars ruled, that is, Valdemar the Great (1157-1182) and his sons. The fact that the royal power was strong can be seen in the Jyske Law of 1241. It was now the king, who was the legislature. The law is regarded as one of the greatest advances for Danish society in the Middle Ages. Previously, the genera had disputed each other if committed crimes. Jyske Lov made up with this kind of bloodshed. The law also repealed large portions of the so-called custom dish, which was based on unwritten rules. The sentence “By law must be built” comes from the introduction to the law of Jyske. The law first applied only in Jutland. Parts of Jyske Lov were later written into Danish law from 1683, the first common law for all of Denmark.

In the first half of the 1300s the country was characterized by divisions and civil war. King Valdemar Atterdag (1340-1375) managed to reassemble the Danish empire and rebuild the Danish state power. When Valdemar died on Tuesday, the kingdom also included the parts of Skåne, Halland and Blekinge, which today are all parts of Sweden. In Valdemar Atterdag’s reign, the plague ravaged the black death. The plague struck about 1350 Denmark and the rest of Europe and killed one third of the population. The tragedy helped to strengthen the king’s power. He absorbed much of the land that belonged to those who died of the plague.

When Valdemar died at last, he left no male heirs. The great men chose instead his daughter Margretes five-year-old son, Oluf, as king. In practice, however, Margrete ruled and she maintained power when Oluf died in 1387. Margrete 1. succeeded in becoming a regent in Norway, and in 1397 she met Denmark, Norway and Sweden in a union. It was called the Kalmar Union because the union agreement was signed in the Swedish city of Kalmar. The union was a loose association between the three empires with Margrete 1. as a regent. When she died in 1412, her sister’s grandson, Erik van Pommern (1412-1439), became the union king. The Kalmar Union was dissolved in 1523, where Sweden tore itself apart. Norway remained in union with Denmark until 1814.


The Danish society underwent major changes during the Middle Ages. It evolved like other European societies into a so-called stern community. There were a total of four stakes, that is, groups of people with different rights and duties in society: – The clergy, that is, the bishops and other men of the church. – The nobility, which included elder nobles of elderly age. – Citizen status, that is, the citizens of the cities. – The peasants.

Of the four sterns, it was the clergy and nobility that was most important to the king’s power. The nobility was, among other things, free to pay taxes. In return, they would provide military support to the king if there was war. Through handcuffs, the richest nobles (Danehoffet) had gained great power over the king. From the 1300s, the king himself appointed the members of the Danish court among the “best men of the kingdom”. But at the same time this assembly chose who to be king. Denmark was until 1660 a constituency, where the throne did not automatically inherit. In the second half of the 1400s, the first stall meeting was held in Denmark. Here the stakes of the country discussed different issues that were important to the country. However, most Danish farmers were still free when they worked for a landowner as farmer farmers. That is, they only had the right to use their land and their farm. They did not own any of the parts and could not freely decide on them. Although the farmers accounted for about 80 percent of the population, they had hardly any political influence. Stenemøder was held until 1660. During the Middle Ages Denmark had slowly become a whole kingdom. At the same time, the constituency had stumble, and for some time it gave some political peace. However, this stability was strongly challenged by two strong currents in Europe, which became clear around 1500: the church reformations and the Renaissance.


With the Reformation in 1536 Protestantism was introduced in Denmark. It also meant that the king’s power became much greater. The church became a state church subject to the king instead of the pope, and the king took over the estate of the church. Now it was only the king who could appoint the church officials.


In the Middle Ages, the Danish church was part of the Catholic Church and heard directly under the pope of Rome. The church was a rich and powerful institution. But around 1500, its power was threatened by more reforms. One of them was the German monk Martin Luther’s rebellion against the established church. The rebellion led to the fact that large parts of Northern Europe broke with the pope. Instead, independent Protestant churches were founded in close cooperation with the local princes.

Luther’s Protestant ideas came to Denmark in the 1520s. It was especially the priest Hans Tausen, which spread the Lutheran doctrine. First of all, it was based on the fact that one could only achieve salvation through faith, not by doing good deeds or buying, that is, paying money to the church. Both in Germany and Denmark, the Reformation began as a theological discussion between clergy and secular magistrates. But soon it developed into a popular uprising aimed at the rich and powerful Catholic Church. The kings were also interested in the Reformation. In that way they could gain power over the church and take over the estate of the church. King Christian 2. (1513-1523) was interested in Luther’s teachings, but he never became convinced Protestant.

Christian 2. gradually became very unpopular in Denmark and Sweden. In Denmark, the powerful nobility turned his back because they believed that he favored the state of living at the expense of the nobility. In Sweden he was hated because in 1520 he ordered an execution of almost all of the Swedish stormandselite after a conquest in Sweden. This action was called the Stockholm bloodbath.

The overall result was that Sweden abolished the Kalmar Union in 1523, and in the same year the king was also evicted by the Danish warlords. As a result, he fled from Denmark and became the last union king.

Christian 2’s uncle Frederik 1. (1523-1533) became a new king in Denmark, and like Christian 2. he had sympathy for Protestantism. Frederik 1. died in 1533, and the following year a civil war in Denmark broke out between the Catholic powers of the church and the supporters of Protestantism. In 1534 the Protestants chose Frederick 1st son Duk Christian to King under the name Christian 3. (1534-1559). Under his leadership, the Protestants won the Civil War in 1536.

In the same year, the Reformation was formally implemented. Denmark became a Protestant country, and the king deposed the Catholic bishops. The Danish church now became a church of the church, that is, a church that belonged to the king instead of under the pope. The reformation meant that the church’s political power became much smaller. The king took the church’s estate and land, which accounted for about a third of the land’s cultivated area. He closed the monasteries, and now it was the state that had to take care of the sick and the poor. There had been monks and nuns in the monasteries so far. The reform also meant that only the king could appoint church officials. In this way, the church could now be used to strengthen the royal power in all corners of the Danish empire.

The Reformation was crucial for Denmark’s history, because it closely linked state and church. It was the beginning of a strong state power, which in 1661 developed into royal unity.


Christian 4. was a visionary and ambitious king who also admired the beauty of art and architecture. For Denmark, however, the Renaissance was also an epoch characterized by lost wars and lands. Although Denmark during Christian 4. Lost many wars, he has gone into history as one of the country’s most significant kings.

The best known King of the Renaissance was Christian 4. (1588-1648). He took over in 1588 as the 11-year-old throne after his father Frederik 2. In 1596 he became royal and crowned as king of Denmark-Norway. In addition, he was the duke of Schleswig and Holstein. The two Duchess judges had since 1460 had the Danish kings as dukes. Christian 4. was a major builder, and in the first half of the 17th century he had built many buildings – especially in and around the capital Copenhagen. He let Build famous buildings such as Frederiksborg Castle at Hillerød, Copenhagen Stock Exchange and Rosenborg Castle and Round Tower in Copenhagen.

