History of Denmark: From Viking Era to WWII

Denmark is famous for the world’s oldest flag,their really old monarchy and Vikings. It’s also one the happiest nations home to the inventors of skype and lego. Denmark is located in Europe it borders with Germany and has a population of 5.5 million. The country became unified nation around 700 AD but people have been happily settled there since the end of the ice age. Back in 100 AD there were only a few tribes hanging around; the Angles the Jutes, the Saxons and the Danes. But then most people decided to migrate to Britain so the Danes moved into Jutland and finally occupied the entire realm of present-day Denmark as well as some parts of present-day northern Germany.

Viking age

First of all the biggest misconception about the Vikings; they didn’t have any horned hats and yes they raided village places but they actually did a lot of farming and were into settling and trading.

Compared to other people at the time they were also quite clean, they had their own language and pagan religion with gods like Thor and Odin. That was until King Herald Bluetooth introduced Christianity.

Generally speaking the Norwegians expanded to the north and west to places like Ireland, Scotland, Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland also known as Vinland. The Danes went to Western Europe and southern Europe settling in Danlaw and Normandy.

The Swedes went east, they were able to sail the seas and rivers effectively thanks to their immense longships they were great Seaman. They managed to sack Paris under the leadership of Ragnar with 120 ships and 5,000 soldiers, after besieging the city Charles Bold paid them a huge amount of money to leave. A while before that the Vikings first raided England sacking and looting a monastery in the north and having raided many times they gained a reputation and soon found it easy to trade and demand money. But in 865 the Danes landed with the large army in East Anglia with the intention of conquering the anglo-saxon kingdoms Northumbria, east anglia, sussex, essex, mercia, Kent, and Wessex.

The armies of various danish leaders had come together to form one combined force the Great Heathen Army under the leadership of the sons of Ragnar.

After making peace with the local East Anglian King the great heathen army moved north where they catch the City of York and Northumbria and install a puppet king called Egbert. They carried on into Mercia but the king of Mercia then negotiated peace so they left them alone for a while.

They continued their invasion by defeating King Edmund of East Anglia and conquering East Anglia, the king of Wessex Ethelred and his brother Alfred then attempted to stop them by attacking the Danes in Reading but they were repelled. However Ethelred and Alfred managed to defeat them at the battle of Ashdown, the Viking army then decided to go back to Mercia and they took part of Mercia.

Alfred was then king of Wessex and he paid the danes money to keep them away for awhile, during that time Guthrum became the leader of the viking army. After a few years of peace Alfred managed to defeat the Danes at the Battle of Eddington. Then Alfred and Guthrum decided to divide England into two. Guthrum converted to Christianity and established Danelaw and kept Northumbria under puppet rule.

Over the years the Danes were driven out of England by Alfred sons and Viking rule ended when Eric bloodaxe was to driving out of Northumbria and the anglo-saxon kingdoms were restored.

After many raids along the coast of France and the Netherlands one group of Danes was granted permission to settle northwestern france under the condition that they defend the area from future attacks. As a result the region became known as Normandy and it was the descendants of these settlers who would conquer England in 1066.

Danish Monarchy

The Danish monarchy goes way back starting with Gorm the old, there were a few other possible kings but Gorm was the first historically recognised. A little while later Sweyn Forkbeard ruled Denmark and over in England King Ethelred ‘the unready’ massacred a number of Danes including Sweyn’s sister. Sweyn then launched attacks on England and conquered it becoming king but he died a few months later after falling of a horse.

So his son Canute then took power and the empire stayed stable throughout his rule, but in 1042 Edward the Confessor became king of England and the danes were never kings of England again and sadly the Danish Viking Kings never managed to turn their conquests into a lasting empire.

Danish fleets attacked estonia but they could never control the area it was only when Valdermar ‘the victorious’ landed in Estonia and defeated the Estonians in a great battle upon which estonia came under danish control.

Legend has it this is when the danish flag fell from the sky, he also gained some land in present-day Germany, however, he was captured and released on the condition that he surrender all of his conquests except for an island called Rugen and Estonian, but the territories were sold anyway when the country fell into debt.

However,  eventually the kingdoms of Denmark, Sweden and Norway came to an agreement known as the kalmar Union and its capital was Copenhagen. Sweden could never decided she wanted to be in the union and one of many great events in this period was the Stockholm bloodbath where there was a successful invasion of Sweden by danish forces under the command of King Christian the second and around 80 to 90 people were executed and eventually Sweden left.

Colonial Period

Denmark also fell into a civil war at this time because some people wanted to be Catholics while others wanted to be Protestant. During the sixteen and seventeen hundreds Denmark had many colonies in Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. They began to establish trading posts, a small town in India, West Africa, however, they lost land in the second northern war against Sweden.

They also colonized two islands in the Caribbean called st. Thomas and st. John, the Danish East Indian trading company also colonized islands near them. but there were many wars in this period, most of them against Sweden. There was the Seven Years War, the second northern war, the great northern war and the thirty years war.

Now over in France they just had a revolution and Napoleon takes power and starts causing havoc in Europe, during the war the British Navy decided to stop France from importing war materials. so they searched the vessels from neutral countries, Denmark and Sweden didn’t like this very much so they form an armed neutrality.

Later on Russia and Prussia also joined in too, Britain then got mad and attack the Danish fleet in copenhagen and they destroyed part of it. A few years later the French fleet was destroyed at trafalgar, the British then feared that the French might seize the Danish fleet and use against them. So in their panic and paranoia they attacked copenhagen again, bombarded the city and Copenhagen was forced to surrender and the British took the Danish fleet.

Denmark began to sell its possessions it’s five trading posts in west Africa went to Britain, the danish west indies of st. Thomas and st. John were sold to the United States for a very low amount of money and became the US Virgin Islands.

Iceland also became independent however Greenland the faroe islands are still of the danish kingdom, joined with Denmark were too Duchies Holstein, there were a few issues in these regions and war broke out. Prussian and Austrian forces crossed into the duchies, the Danes fought bravely against them but they lost the duchies were occupied

Denmark decided to remain neutral one in WW1 smart but then decided to sign a 10-year non-aggression pact with Germany, but Germany invaded the next year anyway 7,000 Jewish Danes were then smuggled to Sweden.

Greenland was held by the united states so Denmark could later regain control after the war was over, so when Germany surrendered in 1945 danish occupation ended and Greenland was given back to Denmark.


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