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Denmark

Denmark[]

History[]

Nestled among the Nordic countries of Northern Europe, the Kingdom of Denmark encompasses the country of Denmark proper, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Former colonies were Christiansborg, Ada and Keta in the 18th to early 19th century on the gold coast of Africa, also another former colony was the Virgin Islands till the year 1917 after that they were sold to the United States and United Kingdom countries. The oldest kingdoms in the world, early records of Denmark's history can be traced back to the 6th and 7th centuries AD, when the Danes were still a tribal people scattered across the region. Eventually united under the rule of King Harald Bluetooth, many Danes would also settle in England and Ireland during the invasions of the Viking Age. From these early tales of Viking exploration and conquest, to the modern nation of Denmark we know today, the Danish people have been at the forefront of global events for centuries.

Geography and Climate[]

Denmark is a relatively small nation (roughly half the size of the U.S. state of Maine) located in Northern Europe. Along with the neighboring countries of Norway and Sweden, Denmark is part of the region known as Scandinavia. Although consisting primarily of several hundred small islands, the peninsula of Jutland, Denmark's mainland body, shares its southern border with Germany, making it the only Scandinavian country with a direct connection to the European mainland.

Denmark is a notably flat country, its highest elevation being only 560 feet (171 m) above sea level. As part of the temperate zone, both the summer and winter months are relatively moderate with little in the way of extreme temperatures or precipitation.

Early History and Origins[]

During the last Ice Age, the area that today constitutes Denmark was almost entirely covered by glacial formations. When the ice finally started to recede sometime around 12,000-14,000 BC, small groups of hunter-gatherers began to inhabit the area, surviving primarily by hunting reindeer. These hunters lived a nomadic lifestyle, moving with the seasons and following the migratory patterns of the animals they relied on for survival.

Over time, the population of the small island region would continue to grow as immigrants moved north, bringing with them an increased knowledge of agriculture. As early as 3,000 BC, farmers began to clear portions of the large deciduous forests found throughout Denmark, as evidenced by the many flint-stone axes unearthed in modern times throughout the country.

The custom of building "Dolmens," a form of tomb, and eventually "Passage Graves," also became prevalent around this time. The dolmen was a burial tomb consisting of several upright stones covered across the top with another large stone. These early burial tombs evolved into the Passage Grave, a megalithic structure consisting of a narrow entry lined with large stones, leading to a burial chamber covered in earth or additional stones. It's speculated that these megalithic tombs took entire communities years to construct, but having discovered examples that contained no human remains, archaeologists are still unsure of their true purpose.

During the Nordic Bronze Age, these tombs further evolved into the "Tumulus," or burial mounds, commonly associated with the Vikings today. It was also during this period that the battle axe, legendary weapon of the Vikings, progressed from its Stone Age roots into early bronze renditions. Although Denmark had little in the way of copper resources to allow the creation of bronze, large quantities still made their way north via trade and conquest, allowing the Danes to master the art of metalsmithing. By the 8th century AD, iron was readily available, and the Vikings were well-equipped with their historic weapon of choice.

Age of Vikings[]

Beginning in the late 8th century, each spring the Vikings of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden would conduct the raids across the North Sea into England, eventually striking into France, Spain, and points east. In 793, the infamous Viking raid on Lindisfarne, a Christian monastery just off the English coast, would serve as an eye-opener to Western Europe and historically marks the unofficial dawn of the Viking Age.

The legendary Viking Ragnar Lodbrok, who sailed the river Seine in 845 and threatened the destruction of Paris, only to be paid a ransom of 7,000 Ibs of silver instead, would solidify the Vikings place in history as the unrelenting scourge of Europe through the 11th century. Ragnar's alleged propensity for sacrificing captured prisoners to the Norse gods would terrify the Christian sensibilities of the European royalty, leading to increasingly larger payouts (known as "Danegeld") to appease the Vikings.

The key to the Vikings success during their infamous raids was the Scandinavians' prowess in ship building. Already known for their fearless mastery of the seas, the construction of the "Langskib," or Viking Longship, gave the Vikings a previously unheard of advantage during this period. While relying on conventional sails when moving on the open seas, the Vikings could quickly revert to using the oars for added maneuverability when moving near the coastline or on rivers. This versatility would prove to be the undoing of many European coastal settlements.