When Christian 4. took over the government, Denmark was the dominant power in the Baltic Sea, but Sweden also had great ambitions like the Baltic Sea Force. The power balance changed significantly when Christian 4. In the years 1625-1629 Denmark entered the Third-Year War (1618-1648). The king suffered a major military defeat in 1626, and when Denmark had to withdraw from the war in 1629, Sweden had become the leading power of the Baltic Sea region. In the following centuries, Denmark gradually lost power and influence. Denmark was no longer a regional superpower in northern Europe. The bad relationship with Sweden continued for the rest of Christian 4’s reign. In 1643 Sweden attacked Denmark, and in 1645 Denmark had to renounce the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, the province of Halland and parts of Norway. By Christian 4’s death in 1648 Denmark was a country in a deep crisis.


From 1660 the king’s power was made hereditary. In 1661 the monarchy was introduced as a rule of law. The king could then freely employ officials, introduce laws and charge taxes. The foundation of the king’s new power became the King’s Law of 1665. The monarchy lasted until 1848.

In 1648, the noble council of counsel, representing the richest part of the nobility, forced the new king Frederik 3 (1648-1670) to sign a very strict handshake. The nobility would not risk the king once again declaring war on other countries and causing great defeat on the battlefield, as Christian 4. had done. Adelen was also afraid of losing his own benefits, such as tax exemption. In the mid-1600s, however, there was a need to modernize Danish society. The defense of Denmark should be made more efficient. It was therefore necessary to charge more taxes to pay the soldiers pay. And when the treasure was already high, the nobility’s tax exemption came under increasingly tougher pressure.

In the years 1657-1660 Denmark was in two turns again in war with Sweden. During the first of these wars, the Swedes conquered large parts of Denmark, which in 1658 had to abandon Skåne, Halland and Blekinge as well as several Norwegian territories to Sweden. Later that year, the Swedish king regretted that he had not conquered all of Denmark. Again, there was war, and the Swedes sieged Copenhagen. The Danish capital, however, resisted the siege, and the Swedish king failed to conquer more Danish territories.

After peace in 1660, a stall meeting was held in Copenhagen where one should try to get the country’s poor economy back in order. During the meeting, the demand for abolishing the nobility’s special benefits grew. And in October 1660 King Frederik 3 agreed with the state of living and the clergy that the nobility should pay to rebuild the country after the war. Adelen also had to accept that in future the royal power would be inherited from the ruling king to his nearest heir. Instead of the former constituency in which the nobility of the Council of Ministers chose the king, Denmark became now an inheritance king. By making the kingdoms hereditary, the kings of Denmark avoided signing on the hand strings, which until then had limited their power and freedom of action. Thus the power of the nobility was broken. Frederik 3 succeeded with the support of the state of residence and the clergy to implement a peaceful coup that ensured him the power alone.

The king used his new power in 1661 to introduce a new regime in Denmark after the European model. It was called monstrosity because the king now ruled the country all alone. The council was abolished, and the king was given full power. He could now employ officials, introduce laws and charge taxes without first asking the stumble upon law. The monarchy took great momentum in the development of Danish society. There was a real central government administration. And Denmark got a new elite of civilian officials who had not inherited their position but obtained it on the basis of their professional qualifications. As the only monarchy in Europe in 1665, Denmark received a written constitution, the King’s Law. It was until 1849 the foundation of the king’s unending power.

The constitution laid very few limits on what the king could and might. He did not have to give his or her absolute power either completely or partially. He also did not have to divide the kingdom between his children, but should let it all go to the successor to the throne. Finally, he should be Protestant, thus belonging to the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The royal power greatly influenced the legislation of society. So far Denmark had several laws, each of which only applied to one part of the country. But in 1683, Christian 5 issued the Danish Law, Danish Law, which applied to the whole country. Danish law also introduced a new legal principle in Denmark, namely the equality of the law. That is, everyone should be treated no matter what condition one belonged to. For the first time, nobles could now be judged on an equal footing with the rest of the population.

Danish law was generally characterized by a human perception of law, and the law strengthened citizens’ legal position against the state power. Crimes against the royal power could still be punished hard. It was not just murder or murder attempt on the king. Nor should you offend the king or any other member of the royal house. It was the king who symbolized the state, and therefore any attempt to harm the king should also be perceived as an attack on the state itself.


The European Enlightenment Day was characterized by ideals of reason and freedom for the individual. The ideas also became widespread in Denmark from the mid-18th century. The king’s physician, Johann Friedrich Struensee, tried to transform the ideas into practical policy. Although Struensee’s influence lasted only briefly, both his and the ideas of the Enlightenment became of great importance to the Danish society.


In the 1600s and 1700s Denmark, like many other European countries, became a colonial empire. The Danish King established trading stations in Asia, including Trankebar in the present India. From here Danish ships were able to send spices and other expensive specialties to Europe. Denmark also built forts on the west coast of Africa, from which thousands of slaves were sailed to the Danish colonies of the West Indies (St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John (in English St. John)) in the Caribbean on the other side of the Atlantic.

Denmark and Sweden were once again in war with each other in the Skåne War (1675-1679) and the Great Northern War (1709-1720). Both wars were Danish attempts to regain Skåne, Halland and Blekinge, who had been resigned to Sweden in 1658, but failed to get the areas back. Denmark had to comply with Britain, the Netherlands, France and Russia. These countries wanted Øresund to remain an international water that could be navigated without the control of Denmark and Sweden. The superpowers would no longer allow Denmark and Sweden to battle with each other. Then after countless wars since the Middle Ages, Denmark and Sweden now began to build a peaceful relationship with each other.

In the first half of the 18th century there was an economic crisis in agriculture. In order to ensure stable labor on the estates, the king introduced the stampband in 1733.

The spell band meant that all farmers should stay on the goods where they were born until they were 40 years old. The farmers could not decide where to live and work. The landowners were thus secured permanent labor. On the other hand, they should put soldiers to the army. Most farmers in Denmark were at that time farmer farmers, that is, they lived on one of the landlord’s smaller farms. The farmer farmers should both pay rent to the landlord and carry out hovering work, that is, free work on landlord’s land. The introduction of the stake band was an intervention in the freedom of farmer farmers, who were already very limited. To increase production on the estates, landlords ordered from the mid-1700s their farmer farmers even more hovering.


