Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)

Denmark (Danmark)

Capital : Copenhagen ( København)

Mainland: Nordjyllands, Viborg, Ringkøbing, Arhus, Vejle, Ribe, Sønderjyllands,

Islands: Fyns, Langeland, Sjaelland, (Vestjaellands, Frederiksborg, Roskilde, Storstroms), Falster, Lolland.

Size: 16 600 sq m Popn: 5 170 000


This was part of the area known as 'Scandia' in Roman times but never under Roman rule. The Danes migrated from Sweden in the C5th and 6th and during the C9th and C10th, formed part of the Viking invasion of Europe, concentrating mainly on East Anglia and the coast of northern Europe where they founded Normandy (from 'Northman'). Harald Bluetooth unified Denmark at the end of the C10th and converted the country to the Christian religion.

In England, the Danes established the Danelaw which gained much of the eastern and central section of the country from the Saxon kings. The Danish king, Cnut (Canute), ruled Denmark, Norway and England in the mid- C11th and areas of mainland Scandinavia (Halland, Blekinge, Skane) which are now part of Norway and Sweden but the empire did not outlive him and it was a century before Denmark became a power in the Baltic again under Valdemar I although there were further periods of internal conflict.

Control of the narrow passages between the Baltic and North Sea was a great source of wealth but caused terrible rivalries with the neighbouring countries. Denmark joined Norway, Sweden and Finland in the Union of Kalmar which lasted from 1397-1523, breaking down when Sweden became independent under Gustavus Vasa. Denmark still controlled most of the ice-free outlets to the North Sea however with only a small strip guarded by the fortress of Alvsborg belonging to Sweden. There was a temporary alliance between Denmark and Sweden in 1525. Tension rose under Gustavus' sons and the Seven Years' War 0f the North (1563-70) lost Alvsborg to Sweden (for a large ransom). It was regained in 1611 but Sweden made further sacrifices for its return under the Peace of Knared in 1613.

There were further threats from Sweden in the first half of the C17th and Denmark gave up the island of Bornholm and the coastal territories of Blekinge, Bohuslan and Halland under the Peace of Roskilde. Denmark invaded Scania and started the Scanian War (1676-9) but Sweden was now the greater power.

In 1665, Frederick III made himself absolute monarch, ruling through a bureaucracy and serfdom was not abolished until 1788. At the end of the C18th, Denmark adopted a policy of armed neutrality towards Britain which led to the naval defeat of Copenhagen in 1801 and the British seizure of the Danish fleet in 1807 to prevent it from being taken by Napoleon. As a result, Denmark became pro-French although it remained outside the Napoleonic empire. At the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the Allies took control of Norway away from Denmark and gave it to Sweden. A liberal movement forced Frederick VII to grant a democratic constitution but further territory was lost during the expansion of Prussia in the C19th (backed by Napoleon III).

The Schleswig Holstein Question (these were two border territories claimed by Denmark and Prussia) led to war with Austria and Prussia (acting on behalf of the German confederation and under the influence of chancellor Otto von Bismarck) in 1864. Austria and Prussia defeated Denmark and took over the administration of the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein under the Convention of Gastein in 1865 although Denmark regained North Schleswig after a plebiscite in 1920.

It had remained neutral during the First World War and tried to preserve this by signing a pact with Hitler in 1939. During the Second World War, Denmark was occupied by Germany in 1940 but returned to independence afterwards although it lost further territory in 1945 when Iceland became independent. Other parts of 'non-metropolitan' Denmark, the Faroe Islands and Greenland, were given special recognition by the constitution which was also altered in 1953 to allow proportional representation and the succession of a female to the throne if there was no male heir.

Denmark joined NATO in 1949, and was a founder member of the European Free Trade Association in 1960 although it resigned from this to join the EEC (European Economic Community) in 1973. Politics have been dominated by the left-wing but the proportional representation system has often led to minority or coalition governments which helps to promote a moderate approach. The Social Democrats under Poul Schlò ter won the 1990 elections with 37.4% of the vote.

The Danish people rejected the Maastricht Treaty in a referendum of 1992 and proposed modifications prior to a second referendum in 1993. In order for the Treaty to be ratified, Denmark was given exemption from the defence elements and it is the only country besides Britain which has the right not to participate in European Monetary Union. Denmark is only an observer member of the WEU, the European defence organisation.

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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