Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Denmark. Actual Condition. Denmark is the relic of a former twin-empire of prehistoric Europe, viz. Gothland East and West, called respectively "Ey- (or Island) Gotaland "and" Reid-Gotaland" - the word "reid" answering to our main land, terra firma, by which the peninsula of Jutland is intended. But modern Denmark contains but half of that peninsula, South Jutland having been separated from the mother-country along with Slesvig-Holstein, and annexed to Germany at the peace of Vienna in the year 1864. The islands remain, and form a compact group on the eastern side of Jutland, at the entrance of the Baltic Sea. Of these, Sjoelland (or Sea-land), Fyen (called by the Germans Funen), Laa-land (Low-land), and Falster are the largest and most important. Bornholm, which lies yet eastward in the Baltic Sea, is one of the most interesting and impressive spots in the Danish dominions. These comprise the home-lands of Denmark; but Iceland and the Faroe Isles are subject to the Danish Crown, and it likewise owns colonies in Greenland and the three West India Islands of St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. Jean.

The total area of the country is 15,289 English square miles, of which four-fifths is under cultivation, the remaining fifth being bog, sand, and heath. Jutland has more than its share of this barren land, some of it irreclaimable, although constant efforts are made to improve its condition.

Industry. The Danes supply their own needs and also export a considerable amount of corn. One-half, of the population is constantly employed upon the land, of which 30 per cent. is arable, the rest (except what is waste) meadows and pasture. Dairy-farms are on the rise, and the annual output of butter has latterly increased sevenfold, owing to the introduction of superior methods. Cattle are well cared for, the numbers of horned beasts per head of the population being greater than in any other country of Europe. The Jutland breed is famed for its excellence. Danish horses are sought after, and there is a constant supply of sheep and pigs for export.

There are no coal-mines in Denmark, and no metals. Nevertheless about a quarter of the people are employed in manufactures, even with machine-making, the raw material being imported. In Bornholm is found the porcelain clay of which the beautiful Copenhagen china is made. There are glove factories at Randers in Jutland, also in Horsens on the coast, and in Odinsee, the chief town of Fyen. The Jutland cottage folk produce all sorts of knitted woollens, Jutland pottery, and woodcarving. Some lace is made near Ribe on the western coast; and hand-loom weaving only needs encouragement to revive the perfection of earlier days.

Character of the People. The Danes are brave, patient, and hospitable. They are thinkers and idealists, capable of a deep enthusiasm and steady persistence of aim. Their patriotism is strong but not all-absorbing, the spirit of deliberation and an observant habit leading them continually to learn from other nations. The popular taste is simple and cheerful, showing a proclivity for true art and literature. There is often found great poetic susceptibility, with the romantic consciousness of an ancient and unmixed people; but this is ordinarily concealed under a quiet, somewhat heavy demeanour, at times shadowed with melancholy. Yet all are receptive of new ideas and responsive to training.

Government. The Danes have had, since the year 1849, a written Constitution called the "Grund-Lov," or Fundamental Law. It was revised and re-issued in July, 1866, under Christian IX., the present king and father of the Princess of Wales. It appoints a Rigsdag - a parliament of two houses - as the supreme legislative authority, the king, aided by his ministers, having the executive power. It recognises a State Church, but defends the right of citizens to free worship and assembly, and guarantees State education, public control of taxation, right of appeal, and a system of poor-relief which assumes that those who are helpless, and whose maintenance is not legally devolved on any other, have a right to State support. The right of Habeas Corpus, the freedom of the press, education of the poor, communal or village government, are also protected. It also provides for the succession, and for its own revision from time to time, and allows the king to issue, in case of emergency, provisional laws to be laid before the Rigsdag assembled at the next opportunity.

The Rigsdag consists of -
I. The Landsthing, or Upper House.
II. The Folkething, or Lower House.

The Landsthing has sixty-six members, twelve of them chosen by the king, the rest by indirect representation from Copenhagen city and the country in districts (the people electing only electors, who then have to decide on their own representative). These are chosen for eight years, and at the end of every four years half the number retire. They must be over forty years of age, and hold a certain amount of property. The Folkething is elected, one member to every 16,000 of the population, every three years, directly by universal suffrage. Those who have received State assistance are not entitled to vote, unless they have paid off their relief.

The king is assisted in his duties by a State Council of seven departments: - (1) The Ministry of Finance; (2) The Ministry of the Interior; (3) Ministry of Justice (under which Icelandic affairs are regulated); (4) Foreign Affairs; (5) War Department; (6) Marine; (7) Public Instruction and Ecclesiastical Affairs. All the ministers can be impeached before the Folkething, and it alone can pardon them.

Denmark is divided into 18 "Amter," or counties. The Amtmand is the lord-lieutenant. These are divided again into 126 "Herreder," or hundreds, each with a "Birkedom," or justice of the peace; these once more into parishes, of which there are about 1,068. Copenhagen forms a county of itself, and has its own government of councils carefully and constitutionally arranged; but the smaller towns are governed by a mayor and aldermen appointed by the king.