Formation of the Kingdom[]

King Gorm the Old would lay the groundwork for the Kingdom of Denmark beginning in c. 936 AD, ruling until his death in 958. However, it was his son, Harald Bluetooth, who would be the first to unite all of Denmark under one rule, expanding the kingdom's grasp into parts of Norway and Sweden. Bluetooth would become a strong proponent for the conversion of the Danish people to Christianity, a process that would continue under future kings, particularly Canute the Great and Sweyn II.

Canute (also known as Cnut, or Knud in Danish), ruled from 1016 until his death in 1035, and at one point would serve as King of England, Denmark, Norway and even parts of Sweden. His reign over England would prove to be pivotal, during which time monks from England were sent to Denmark to help further establish Christianity. As reparations to the Church, Canute ordered all of the English churches and monasteries destroyed or damaged by the Vikings in the past to be repaired, going so far as to repay the wealth plundered from them.

Following the death of Canute, Magnus I would briefly rule both Norway and Denmark. However, it was the leadership of his successor, Sweyn II, that would make a more lasting impact on the kingdom. During Sweyn's reign, churches were constructed throughout Denmark, and he strove to unite his people with Christians throughout Europe by advancing the Danish people's knowledge of Latin. Sweyn was not without controversy however, and his relationship with the Church was often strained. During his lifetime, he fathered over 20 children, 19 of whom have been confirmed to be illegitimate (born out of wedlock). Of those 19, five (Harald III, Canute IV, Olaf I, Eric I, and Niels) would peacefully succeed one another as future kings of Denmark over the 60 years following Sweyn's death in 1074.

Starting in 1397 and lasting up until 1523, Denmark was part of what came to be known as the Kalmar Union, through which the Kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden were united under a single leader. It was during this union that Denmark's first female monarch, Queen Margaret I, would serve until 1412. The current Queen of Denmark, Margrethe II, is the only other female ruler since.

Later History[]

Throughout the 16-18th centuries, Denmark was a prosperous nation, benefiting from increased trade with Europe during this period. Christian IV, Denmark's longest serving monarch, having ruled from 1588 until 1648, instituted a number of policies that would both expand Denmark's national defenses as well as bolster its economic and cultural foundations. During his reign, Christian more than doubled the size of the Danish navy, while also commissioning the construction of numerous fortresses. In 1616, the founding of the Danish East India Company would lead to a brief windfall for the nation, thanks to a trade monopoly awarded by Christian and various tea smuggling operations into England. Although he remains a popular historical leader in Denmark, his involvement in multiple wars, particularly the Thirty Years' War, would actually lead to a decline in Danish power throughout the Baltic region.

During the Napoleonic Wars, Britain's displeasure with continued Danish trade with the French would lead to increasingly aggressive skirmishes at sea. In 1801, much of the Danish navy was destroyed by a British fleet outside of Copenhagen. Britain would grow increasingly concerned that Denmark's fall to the French was inevitable, leaving Britain with restricted access to the Baltic Sea, an unthinkable loss to the British military command.

In 1807,the Bombardment of Copenhagen (The Second Battle of Copenhagen) began when a massive British fleet, accompanied by ground forces encircling the city, attacked a greatly outnumbered Danish force that refused to surrender. Copenhagen was badly damaged, and over 5,000 civilians and soldiers were killed in the ensuing attack. The British confiscated any remaining ships of the Danish fleet, and drew Denmark into war on the side of the French. Denmark would fight until 1813, when the war effort plunged the nation into bankruptcy, forcing the signing of the Treaty of Kiel between Great Britain, Sweden, and the allied Kingdoms of Denmark and Norway.

World War II[]

Although neutral in World War I, Denmark would become unavoidably engrossed in World War II. In April 1940, Germany invaded Denmark, meeting little resistance. Denmark was allowed to maintain the majority of its own independent government functions and continued to cooperate with Germany economically during the occupation, until 1943. In August of that year, Denmark's leadership finally refused any further participation, and ordered the majority of its fleet to be scuttled. Throughout the occupation, the Danish government and the resistance movement successfully assisted the majority of Danish Jews in escaping to Sweden.

After its liberation in 1945, Denmark quickly joined the Allied forces and became one of the founding members of the United Nations. Denmark was also active in the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a military alliance formed in early 1949.