Enlightenment time was a break time in Europe. Natural science challenged the religious worldview, and in many areas it weakened the credibility and power of the church. The ideals of enlightenment were based on the belief that the population could become free and better people through enlightenment and self-critical thinking. Reason should thus lead to freedom for the individual. Such thoughts also reached Denmark. The ever-expanding citizenship required to take part in power and began to attack the monarchy. The country’s rule was gradually modernized in the mid-18th century by the ideals of Enlightenment. The king appointed ministers to take care of the state’s many complicated cases. In this way, there was a real bureaucracy with many government officials.

The empire was vulnerable when the king was weak. It became evident in the years that the only 17-year-old Christian 7 (1766-1808) became king. He suffered from schizophrenia and was therefore completely unsuitable as a regent. The German doctor Johann Friedrich Struensee won the king’s trust and was employed as his medical practitioner. In 1769, Struensee opened a love affair with Christian 7’s Queen Caroline Mathilde, and he became father to her second child.

In the years 1770-1772, Struensee succeeded in gaining great power in Denmark because the king in practice allowed him to rule himself. Struensee issued many orders on behalf of the king. Among other things, he introduced partial freedom of the press. In many ways, Struensee was foresighted in his attempt to modernize Denmark from the times of Enlightenment. But he ended up being arrested on January 17, 1772. Struensee had not been able to secure himself against the old powers who distanced his reforms. Later that same year he was sentenced to death for majesty. At a major public ceremony he was executed and “laid on wheels and steep”, that is, after his execution, his body was party and publicly displayed.


By the end of the 18th century, it became important to feel Danish when living within the boundaries of the Danish empire. Also the language was given a great importance to the beginning of national identity.

Denmark was in the 1700s a place with several different peoples, not all of whom spoke the same language. It was largely the king and the common church who held the main stage together. The king ruled over the Kingdom of Denmark, which was closely associated with Norway, who also had the Danish king as a monarch – that is, a double monarchy. The king was also a duke in the Duchess of Schleswig and Holstein, where most inhabitants spoke German. And finally he ruled over the large Danish lands of the North Atlantic: Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands. There was no real national Danish identity before the end of the 18th century, where nationality began to play a role for the new wealthy middle class in the cities. For example, in the first law of 1776 native law, one had to be born in either Denmark-Norway, Schleswig or Holstein to become employed in the Danish state. This was, among other things, a reaction to Struensee’s regime, how many of the officials had been of German descent.


The land-borne forms have played a major role in the development of both Danish agriculture and Danish society. During the 19th century, agriculture developed from a medieval system with farmer farmers to a more modern agriculture with self-employed farmers. The development took place in large parts of Europe in the period from around 1750. In Denmark, it led, among other things, to the gradual abolition of the spellbound from 1788.

In the 1700s, the majority of the Danish population worked in agriculture. The farmer farmers gradually became more and more dissatisfied with the large amount of hovering work that the landlords forced them to perform on the estates. It was also good times for agriculture, and the most prospective landlords would therefore like to drive their agriculture more modern and efficient than it would have been possible under the existing scheme.

Already Struensee had attempted to abolish the stave band, which tied the farmer to their home, but it was not successful. However, the idea of ​​changing the relationship between farmer and landowners had struck. After crown prince Frederik ruled for his insane father (King Christian 7) from 1784, development went fast. From 1788, the posture was abolished. The cancellation meant that farmer farmers could choose whether they would live on the property they had heard or move away from there.

The abolition of the spellbelt became an important symbol of land reforms, which is the common expression of the many changes in agriculture in the late 1700s. An important result of the reforms was also that the peasants were given the opportunity to own land. The landlords sold in many cases the land to the peasants who had hitherto rented it. In many cases, the common ground of the village was divided among the individual farms. That way, the individual farmer gathered his chips in one place so that the soil could be grown more efficiently. Previously, the farmers’ farms were gathered in a village. Now many farms were moved from the villages to the farmer’s own land. This migration of the farms still characterizes the Danish landscape.

Although the land reforms improved the conditions for farmer farmers and self-employed workers, rural life was hard. A massive population growth through the century meant that many had no chance of having their own farm. This resulted in a new subclass in the country, namely the housekeepers. They typically lived in smaller houses and had no fields to grow, but at most little soil where they could keep pets. Instead they worked as farm workers on farms or estates.


Throughout most of the 18th century there was peace in Denmark, which remained neutral in the wars of Europe. However, Denmark was involved in the Napoleonic wars following the French Revolution in the late 1700s. A military defeat in 1807 threw Denmark into major economic problems, and the country ended up bankrupt. The war in the period is called in Denmark for England wars because Denmark became Allied with France in the war against England.

The Napoleonic Wars began in 1792, and in the first days of the war, Denmark was neutral. Denmark had a large merchant fleet and served well to sail goods on the world’s oceans, including England and France. By 1800, however, Britain would no longer accept that Danish warships protected the merchant ships that transported goods between the countries that were in war. On April 2, 1801, a British navy sailed to Copenhagen and attacked the Danish Navy. The battle is called the Battle of Reason because it took place in the waters just outside the city’s harbor, called Copenhagen Red. However, the British did not conquer the Danish Navy in this time. But Denmark had to abandon to protect its merchant ships in military terms.

In 1807 Denmark was seriously drawn into the war. The French Emperor Napoleon 1. wanted to lead a financial war against Britain by blocking trade routes to and from Great Britain with warships. In order to prevent Napoleon from using the Danish ships in the blockade, the British chose this time to seize the entire Danish Navy. A British army went to land in North Zealand in August 1807 and surrounded Copenhagen. From September 2 and three days, the British bombed Copenhagen with guns and rockets. Many hundred Copenhageners were killed and some of the city burned down. Eventually, the British conquered the entire Danish navy and sailed it to Britain. The episode is called Copenhagen Bombardement. After the defeat in 1807, Denmark was forced to choose the page and chose France. There were no more serious fighting in Danish territory during the Napoleonic wars. However, the war gave Denmark major financial problems, partly due to heavy military spending and partly due to the loss of revenue from customs and trade. In 1813 the situation was so serious that the Danish state went bankrupt.

It was also a problem for Denmark that the country’s allies, France, lost the Napoleonic wars to the other European powers. At the peace agreement in Kiel in 1814, Denmark had to send Norway to Sweden. Sweden and Russia had previously agreed that after the defeat of Napoleon, Sweden would receive Norway as compensation for renouncing Finland to the Russians in 1809. Instead, Denmark received the small German capital Lauenburg. Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Iceland still belonged to Denmark like Schleswig and Holstein. But now that Norway was no longer part of the Danish continent, the German-speaking population in the Duchess Judges represented a relatively large proportion of Denmark’s total population. Thus, the differences between Danish and German culture became clearer. This problem grew as the Danish national feeling became stronger in the Kingdom of Denmark. At the same time, a new common sense of nationality grew south of the border.

