Early history to the Middle Ages
Denmark is one of the oldest countries in Europe.
Presumably coming from southern Sweden, Danes invaded
the land previously inhabited by Germanic tribes in the
6th century and founded kingships. After King Göttrik
had built the Danewerk against the Franks at the
beginning of the 9th century, the founder of the state,
respected Grom the Old, united large parts of today's
territory into one empire around 950. His son Harald
Blauzahn was baptized in 960, paving the way for the
Christianization of the country. In the following
century the Danish Vikings were feared all over Europe
and their forays brought them to the coasts of France,
Portugal, Italy, England, Norway and southern Sweden.
During this time Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands
and Norway were conquered.
The North Sea empire that emerged in this way broke
up in the middle of the 10th century and many of the
possessions were lost. After Norwegian dominance in the
meantime, Waldemar the Great initiated a new Danish
power era in the mid-12th century, in which, among other
things, the pagan turns in Mecklenburg and Pomerania as
well as Holstein and Estonia were defeated and occupied.
A second great Viking Empire emerged within 50 years,
but was largely lost again with the Battle of Bornhöved
in 1227. The dominance of the Hanseatic League began in
the Baltic Sea.
In 1389 Queen Margaret I united Denmark, Norway,
Sweden, Finland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland and
Greenland under the Danish crown. This so-called Kalmar
Union officially held until 1523, when it finally fell
apart with the independence of Sweden, in fact it
existed until 1448. Unlike Sweden, Norway remained
closely linked to Denmark.
AbbreviationFinder, the end of the Kalmar Union between 1523 and 1660
also brought about a change in power politics within the
Scandinavian states. Sweden gained weight and Denmark
lost more provinces and countries to its Scandinavian
In 1536 the Lutheran Reformation was introduced and
in 1660 Denmark was turned into an inheritance monarchy
against the resistance of the nobility. In 1665,
monarchical absolutism was established by constitution.
Absolutism in the second half of the 18th century was
characterized by reforms. Liberation of peasants and
equalization brought social peace.
British sea attacks on Copenhagen in 1801 and 1807
forced the Danes to deliver their fleet and join
Napoleon. Napoleon's defeat in the 1814 peace of Kiel
resulted in the handover of Heligoland to Great Britain
and from Norway to Sweden.
The national contrast between the Danes and the
Germans in Schleswig-Holstein began in the mid-19th
century. In 1848 there was the 1st German-Danish War, in
which the Schleswig-Holsteiners, who were pressing for
independence from Denmark, were defeated. The great
European powers, however, forced the Danes to leave the
inferior duchies in an independent position. In Denmark,
the constitutional monarchy with a liberal constitution
replaced the absolute monarchy in 1849, and in 1863 the
constitutional amalgamation of Schleswig with Denmark
began. The country developed into a successful
agricultural state. The political contrasts, especially
with Prussia, triggered the Second German-Danish War of
1864 and Denmark lost the Duchies of Schleswig, Holstein
The following governments pursued strict neutrality
in foreign policy, an attitude that applied until the
Second World War. Domestically, a period of far-reaching
reforms began, and with the first fruitful cooperation
between left and right-wing political forces, the
beginnings were laid for the Danish model of
cooperation. Due to the strong influence of the Social
Democratic Party (founded in 1871), the end of the 19th
century saw the adoption of a social legislative body
with unemployment insurance, accident insurance and
In 1915 a democratic constitution was passed, which
introduced, among other things, the right to vote for
women. After the First World War, North Schleswig came
to Denmark on the basis of a referendum set out in the
Versailles Treaty. The welfare state that emerged in
recent years was expanded into an exemplary welfare
state in the 1920s, above all by the Social Democratic
Prime Minister Stauning.
Despite a signed non-aggression pact, Denmark was
occupied by German troops in 1940. At the same time, the
Allies occupied Iceland, which used this fact in 1944 to
declare independence. The increasing civil resistance in
the years of occupation led the German Reich to put
Denmark under martial law in 1943. Nevertheless, the
Danes managed to allow around 7,000 Jews at risk of
deportation to flee to Sweden.
After the war, the Marshall Plan also got the Danish
economy going again. Denmark participated in the
establishment of important international institutions:
in 1945 the country was a co-founder of the UN, in 1949
it joined the Council of Europe and NATO, in 1952 it
became a founding member of the Nordic Council, in 1960
it joined EFTA, but was then voted through a referendum
in 1973 member of the EC.
After the death of Frederick IX. in 1972 his daughter
Margarethe II ascended the throne. Until 1973 mostly
social democrats formed the government, from then on
Denmark was predominantly governed by minority cabinets
under the leadership of the social democrats. From 1982
followed eleven years with conservative-liberal
governments, until 1993 the Social Democrats came to
power again with a center-left government.
There was a shift to the right in the 2001
parliamentary elections: the right-wing liberal party
"Venstre" under Anders Fogh Rasmussen defeated the
ruling Social Democrats; the third strongest faction was
the right-wing nationalist Danish People's Party (DF).
The party of the new prime minister AF Rasmussen formed
a minority government with the conservatives, which was
supported by the DF. In May 2002, the parliament
approved the tightening of asylum and aliens law. In
2007, Rasmussen's Venstre party lost some seats in the
early parliamentary elections, but the Rasmussen
government remained in office, although weakened. When
Rasmussen was appointed NATO Secretary General in 2009,
Lars Løkke Rasmussen took office.
Opinions on the highly controversial domestic issue
of relations with the EU run across the parties. One
example of this is the ratification of the Maastricht
Treaty, which was first rejected in a referendum in 1992
and then adopted in renegotiations. In 1998 the
population approved the Amsterdam EU Treaty in a
referendum, but in 2000 the introduction of the euro was
rejected. Denmark is one of the most prosperous
countries in the world at the beginning of the 21st
century. Although part of the EU, it is, like Great
Britain, one of the more reserved and sovereign nations.
In September 2005, caricatures of the Prophet
Mohammed, published in the Danish newspaper
Jyllands-Posten, triggered violent protests in Islamic
countries. In the years that followed, attacks on the
editors and caricaturists were carried out several times
and suspects were arrested.
For Denmark, the global financial and economic crisis
was particularly noticeable due to declining export
earnings. However, it bottomed out in 2009 and since
then Denmark has seen a slight economic upswing.
Nevertheless, the government decided in 2010 to
implement numerous austerity measures to curb public
Since the parliamentary elections in 2011, the
minority government has again consisted of the Social
Democrats (SD), the Social Liberals (RV) and the
People's Socialists (SF). The government works closely
with the left unity list (E).