In this introductory guide, Knud Jespersen traces the process of disintegration and reduction that helped to form the modern Danish state, and the historical roots of Denmark's international position. Beginning with the Reformation in the sixteenth century, Jespersen explains how the Denmark of today was shaped by wars, territorial losses, domestic upheavals, new methods of production, and changes in thought. Focusing on the interplay between history, politics and economics, this illuminating text offers an insider’s view of Danish identity formation over the last centuries.
This engaging textbook is an ideal resource for undergraduate and postgraduate students taking courses on Danish, Scandinavian or Nordic History. Concise and accessible, it will also appeal to anyone interested in gaining a clear understanding of the development of Denmark.
About the Author
Table of ContentsAcknowledgements .- Maps.- Introduction: What is Denmark and Who are the Danes?.- Foreign and Security Policy: From the Gatekeeper of the Baltic to a Midget State.- Domestic Policy, 1500-1848: The Era of Aristocracy and Absolutism.- Domestic Policy since 1848: Democracy and the Welfare State.- The Church and Culture from Luther to the Present.- Economic Conditions: The Old Denmark, 1500-1800.- Economic Conditions: The New Denmark since 1800.- The Danes: A Tribe or a Nation?.- Notes.- Select Bibliography.- A Short Chronology
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Overall, Knud Jespersen's book is informative. The author begins his history in 1500, when Denmark was in control of Norway, the Scanian provinces of southern Sweden, and the northern German dutchy of Holstein. Indeed, Denmark could be called an 'empire of the North' during this stage. Over the ensueing centuries, Denmark lost her prominent place on the European stage of power politics. The author touches on King Christian IV's defeat during the Thirty Years War, and how Danish prestige slowly receded, until the Danish Crown lost the Scanian territories to Sweden during the First Karl Gustav War in 1658. After the defeat of Denmark by Sweden, the Danes blamed the Danish aristocracy, and gave their king absolute power. Under absolutism, Jespersen explains how government administration shifted from the aristocracy to civil servents, appointed by the king himself. A major portion of Jespersen's work is devoted to the agrarian reforms of the late 18th Century, and its effect on the tenant farmers who were liberated from a serf-like life, and given the right to own their own farms. It was these farmers that more than a century later created the co-operative agricultural movement, which revolutionized Danish life. These same reforming farmers turned into the middle class, which pressed the King to relinquish absolutism for a constitutional monarchy, and they got what they asked for in 1848. The first Folketing (Parliament) was elected under the Constitution of 1849. Jespesen goes on to detail the Danish victory in the civil war of 1848-1850, in which German Schleswigians fought for independance from the Danish crown. This victory gave rise to Danish over self-confidence, and the subsequent defeat of Danish forces and lose of the Dutchies to Prussia in 1864, this coming just 50 years after Denmark lost Norway to Sweden after Napoleon's defeat in 1814. Any more concessions of territory, and Denmark might not be able to continue to be considered a soveriegn state. The rest of Jespersen's history deals with Denmark's response to her territorial losses, and her coming to terms with Denmark's role on the world stage. Danish neutrality during WWI, the German occupation during 1940-45, and the Danish Welfare Model take up the last third of this book. Jespersen tries to answer the question 'Who are the Danes?' by reviewing Denmark's history, and does an okay job at that. But overall, I would not recommend this book for someone just wanting some basic facts about Danish history. Jespersen's pen does not read like a novel, but more like a college advanced level history/political science text book. Very dry reading, indeed.