The England wars reduced Denmark to a small state without the fleet that had been one of the country’s important means of power. Since then, Denmark was no longer able to secure its borders alone. The country was hit by a long-term economic crisis, which only declined around 1840.


In the 19th century, Denmark was influenced by the democratic and national currents, which emerged, among other things, by the French Revolution in 1789. For example, democratic ideas were expressed by the setting up of stagnary assemblies that gradually increased political consciousness in the population. By the middle of the 19th century it was possible to abolish the monarchy peacefully and introduce a free constitution in the kingdom. This process had required bloody revolutions in several other European countries.

As a result of the renewed popular turmoil in Europe, Frederik 6. (1808-1839) became the press in 1834 to set up stalemaths. That is, meetings where representatives of different communities participated. At such meetings, the king could ask the people for advice and perhaps get support for his policy. The polls should give the people more influence on politics. But there were no democratic parliaments in modern sense. The quorums could only give the king good advice and make suggestions, but did not adopt laws.

Four stern meetings were set up: one for Jutland, one for the islands, one for Schleswig and one for Holstein. This was an important step on Denmark’s path towards democracy. Even though there were only men with a certain wealth or income that could be elected to these assemblies, the polls made many more citizens interested in politics. There was gradually a political culture in Denmark, and various political movements saw the light of the day.

Towards the mid-1800s, the political tensions in Danish society became stronger. Resistance to the unity became bigger and bigger. In 1848, the revolution broke out in many European capitals. There was no revolution in Denmark, but the turmoil around Europe affected the country. Citizenship in Copenhagen demanded in March 1848 that King Frederik 7 (1848-1863) was to introduce a free constitution. The pressure of the excited people’s mind chose the king to comply with the requirement. He abolished the sovereign state form and declared himself a constitutional king, which meant that he should rule in cooperation with the people. On June 5, 1849 Frederik signed 7. Denmark’s first free constitution, the Constitution of Denmark.

With the Constitution, Denmark was given a parliament with two legislators, the Parliament and the County Council, which were collectively called the Reichstag. After almost 200 years under unilateral kings, some of the Danish population now directly influenced the legislation. Men over the age of 30 could choose members of the Reichstag. Neither women, under the age of 30 or the poor, had the right to vote. To be elected to the Folketing, you should be 25 years old, while members of the County Council should be 40 years old and have a high income. Nevertheless, the Constitution was very democratic and liberal compared to the constitution of other states at that time. Earlier, the king could legislate on his own. With the Constitution it was established that the legislative power was in common with the King and the Reichstag.


In the first half of the 1800s, national awareness grew in Denmark, as did the opposition between Danish and German-born. In 1848-1850, it triggered a civil war between the kingdom of Denmark and German insurgents in the Duchess of Schleswig and Holstein. Denmark won the war, but the problem was not resolved. In 1864, national tensions again triggered a war. This time the Germans won and Denmark lost both Schleswig and Holstein.

The increased national consciousness and democratic thought created tensions between the Danish-speaking and German-speaking people. In the continent, ie the kingdom of Denmark and the duchesses of Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg, different groups in the population had different languages, without having previously encountered problems. Now it became Dane also associated with speaking Danish. The duchesses of Schleswig and Holstein, where people predominantly spoke German, threatened to tear themselves apart from Denmark. Instead, they would be an independent state with their own constitution. This state should be a member of the German Federation, an association of German states, which had been established in 1815 after the Napoleonic Wars.

The population in Holstein was German, and many found it natural that the holstones would like to escape from Denmark. But in Schleswig there were both Danish-speaking and German-speaking inhabitants. It was the so-called Schleswig problem.

People and politicians on both sides of the border discussed where the Danish border should go. Some believed that Denmark’s natural border to the south went by the river Ejderen, which separates Schleswig from Holstein. This view became known as the Ownership Policy. Other political groups worked for a compromise, such that Schleswig could be divided into a Danish and a German part. Still others – especially conservative forces – wanted both Schleswig and Holstein to remain attached to Denmark in a standard solution.


In 1848, representatives from the quays of Schleswig and Holstein rejected their claim for an independent constitution for Schleswig-Holstein, similar to the Danish constitution that was on its way. The refusal led to civil war between Schleswig-Holstein insurgents and the Danish army. A large number of soldiers from the German Federation were put into the war on the Duke Judges. In 1849 Denmark and the seaweed populations fought a number of kinds. One of them was at Fredericia in July, where the Danish army defeated. In 1850 the Great Power pushed the German Federation to withdraw its aid troops from the conflict. Then the Danish army won a number of crucial victories, including at Isted in July 1850. It was the bloodiest battle during the war with thousands of dead and injured. Following a mediation by the European superpowers, the result was that the two Duchess judges should still be part of the Danish continent. The solution would not prove to last long. The war in the period 1848-1850 is called the 1st Schleswig war.


After the first Schleswig-war, Denmark had promised the superpowers that Denmark would not bind Schleswig closer than Holstein. But Denmark broke its promise to the superpowers. In 1863, the Danish Empire, pressed by the people’s poll, adopted a new common constitution for both Denmark and Schleswig, but not for Holstein. The German states perceived the Danish-Schleswig Constitution as a provocation and a breach of the agreement that had been concluded. Preussen, whose political leader was the powerful Otto von Bismarck, declared, with Austria, war against Denmark in February 1864. This war is called the 2nd Schleswig War.

Denmark was attacked from the south, and the Danish forces believed that Dannevirke would protect them from the attack. Dannevirke was a defense facility, which since the Viking era had been a strong defense line. But in February 1864 the Danish army had to be evacuated in a hurry from Dannevirke, among other things because the opponents were outraged. Parts of the Danish army dragged north in Jutland. However, the majority of the soldiers held the defense position at Dybbøl near Sønderborg, which was more developed and in better condition than Dannevirke. On April 18, the Prussians attacked Dybbøl after a protracted bombardment, and the strange Danish forces suffered defeat. All of Jutland was occupied by enemy forces, and when the Prussians also conquered the island of Als, late June, the Danish politicians had to realize that the war was lost.