Church and Education. The Established Church since 1536 is the Evangelical Lutheran, to which ninety-nine out of every hundred Danes adhere. But there is complete religious toleration provided by clauses in the Constitution. No one need contribute to any form of worship except his own; yet a citizen who does not belong to any of the recognised religious bodies must still pay a contribution for public education. Jews, Baptists, and Roman Catholics, Calvinists, Mormons, and Irvingites are found in Denmark, especially in Fredericia; but none are numerous, every allowance being made for variety of opinion in the Church-body itself. Thus, since 1868 it has been lawful for any twenty families, if they wish, to separate themselves and retire from the congregation, though not from the State Church, electing and supporting a minister of their own choice. Also, from the Reformation period onward, if not before, every parish has had legally an opportunity to reject a candidate for the priesthood appointed from without, before his ordination as their pastor.

There are seven bishopries - See-land, Laa-land, Falster, Fyen Aalborg; and Vilborg and Aarhus and Ribe in Jutland. The bishops have borne an active part during this whole century in the work of national instruction, and their sanction, in the form of a good certificate at Confirmation, is consequently valued as a proof of a finished education, and is still expected of a candidate for any public office or even for the professional career. Education is compulsory and universal; there are free places in the public schools, but all are obliged to attend from seven to fourteen years of age.

Further advance is made by evening schools, and by over seventy private lecture associations, many of which receive State grants. Elementary teachers are trained in four royal training schools, and in private ones as well. There are King's Latin schools in almost every town, and private schools, also classical, in many places. Technical education has been attended to in Copenhagen, where a "Polytechnic" is a part of the University. There is a thriving school of agriculture. The Royal University itself was founded in 1479 by Christian II., but did not do much until after the Reformation. It has now over forty professors, and nearly 1,300 students. Since 1875 women have been admitted to its curriculum and degrees. There have always been endowments for the residence of poor students, who have frequently turned out great men.

Army and Navy. The "Landsoldat," or militiaman, who dies for his country in the spirit of a volunteer, is the typical defender of Denmark. Conscription is employed; every young man of twenty-two being liable for service for eight years in the Regular and eight more in the Reserve Forces. They are from six months to a year in training, and afterwards it is enough (in times of peace) if they are called in for drill every two years. The Navy is manned by 6,000 men regularly, and as many more in reserve. Copenhagen is the only fortified place in the country, and during the last few years has been building forts on its landward side; but not by the wish of the whole nation, the king having employed his prerogative in order to raise the necessary funds for this purpose.

Art and Literature. The history of Danish art begins at a very early date. Runic carvings are found of the ninth century, in the form of a monumental monolith not unlike those of north-east Scotland. Metal work of that age, and earlier, is to be seen in the Royal Museum of Antiquities, one of the most famous depositories in all Europe, and admirably arranged for the study of prehistoric times. Church-building began in wood, but cathedrals were built, about the year 1100, of tufa imported from the Rhine, of which the remains may be seen at Ribe. Stone was used next, and later brick, as may be seen in Soro and Ringsted. Kalundborg church (near Ribe in Jutland) and the round churches of Bornholm and several other places are almost unique. Roskild cathedral, the burial-place of Danish kings, dates from 1200. The Gothic style is hardly visible in Denmark, the country having lapsed in the 13th century into dismal poverty. With the Reformation came the revival of architecture as of learning, and now we find not churches but castles. Kronborg Castle, which Shakspeare chose for the scene of Hamlet's youth and despair (presumably because of its site); "Elsinore," a landmark to the British seaman; Christiansborg, the splendid and symmetrical pile that greets the traveller arriving at Copenhagen by sea, floating, to all appearance, upon the surface of the still harbour; Rosenborg, built by Christian IV., maternal uncle to our Charles I., all testify to a succession of energetic royal ideas.

In painting and sculpture the Danes have been earnest students since 1754, developing a national taste on the best models. Carstens and Thorwaldsen respectively represent the first outburst of genius in these two lines. Eckersberg, who worked in Paris under the great David, was able to establish early a school of faithful realism, at a time when the rest of Europe ran wildly into the fantastic-romantic. Marstrand has followed him with the purest watercolour. The eventful and historic struggle for the fatherland broke up all former tradition and gave rise to new and original feeling, alike in pictures, music, and books. The literature of the olden time, in the form of priceless manuscripts from northern pens in the Dark Ages, revised and annotated, is the peculiar treasure of Copenhagen. Upon this a secondary literature of ballads, written down in the Middle Ages, and a recent outgrowth of romantic fiction, from Ingemann and Blicher, have developed in succession, all going to prove the firm hold which the former time has upon the popular mind, and at the same time securing that hold. More recently the drama has taken up the same subjects, and has evolved from its study of history a moral seriousness of intent, and a deep resolve to instruct, which it is a little difficult for other countries to understand. Holberg is the master of Danish comedy, and he it was who first stimulated the real love of literature, and reasoned out a sober basis of solid thought for his gaiety and satire. Oehlenschlager was the first poet to take up the national traditions as a subject. Grundtvig, in 1809, began to rival him, but lapsed into earnest historical study, which has left a heritage to mankind.