Modern Denmark[]

Today, Denmark is a constitutional monarchy, with Queen Margrethe II serving as its head of state over a parliamentary system of government. Denmark joined the European Economic Community (predecessor to the European Union) after a public referendum voted in favor of membership in 1972. However, unlike many member nations, Denmark has rejected changing its currency to the Euro. Modern Denmark has a robust economy that thrives despite the nation's small size, with Denmark currently ranking 16th in the world for GDP. The primary exports in Denmark are food and livestock, as well as machinery and industrial supplies. Despite considerable oil resources, Denmark has proven to be world-leader in the adoption of wind power. Currently wind energy accounts for 30% of Denmark's total power generation, giving it the highest percentage of overall wind power utilization in the world. From the humble beginnings of the Danes of the Stone Age, Denmark has risen to become one of the world's most progressive nations.

Cultural Figures[]

Denmark has produced a number of important cultural and scientific figures throughout its history. The Danish author and poet Hans Christian Andersen was renowned for his children's stories, which are still inspiring new renditions today. Niels Bohr, a Danish physicist who won the Nobel Prize in 1922, was instrumental in the development of the first atomic bomb. In the mid 20th century, the "Father of Danish Design," Arne Jacobsen, would inspire designers and architects throughout the world with his modern, functional style, reflected in everything from furniture to lighting fixtures.

Danish Trivia[]

"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark," the oft quoted phrase from Shakespeare's play Hamlet, was a reference to the mismanagement of Denmark's political structure by the fictional King Claudius, murderer of his own brother (Hamlet's father).

The "Danish," a popular pastry served throughout the world, is originally attributed to Austrian bakers who worked in Denmark during a strike amongst bakery workers in 1850. In Denmark, this confection is known as "Wienerbrød," or "Bread of Vienna."

The term "Danegeld," literally meaning "Dane's debt," was originally used to describe a tax raised by French and English kings to pay off the Viking raiders rather than attempt to fight them. In modern times, Danegeld is used to reference any form of coercive payment to another.

Harald Bluetooth[]

History[]

Harald "Bluetooth" Gormsson was King of Denmark for nearly 30 years beginning in approximately 958 AD. During his reign, Bluetooth united the outlying tribes of Denmark and defended his people from the incursions of Norway and Germany, while overseeing the completion of vast construction projects that strengthened the defenses of his nation. Bluetooth is equally known for casting off the Norse pagan traditions of his forbearers, becoming a devout Christian who strove to peacefully convert the people of Denmark during his rule.

Early Life[]

Although the precise date of Bluetooth's birth is unknown, based on records of his accomplishments while serving as king, it's assumed he was born sometime around 920 AD. The son of King Gorm the Old and Queen Thyra Dannebod, Bluetooth was a born and raised Viking in the truest sense. Throughout his early years, Bluetooth and his brother Canute (also known as Knud) set sail to pillage and plunder, returning to their father with the spoils of war. It is believed that Canute, the first born and favored son of Gorm, was killed in England while raiding near Ireland. Canute's death left Bluetooth as the sole heir to the throne of Denmark. With the death of Gorm in 958 AD, Bluetooth took up the throne and proved to be a capable leader both on and off the battlefield.

Uniting Denmark[]

Shortly after the death of his father, Bluetooth consolidated his power and quickly moved on to unite the remaining discordant tribes of Denmark under one rule. Although his father Gorm is considered the first true King of Denmark, during his rule, the kingdom did not encompass the entire region, and independent tribes remained. Under Bluetooth, the entirety of Denmark, as well as parts of Norway and Sweden, fell under his rule. For a time, Bluetooth would even claim the title of King of Norway, although the extent of his authority there remains questionable. 

Construction Projects[]

Bluetooth commissioned a number of important construction projects throughout Denmark during his reign. In this time, "Runestones" were a common form of monument used to honor the dead and acknowledge their deeds, and Bluetooth saw fit to honor his parents in this way. Commissioning a second Jelling Stone - runestones found in the town of Jelling, Denmark - to memorialize his parents, Bluetooth created what is today considered the most well-known example of runic inscriptions in Denmark. Featuring an easily distinguished image of Christ on the cross, the Jelling Stone erected by Bluetooth is often referred to as the "Baptism Certificate of Denmark," signifying the end of the polytheistic traditions followed by much of the Danish population.