The defeat in 1864 was a disaster for Denmark. After the defeat, Denmark had to resign Schleswig, Holstein and the little Duchess of Lauenburg to Preussen and Austria. The Danish state had lost one-fifth of its population and one-third of its territory. Denmark then consisted of the Kingdom, Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Iceland as well as – until 1917 – the three small West Indies. Thus, after 1864, Denmark became a more uniform population than ever before. The inhabitants of the Kingdom spoke the same language, had the same constitution and were culturally quite the same, although there was still a big difference between rich and poor. In the aftermath of the defeat in 1864, Danish national identity grew strong. Language and culture meant to mean a lot. Many descendants lived now in the German empire south of the border, but felt Danish. Only in 1920, Danish-speaking areas in the northern part of Schleswig were reunited with Denmark.

The war and loss of the Duchess judges in 1864 meant that Denmark now had no influence whatsoever on the decisions of the European superpowers. In 1871, Bismarck had gathered the German states in a strong empire, and Denmark was now in the shadow of its great neighbor to the south. Security policy then chose Denmark to be strictly neutral and maintained only a weak military defense.


The last half of the 19th century was characterized by an extensive modernization of Danish society following the major political changes in 1848-1849. Industrial development progressed, prosperity rose, and new political reforms were to ensure a more free economy.


Industrialization began in England already in the mid-18th century. The main reasons for industrialization included the development of the steam engine, the first railways (in the early 1800s) and the availability of energy in the form of large coal reserves. However, in Denmark and many other European countries, industrialization only struck in the latter half of the 19th century. And it was only after World War II that Denmark went from being an agricultural community to becoming a real industrial society.

In the period up to World War II, agricultural products accounted for 90 percent of Danish exports. Agriculture thus remained the dominant profession. However, industrialization caused large parts of the population to move from the country to the cities to work in industry. This resulted in a whole new community of workers. They typically worked at the new factories in the city and lived in small apartments in large storey properties. Several of the organizations and traditions that characterize the Danish labor market today were founded during this period.


The first industrialization of Denmark created new economic and political conditions. The many workers in industry had common interests. Among other things, they wanted to ensure the highest possible pay for work, reasonable working hours and better workplace safety. The many workers began to gather, and in 1871 a labor movement was created in Denmark. It was part of the Socialist Movement International, which organized workers in many countries. In newspapers and on flyers, the movement leaders called for strikes and demonstrations to demand better terms and higher pay for the workers. Employers maintained on their part the right to lead and distribute the work. The period was therefore characterized by strikes and clashes. The most famous clash between demonstrators and the authorities was the Battle of the Common, which took place in May 1872. It was a big working meeting in Copenhagen, which ended in fighting between police and soldiers on the one hand and workers on the other. No one was killed on the fellowship, but many were imprisoned.

There was also a political working party, Social Democracy. It was initially part of the labor movement, but became an independent party in 1878. In 1884 the first two Social Democrats were elected to the parliament.

A long-term battle between employers and workers in 1899 ended in September of the same year with a historic agreement, the September Settlement. The two main organizations of the labor market – currently called DA (Danish Employers’ Association) and LO (the Danish National Organization in Denmark, representing the workers) – recognized the rights of each other’s members. Employers retained their right to lead and distribute the work. Workers were allowed to strike for specific rules. The September settlement remains the basis for the way in which agreements are made in the Danish labor market.


While industry grew in the cities, land changes also occurred. By the middle of the 19th century Denmark had exported large quantities of grain abroad. However, the situation changed in the mid 1870s. Now steam boats and railways made it possible for the US and the Eastern European countries to export cheap grain to Western Europe, causing grain prices to fall drastically. Therefore, Danish farmers chose to breed cattle and pigs. During the same period, the union movement was founded in Denmark. The farmers agreed to set up dairies and utility associations. Here, they collaborated on procurement and production and shared the profits in relation to each member’s revenue. A fundamental principle in the union movement was that members voted for “heads, not chiefs”. This meant that a farmer (one head), who had only few animals (chiefs), formally decided as much as a big brother with many animals and large fields.

Cooperative slaughterhouses were also established, which secured the farmers control of both the production and marketing of their meat. The share movement has meant a lot for Danish agriculture’s development and for society as a whole. The democratic principles underlying the shareholding have later become an important part of modern Danish society. There are still many cooperatives, although most have gradually removed far from their original base, both in terms of size and management.

The labor movement also created companies that built on the share tank. They were called cooperatives. For example, breweries produced on equal terms with other companies. But it was the workers or the consumers themselves who owned them. The companies should not give profits to the owners like ordinary companies.


The Danish society was politically invaded in the decades after Denmark’s defeat in the Second Schleswig War in 1864. Many considered the loss of the Duchess judges for a national tragedy that Denmark would have difficulty in overcoming. Domestic policy arose a marked conflict between the right-wing party Right and the Left Party.


At the end of the 19th century, the political battle became harder between the right and left forces of the Kingdom of Riga. They organized around 1870 in two political parties, Right and Left. The party Left, representing the peasants, had a majority in the parliament. The Conservative Party of the Right had a majority in the County Council. During this period, the Right Governments, appointed by the King and led by JBS Estrup, carried out a number of so-called provisional (financial) laws, even though the government was in minorities in the parliament. The period is therefore called for the Provision Period. The parliament, which was dominated by the Left, sought to block government policy. As a result, the legislative work stalled. Only with the change of system in 1901 was the suspended situation broken and the parliamentary principle was introduced. According to the parliamentary principle, it is only the parliament that decides who needs the government. According to this principle, a government must not have a majority in the parliament. 1901 became a turning point for Danish democracy. However, the parliamentary principle was first enshrined in the Constitution when it was amended in 1953. By the same amendment, the County Council was abolished, so that Parliament now consists only of one chamber, the Parliament.

After long political struggles, the Left took over the government in 1901. However, as the Danish society evolved, more political parties were added. One of them was the radical left. It was formed in 1905 by Left-wingers. It was especially academics and housekeepers who voted for the new party. In 1915, the Old Landowner’s Right Party changed its name to the Conservative People’s Party. The party thus indicated that it wanted to attract voters other than the country’s landlords and wealthy citizenship.

World War II (1914-1918)

In 1914, World War I broke out when Germany and Austria-Hungary attacked Serbia, Russia and France. Eventually, most European powers, and then also the United States, became involved in the war. The neutral Denmark was geographically close to the fronts of the war, but was not directly affected by the world war. However, following pressure from Germany, Denmark decided to lay mines in some of the Danish waters in 1914. The purpose was to prevent British warships from sailing into the Baltic Sea, thus threatening Germany from there; but minefields could also prevent German ships from sailing through the Danish Straits.