As practical antiquarians Worsaae and Steenstrup have added much to the wonder-world of science by collecting and recording primitive relics. Hans Andersen has done almost as much in the realm of fancy, and has been translated into many languages with little loss.

In Music, Denmark gave birth to Weyse and Kuhlau, whose operas are but little known out of his own country. Hartmann is a diligent composer, and Niels Gade, who wrote his first works in Leipsic under Felix Mendelssohn, for many years presided over the Musik Forening (Musical Union) of Copenhagen. He died in 1892.

Scenery and Topography. Denmark has a miniature picturesqueness said to be unique. The mixture of land and water, and the proportions of the little hills and streams are very perfect, giving one a sense of variety and charm. On the mainland is found the Himmelsbierg, or Heaven mountain, with a clear lakelet at its foot, a forest surrounding the steep, and its bare brow commanding a view of many other eminences as modest as itself. Northward is found the contrast of moorland, wilderness, and sandy dunes, waging an unequal battle with winds and waves. No great convulsion of Nature, but a slow general upheaval of the land has been going on for ages, and is still in progress at the north end of Jutland. Nevertheless, the country is almost overblown with sandy drifts, which advance in weird grassy mounds gradually farther inland. The towns in the peninsula, save Viborg the ancient capital, are almost all found upon the sea coast. Ribe and Esbierg alone face westward to the fierce North Sea; the latter is sheltered by the isle Fano; Aarhus and Horsens are on the Baltic coast; Randcrs a little way inland; Frederikshavn to the north; Aalborg is a gallant fishing-town on Lim Fiord. On the side of the Skaw (properly called Skagen) is the northernmost point of civilisation. A network of railways connects all these places, except the little Skagen colony; and Copenhagen is rapidly accessible by the aid of steamers across the Little and the Great Belt, via Odinsee, on Fyen, and Korsoer, where we alight on See-land, and pass in turn the famous places, Soro, Ringsted, and Roskild, before arriving in the capital. Beechwoods and pine surround the little lake of Soro, and smiling grazing ground ensues. One may observe cows grazing in circular patches, to which they are confined by a tether, under the charge of some careful child, who from time to time removes the peg and moves to pastures new. The air of general prosperity, economy, and thrift is very encouraging, in trim cornfields and gardens, orchards and groves, while the glimpses of winding salt sea fiord or "bugt" give flavour to the otherwise more or less insipid landscape.

History. This can be compressed into three periods. (1) That of the early kings, (2) the autocracy, and (3) constitutional times. From an early date the Danes elected their kings at a folk-moot or "Thing" in several parts of the country. In 1660 after an exhausting war with Sweden, supreme hereditary power was conferred by the people of Copenhagen upon their king, Frederick II. In 1831 Frederick VI. granted constitutional government again to the people, and a steady growth of liberal institutions has followed from that time to the present. There is much sympathy between the people and the throne, historically due to the part played by the monarchs in the suppression of the nobles, who, as petty tyrants, were a heavy burden to the Commonwealth, and often involved the country in terrific broils. With the Duchies of Slesvig and Holstein the latest source of disturbance is removed, and a homogeneous and united people are free to fulfil the higher destinies of Denmark.

Ethnology. The Danes, who have from remote pre-historic times been in possession of Jutland and neighbouring islands, belong to the Norse or Scandinavian division of the Teutonic family. Formerly restless sea-rovers (Vikings), brave and intelligent, they overran a great part of the European coastlands from the British Isles and Normandy to Sicily, penetrating in one direction as far as Constantinople, in another into the heart of the Russian steppe; later they established their political supremacy over the whole of Scandinavia, and founded settlements both in the East and West Indies (Tranquebar, St. Thomas, etc.), on the west coast of Africa, and in Greenland. But in recent times, and especially since Denmark has been mainly reduced to its natural limits, the character of the nation has undergone a considerable change, and the Danes are at present described as a somewhat heavy, lethargic people, still brave, but pacific, patient, and unenterprising. Physically they are of middle size, generally well made, moderately robust, with mild, pleasant expression and fair complexion, though the blonde, blue-eyed, flaxen-haired, Danish type of earlier times has been considerably modified by intermixture with darker Germanic elements. The Danish language, which is current throughout Denmark and most of Norway, is derived directly from the old Norse, to which it bears somewhat the same relation in its simplified grammatical structure that English does to Anglo-Saxon. It has been cultivated for over three hundred years, though some of its most distinguished men of letters, such as Niebuhr, Forchhammer, Malte Brun, and Mommsen, have chiefly employed German, French, or Latin, at least in their more serious writings. The comedies of Holberg, the "Plautus of the North," have acquired a European fame, while astronomy, archaeology, and philology, both classical and comparative, have been cultivated with brilliant success by men of undoubted genius, such as Tycho Brahe, Worsaae, Madvig, Rask, and Thomsen. Of the total population (2,170,000 in 1890), all are of Danish stock and speech except about 33,000 Germans, 24,000 Swedes, and 4,000 Norwegians, English, French, etc. There are also 140,000 of Danish speech in the conterminous district of Slesvig, wrested from Denmark by Prussia in 1864.