Aside from the Jelling Stones, Bluetooth was also responsible for the development of a series of six Viking ring fortresses, known as the "Trelleborg." After losing control of several outlying territories to various Germanic forces, Bluetooth ordered the construction of these forts in strategic locations across Denmark in response. Capable of housing up to 500 Danish warriors, these strongholds succeeded in warding off further losses and secured the interior of Denmark from future incursions.

Conversion to Christianity[]

Bluetooth's conversion to Christianity in approximately 960 AD is a point of contention among many modern historians, mainly due to variations in the story of how his conversion came to pass. The two most notable accounts of the event come to us from contemporary historians Widukind of Corvey and Adam of Bremen. Widukind wrote that Bluetooth was converted by a cleric known simply as "Poppa," who was either a guest of the court or a missionary who found his way to Denmark. Adam of Bremen (whose account was written some 100 years later) believed that Bluetooth had been converted forcibly by Otto I of Germany following a defeat in battle.

Regardless of how his conversion came to be, what we can say with certainty is that Harald became a devoted follower of Christianity, not only ensuring that Christian imagery was included on the Jelling Stone commemorating his parents, but also going so far as to remove his father's body from its traditional Viking burial mound and having it reburied under the church constructed by Bluetooth, where the Jelling Stones still stand today.

Judgement of History[]

King Harald Bluetooth is generally viewed today as a just and wise king, having ruled Denmark for 30 some-odd years. He maintained the sovereignty of his country against the influences of several neighboring empires (despite some setbacks) while at the same time shaping the culture of his people for centuries to come. In the end, Bluetooth's own son, Sweyn, would rebel against him, forcing him to flee Denmark. After Bluetooth's death in 986 AD, Sweyn Forkbeard would take the throne and shape a notable legacy of his own.

Trivia[]

  • The origins of Harald's assumed name, Bluetooth, are still debated to this day. The most popular theory is that he may have had one or more dead teeth, which turned black. The other, that his affinity for eating blueberries caused his teeth to turn blue, is the stuff of internet lore.
  • Created by Swedish telecommunications firm Ericsson in 1994, the Bluetooth wireless standard was named after Harald Bluetooth. The Bluetooth logo designed by Ericsson is actually a combination of the runes Hagall and Bjarkan, forming the initials of Harald Bluetooth.
  • In Civilization V: Brave New World, if eliminated, he names the victor an honorary Jarl.

Unique Components[]

Berserker[]

As a member of the Great Heathen Army, the berserker was one of the most feared units of the late 9th century. This large Viking army of berserkers, warriors, and mariners was formed over a series of attacks on Paris and Rouen from 845-850 AD, where they bolstered their numbers and refined their tactics. In 865, the army landed on the eastern shores of the British Isles, with the aspiration to conquer the entire island for settlement. Only one year later, it conquered the Kingdom of Northumbria, with the Kingdom of East Anglia falling in 870. Mercia followed in 874. The settlers who traveled with the great army founded the Kingdom of York from the rubble. The army was eventually defeated in 878, but its remaining members took up permanent residence in East Anglia, Essex, and Mercia.

Norwegian Ski Infantry[]

These intrepid infantrymen were employed heavily by Denmark against Sweden during the Napoleonic Wars of 1807-1814. Comparable in speed to light cavalry, these soldiers were capable of traversing the mountainsides and snow-covered fields much faster than anyone else on foot or horseback. Besides being able to cross forested and rocky terrain efficiently, the ski infantry were also used to pull wagons of supplies or even other squads of soldiers, as the lack of roads and deep snow made traditional horse travel difficult. Their first recorded usage dates back to roughly the 13th century.

Today, the ski infantry are still used by the Danish Navy to patrol large stretches of northern and eastern Greenland, areas of which are too rugged for most other forms of transportation. In Norway, every soldier in the army is still trained in the art of ski combat, and the Biathlon sporting event was inspired and developed from their military training and patrol routes.

Longboat[]

(Unique component available if Norway (Haakon IV) or Denmark-Norway (Christian IV) is installed)

Longboats (or Longships) were sea vessels made and used by the Vikings from the Nordic countries for trade, commerce, exploration, and warfare during the Viking Age. The longship is characterized as a graceful, long, narrow, light, wooden boat with a shallow-draft hull designed for speed. The ship's shallow draft allowed navigation in waters only one metre deep and permitted beach landings. Longships were fitted with oars along almost the entire length of the boat itself. Later versions sported a rectangular sail on a single mast which was used to replace or augment the effort of the rowers.

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