One population group was particularly involved in the First World War. It was the Danish-born Slesvigers south of the border along the King Island. In total, about 6,000 Danish lords died in German war service during World War I. Also the Danish colonies in the West Indies came into focus because of the war. The United States feared that Germany would occupy the Danish West Indies. They therefore offered in 1915 the Danish government to buy Skt. Thomas, Skt. Croix and Skt. Jan (in English, St. John). Following a referendum in Denmark, the islands were sold for 25 million in 1917. dollars. On the other hand, the United States government recognized that Greenland fully belonged to Denmark.


Germany lost the First World War, and it allowed Denmark to return the Danish-speaking areas of Schleswig. In 1920, the people of North and Central Sweden voted on whether they wanted to belong to Germany or Denmark. The vote in Nordslesvig took place on 10 February 1920. A large majority voted for Nordslesvig to be united with Denmark. By the vote of 14 March 1920 in Mellemslesvig, where Flensburg was the largest city, a large majority decided that the area should belong to Germany. In July 1920 the border was formally moved south from King Island to the current border between Denmark and Germany. Nordslesvig – now called Sønderjylland – was thus reunited with Denmark. One is called Sønderjylland’s return to Denmark for reunification. However, there was still a German minority on the Danish side of the border and a Danish minority on the German side. The rights of these minorities were laid down in the Copenhagen-Bonn Declarations in 1955, which ensured a calm development in the border country.


An important political development during this period was that Danish women were given the right to vote. By 1903, the women had the right to vote and became eligible, but only to the church council. From 1908, women also had the right to vote for parishes and city councils. And finally in 1915 the constitution changed, so that the Danish women had both electoral and electoral rights. So women could also stand up to the Riksdag, and vote in elections. Thus Denmark followed the trend in other European countries where women’s movements had pressured to ensure women’s political influence on an equal footing with men. Globally, Denmark was the 12th country to introduce voting and election for women by parliamentary elections.

Shortly before the reunification, Denmark, in the context of the Easter crisis, experienced its most serious constitutional crisis in recent times. In the Easter 1920 King Christian dismissed the 10th government because of disagreement about the South German question. This happened even though the government did not have a majority against the Folketing. Against tradition and expectation, the outgoing government refused to work on until a new government was formed. The King had to designate a so-called Ministry of Business, which had only one task: to print elections to the Riksdag.

Before that, the king and the government for a long time had disagreed. It was especially the disagreement about the new border to Germany that triggered the Easter crisis. The King’s performance during the Easter crisis in 1920 triggered major demonstrations and political protests, and was part of the daily press called a coup d’état. Several began talking about abolishing the monarchy. The crisis was over when the king and political leaders agreed to appoint a new business ministry, which the politicians could accept, after intense negotiations. Since then, the royal power has not interfered directly with politics. In the subsequent election, the dismissed government lost its majority. It had been led by the radical left and was replaced by a government of the Left Party. The Left Government retained power until 1924, where it was replaced by a Social-Democratic government led by Thorvald Stauning. He was Denmark’s first Social Democratic Prime Minister. This government also included the country’s first female minister. She was Nina Bang and became Minister of Education.

(MIDDLE 1918-1939)

The period between the two world wars was marked by crisis and political unrest, both in Denmark and in the rest of the world. In Europe stood the distinction between democracy and dictatorship. In the 1930s, the world was in economic crisis, and also in Denmark, unemployment grew. It triggered many conflicts in the labor market and gave great support to Social Democracy. Antidemocratic ideologies never endured seriously throughout Denmark. The vast majority of Danish voters continued voting on the old parties both before and during World War II.

While fascism progressed in Germany and Italy, it succeeded in maintaining democracy in Denmark. At the same time, one of the most serious international events occurred during this period, the stock market crackdown on Wall Street in New York in October 1929. Stock prices fell sharply and the economic crisis spread to the rest of the world. In Denmark, especially the country’s main business, agriculture, was hit hard by the crisis. Prices of cereals and meat fell dramatically. Thousands of farmers were forced to sell their farms because they did not earn enough money. Unemployment rose dramatically. In some cities, it reached more than 30 percent in the early 1930s.

In 1929, the Social Democracy formed the government together with the radical Left. The government tried to alleviate the crisis by various interventions. On January 30, 1933, the same day as Adolf Hitler became a chancellor in Germany, the government and the old political parties entered into the so-called Chancellor’s Settlement, which became known because the crucial negotiations took place in the Prime Minister’s residence in Kanslergade in Copenhagen. It was a comprehensive but broad settlement that took into account the interests of both employers and workers. The settlement prevented lower pay for workers, but forbade strikes for a year. It was also necessary to support agriculture that was severely affected by the economic crisis. The settlement made it easier for farmers to borrow money so they avoided falling. At the same time, the Danish currency was devalued, that is, its value was lowered. This made it easier to sell agricultural products to Britain.

In connection with the Kanslergade Settlement, a social reform was also adopted, which included, among other things, clearer rules for who was entitled to what state benefits. At the same time, the state should now finance assistance to the poor and several other tasks that had previously been heard in the municipalities. To Germany, Denmark led a very cautious foreign policy. The radical foreign minister, Peter Munch, continued the neutrality of the First World War, and it happened in a way that Denmark took great care of German interests. In 1939, the two countries, according to German wish, concluded an agreement in which both parties promised not to attack each other. But the Nazi dictatorship in Germany led Europe into a new world war. And this time Denmark’s neutrality was not respected.

(2nd World War 1939-1945)

World War II broke out in September 1939 when Germany attacked Poland. Denmark was occupied by Germany in 1940 and was occupied until 1945. Germany demanded that Denmark cooperate with the German occupying power. During the war, a Danish resistance movement emerged.

Denmark, like Norway, was attacked and occupied by the German military on 9 April 1940. The official German explanation was that Germany would protect Denmark against British occupation. In fact, Germany needed to have access to the aerodrome in Aalborg. It was a necessary intermediate station for the operations of the German Air Force in Norway. Denmark’s military resistance to the attack on 9 April was insignificant and lasted for only a few hours. This meant that very few Danish soldiers lost their lives in connection with the attack. Germany’s military power was so great that the king and government did not think it would be useful to continue to resist.

Nazi Germany demanded that Denmark should cooperate with the Occupying Power, and Denmark entered into. The Danish government was not deprived, but continued as a coalition government under Social-Democratic leadership, though under German control. Also the king continued as a regent. Formally, Denmark retained its status as a sovereign, neutral state, even though the country was occupied by German troops. And for most Danes, life continued without the big changes.

In the first years of the occupation there was some peace in the country despite the war. But from 1942, the resistance of the Danes to the German presence in the country began to grow. Following a major crisis in the Danish-German relationship in October 1942, a new government was formed under German rule, led by Erik Scavenius, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and advocating cooperation policy. In August 1943 there were major strikes in several Danish cities due to increasingly tougher German demands. And on August 29, 1943, the government decided to submit its resignation request to the king after Scavenius had rejected the German demands to take an active part in the strikes and the growing opposition to the German occupation. This ended the cooperation policy, and the Germans dissolved the Danish military at the same time. The Danish fleet lowered most of its ships before falling into German hands. Then, in fact, Denmark had no government, even though the king had refused to receive the government’s resignation request. In practice, the country was then ruled by the ministry chiefs, that is, the ministry’s top administrative managers.

In 1940, approximately 8,000 Jews lived in Denmark. More than 7,000 of them managed to flee from Nazi persecution during the occupation. Most were helped to Sweden by Danish citizens, just before the Germans in October 1943 tried to arrest the Danish Jews. However, up to 500 were sent to concentration camps in Germany, where many died.

The last years of the occupation were marked by sabotage actions, both against the German military in Denmark and against the Danes who collaborated with the Occupying Power. The Freedom Council was established in September 1943. It was an illegal committee, where the leaders of the various resistance movements coordinated the opposition to the occupying power. A major strike in Copenhagen in July 1944 gave rise to increased contact between resistance and politicians. And after the strike, the Freedom Council and the Danish politicians cooperated to get Denmark recognized as the Allies in the fight against Germany. The opposite Soviet Union said.

In spring 1945 Nazi Germany collapsed after hard fighting in Europe. On May 5, Denmark was officially liberated by British forces. On Bornholm, however, the Germans refused to surrender. In the last days of the occupation, the island was attacked by Soviet forces, which became on the island until spring 1946. A total of about 7,000 Danes were killed during World War II, many seamen who sailed in allied war service.

Denmark was not so hard hit by World War II as many other European countries. Most of the society continued to function even though the Germans had detained the Danish police. However, many goods were rationalized in the last years of the occupation and in the first year of peace. The political system survived the war. The resistance movement gained some political influence in the time of liberation, but the old politicians and parties quickly returned to power.


Denmark changed a lot after the Second World War. Denmark agreed to sign as the UN was founded in 1945, and became a member of NATO in 1949. Also, domestic politics offered the post-war period of great change, not least because of the rapidly growing economic prosperity. The Danes had more money between their hands than ever before.


The world was another after World War II. Millions of people had been killed during the war and many cities in Europe were in ruins. The war had created a strong desire to ensure peace and security. In 1945, a number of countries therefore established the United Nations (UN). Also, Denmark was from the beginning with the UN to prevent the emergence of a new world war. After the Second World War, the Cold War emerged between the two new superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. That is, an ideological struggle and a weapon race on nuclear weapons between Western democracies and Communist dictatorships. Europe was divided into an east and a west along a line that became known as the Iron Curtain. The Cold War came to impress the world until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Denmark had sought to remain neutral in international conflicts since the England War in the early 1800s. But Denmark had to choose a page in the Cold War. In 1949 Denmark became a NATO Alliance NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). The Alliance consisted of the United States, Canada, Turkey and a number of Western European countries, including Denmark. Opposed to NATO was the Warsaw Pact, founded in 1955. This defense alliance was led by the Communist Soviet Union, which had a major influence on the countries of Eastern Europe after World War II. After almost 100 years of German influence, Denmark was following the Second World War against the English-speaking (Anglo-Saxon) world, especially the United States. It was important for both the economy and Denmark’s security policy situation.

The United States played an important role in the reconstruction of Europe after World War II. In the years 1948-51, the United States made very large amounts of money for several European countries, including Denmark. The money was given in connection with the Marshall Plan, named after US Secretary of State George Marshall. The purpose of Marshall’s help was to get into international trade that had been stalled during World War II. This also hoped to prevent further spread of communism in western Europe. The financial assistance from the United States helped modernize Danish agriculture in the first decades of World War II. Hundreds of thousands of horses were replaced by tractors, combine harvesters and other machines. A large part of the country’s labor was therefore redundant, and many people moved from rural areas to towns in the 1950s.

The political situation in Denmark was markedly changed by the first election to the Folketing after the occupation. The election was held in October 1945. Here the Danish Communist Party (DKP) received 18 mandates in the Folketing. It was the Communist Party’s best choice ever. The reason was that the Danish Communists had played an important role in the resistance struggle during the occupation. There were also many who admired the Soviet Union’s efforts in the fight against Nazism. It was especially Social Democracy that lost voices to the communists. This resulted in a total strengthening of the bourgeois camp. The final outcome of the election therefore became a bourgeois government under the leadership of the Left, and it retained power until 1947.

However, in 1947, the Social Democratic Party recovered many of the lost votes. The voters thus indicated that they still had the greatest confidence in the old parties. The Danish tradition of political cooperation and stability continued during the Cold War. The Soviet-supported communists never got a part in the government in Denmark.

During the postwar period, we once again began to discuss whether there was a need to change the Constitution. By a referendum in 1953, a majority voted to amend the Constitution. The change meant, among other things, that the County Council was abolished. Instead, a single-chamber system was introduced with the Folketing as the only legislative assembly. In addition, the parliamentary principle was incorporated in the Constitution. The principle had been political practice since the change of system in 1901. The new constitution also introduced an ombudsman’s meeting and the first ombudsman was appointed in 1955. At the same time, Denmark was able to participate in international cooperation, although it could mean that the country gave some of its self-determination. The Tronsequential Law was also changed. A conditional female throne was introduced, such that the Danish throne could inherit a woman. However, sons still went before daughters.


In the late 1950s, there was high economic growth in Europe, also in Denmark. The economic crisis of the first decade after the occupation was replaced by a boom from about 1957 to 1973. There was full employment, high production and a high standard of living. By now, Denmark exported more goods from industry than from agriculture. After being an agricultural country for thousands of years, Denmark had become an industrial society.

It was Social Democracy that had the greatest political influence over the period. From 1953 to 1968, all governments in Denmark were led by the Social Democracy. The only party that arose during this period, and still in the Folketing, is SF (Socialist People’s Party). SF was established in 1959 by a group of people who left DKP in protest against the Soviet Union’s crash of the Hungarian uprising in 1956.

It was during this period that the building of the Danish welfare society really started. Several of the laws underlying the Danish welfare society today were adopted in those years. The retirement pension, which entitles any citizen to a retirement pension regardless of income, was introduced, for example, in 1956. The sygelønnsordning came into existence in 1960.

Economic growth also meant that there was an increased need for labor. Many Danish women came to the labor market. In the past, most married women had looked after houses and children while the men worked. Now women are increasingly getting education and work. And the kids spent part of the day in one of the many new crèches, kindergartens and recreation centers that were created. However, women often received lower wages than men for the same work, and the struggle to ensure equality between men and women became stronger. From the late 1960s to the early 1970s, there was a large shortage of labor. Therefore, it was common to invite guest workers to Denmark from countries such as Turkey, Yugoslavia and Pakistan.

The development of the welfare society continued in the 1960s, and the government took over many of the tasks that had previously been the responsibility of the families. It also led to the fact that many more were employed in state and municipalities.

By the end of the 1960s there were clear tensions between the generations in Denmark and many other European countries. The youth rebelled. Many young people, especially in the larger cities, broke with society’s traditional norms and values. They questioned, among other things, the “nuclear family” with father, mother and children as the unity of society. Instead, new ways of living together became more accepted. For example, a couple could live well and get children together without being married. Some young people sought new ways to live together, for example in collectives. Some experimented with narcotic drugs. The Frisian Christiania in Copenhagen was established in 1971 when young occupied an abandoned military bag, Bådsmandsstrædes Kaserne. Then 1,000 people settled on Christiania. The youth revolt also led to a student revolt. In 1968 and the years later, many students and younger teachers rebelled at the universities. They required new management and teaching methods and another content in the studies, and they managed to get many of their requirements through.


Denmark became a member of the European Community, the EC in 1973, which was the forerunner of the present EU. In the early 1970s, after many years of good economy and growth, Denmark, like many other countries, suffered from a crisis. The 1970s and 1980s became a rather dramatic political period for Denmark with economic decline, a break with the traditional political parties and the end of the Cold War.


In 1958, France, Italy, Germany and the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) began economic cooperation, which evolved into the European Community (EC) and then to the European Union (EU). The purpose of the EC was to strengthen trade between Member States and to secure peace through strong cooperation. Therefore, a common market should be established between the Community countries without customs tariffs or other barriers to trade. The goal was also that all residents should be able to search and take work in one of the other EC countries.

On January 1, 1973, Denmark officially entered the EC. A majority of 63.3 percent of Danish voters had said yes to membership in a referendum in October 1972. Up to the vote there was much debate on the Community question. The supporters believed that Denmark could not stand out of economic European cooperation because it was assumed that Denmark’s then major trading partner, Great Britain, also joined the EC. Opponents feared that the big countries would decide too much and that membership would go beyond welfare and the Danish national identity. Consideration for export and economy became crucial for the Danish yes. Britain and Ireland became members of the EC at the same time as Denmark. Norway had also applied for admission, but here ended a referendum with a no. The day after the EC poll, the Social Democrat Prime Minister, Jens Otto Krag, decided to leave and without a new election, leave the government to his party Anker Jørgensen.

In 1986 there was a referendum on strengthening cooperation in the Community. The vote was about the European Common Act or the Community package, which it was named in Denmark. Its purpose was to achieve an internal market in which goods, persons, services and capital could move freely. A majority of Danes (56.2%) voted yes. When Greenland and Denmark joined the EC in 1973, the Faroe Islands chose to stand outside. Greenland was announced in 1985 after a referendum in Greenland. Thus, both Greenland and the Faroe Islands today stand outside the EU cooperation.

Oil crisis and landslide elections

In 1974, like many other western countries, Denmark was hit by an economic crisis. It was triggered by the sharp rise in oil prices from autumn 1973. This caused serious problems in Denmark, which already had a deficit on trade abroad. Decades of growth were now replaced by economic decline, and many became unemployed.

The 1970s were also a period of political change. Many voters protested against high taxes and against the bureaucracy that was followed by the large public sector in the welfare society, and the voters had a great distrust of politicians.

During the parliamentary elections in 1973, the mandates were divided significantly differently than before. This choice is therefore called Jordskredsvalget. Social Democracy, Radical Left, Left and Conservative People’s Party, the four old parties, all got much fewer votes. Before the Landslide election, 84 percent of voters had voted in one of the four old parties. After the election it was only 58 percent. The election gave more new parties seats in the parliament. Protest Party Progress Party gained 16 percent of votes. The party’s cause of affairs was to abolish income tax and public bureaucracy. The center democrats got 8 percent of the votes. The party was formed by a group of politicians who were out of social democracy. At the same time, the Christian People’s Party was represented for the first time in the Folketing. In the 1970s, changing Danish governments tried to slow down the economic downturn, but unsuccessfully. In the early 1980s, Denmark had a major trade deficit, that is, trade abroad. At the same time, about 10 percent of the workforce was unemployed. An important cause of the economic crisis was a major debt to foreign countries. It restricted the political possibilities of action. At the same time, it was uncertain whether the crisis would quickly go over or last very long. It was very important for the economic rate the politicians should choose.

Social Democrats had been in government for most of the time since 1953. But in 1982 they left the government to the civilian wing without having been elected by parliament. This led to the formation of the so-called Firkløver government. It consisted of the Conservative People’s Party, the Left, the Center Democrats and the Christian People’s Party. Prime Minister was Conservative Poul Schlüter. The clover government was replaced in June 1988 by a government with the Conservative People’s Party, the Left and the Radical Left, still under Poul Schlüter’s leadership. The government gradually succeeded in improving the Danish economy, especially in the latter half of the 1980s. The price was record high in the early 1990s. But inflation fell, and from 1990 there was a surplus on the external balance of payments. This meant that healthy economic growth could be achieved.


After women had begun to enter the labor market from the mid-1960s, many women demanded gender equality in the 1970s. For example, women in the red-throat struggle fought through political actions for better conditions for women. Through the 1970s, gender equality was a very hot political topic. In 1976, the Parliament adopted a law on equal pay for equal work on the basis of an EU directive. Two years later, a gender equality council was established to ensure that men and women were treated equally in Danish society.

Free access to abortion was another of the political goals of the women’s movement. Earlier it was only possible to have abortion if there was a particular reason for this, for example, the consideration of the health of women. But in 1973, the parliament decided that Danish women should be able to choose whether they would interrupt a pregnancy. Until the 12th week of pregnancy, the woman was free to choose to have an abortion. The opposition to the free abortion was a major reason why the Christian People’s Party was formed and elected to the Folketing in 1973.

Several grassroots movements were very active in the 1970s. The grassroots movements were usually groups that worked to achieve one particular political goal. Among other things, thousands of Danes demonstrated against nuclear power. The popular resistance was an important reason why the 1985 parliament decided to plan future energy supply in Denmark without nuclear power. Many Danes were very interested in environmental and energy policy in the 1970s. The oil crisis in 1973 and later energy crises has helped to generate a great interest in energy savings and renewable energy sources, such as wind power.