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Capital Copenhagen
Continent Europe
Code +45
Currency Danish krone
Languages Danish , Danish


The unified kingdom of Denmark emerged in the eighth century as a proficient maritime power amid the struggle for control of the Baltic Sea. In 1397, it joined Norway and Sweden to form the Kalmar Union, until the latter's secession in 1523; the remaining Kingdom of Denmark–Norway persisted until 1814. Beginning in the 17th century, several wars with the Swedish Empire resulted in territorial cessions, and following the Napoleonic Wars, Norway was absorbed into Sweden while Denmark kept the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Iceland. A surge of nationalist movements in the 19th century was defeated in the First Schleswig War, though the Second Schleswig War of 1864 resulted in the loss of the Duchy of Schleswig to Prussia. Denmark remained neutral during World War I but regained the northern half of Schleswig in 1920. In April 1940, a German invasion saw brief military skirmishes while the Danish resistance movement was active from 1943 until the German surrender in May 1945. An industrialized exporter of agricultural produce in the second half of the 19th century, Denmark introduced social and labor-market reforms in the early 20th century that created the basis for the present welfare state model with a highly developed mixed economy.

The Constitution of Denmark was signed on 5 June 1849, ending the absolute monarchy, which had begun in 1660. It establishes a constitutional monarchy organized as a parliamentary democracy. The government and national parliament are seated in Copenhagen, the nation's capital, largest city, and main commercial center. Denmark exercises hegemonic influence in the Danish Realm, devolving powers to handle internal affairs. Home rule was established in the Faroe Islands in 1948 and in Greenland in 1979; the latter obtained further autonomy in 2009. In 1973, Denmark, together with Greenland but not the Faroes, became a member of what is now the European Union 1973 but negotiated certain opt-outs, such as retaining its currency, the krone.

A highly developed country, Danes enjoy a high standard of living, with the country performing at or near the top in measures of education, health care, civil liberties, democratic governance, and LGBT equality. Denmark is a founding member of NATO, the Nordic Council, the OECD, OSCE, and the United Nations; it is also part of the Schengen Area. It maintains close political, cultural, and linguistic ties with its Scandinavian neighbors, with the Danish language being partially mutually intelligible with both Norwegian and Swedish.


Since the end of the last Ice Age - approximately 10,000 BC - people have migrated from the Eastern and Southern parts of Europe to the Northern area we now know to be Denmark. The flat terrain, rich soil, proximity to water, and at times harsh climate, have shaped Danish history and culture ever since. 

The first Danes were hunters and fishermen who probably entered the country migrating from Southern and Eastern Europe by the end of the last Ice Age around 10,000 BC.

By 3000 BC, farms had begun to appear on the flat, fertile land we now call Denmark. At first, the farmers used stone tools and weapons, but they later adopted bronze and iron. 

By the time of the Iron Age, the Danes had established trade links with the Roman Empire, trading goods such as animal furs and amber. By 200 AD, the Danish people had begun using the Runic language chiseled in stone.

One of the most notorious periods in Danish history is the age of the Vikings. It began around 793 AD with the raids on the English tidal island of Lindisfarne. The Vikings were eventually to establish settlements in Yorkshire in Northern England and Normandy in the Northwestern part of France.

The Viking Age lasted about 250 years. At one point, the Danish Viking Sweyn Forkbeard (Svend Tveskæg) and his son Canute the Great (Knud den Store) were the kings not only of Denmark, but of Norway, Southern Sweden, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, Shetland, Orkney, and parts of England.

The Vikings traveled widely outside their realm, sailing to what today is Russia and Turkey. Their admirable navigation skills at sea also brought them as far as Greenland and North America. They continued to plunder and steal, along with more peaceful activities such as trading precious metals, textiles, glassware, jewelry, and fur. On occasion, they also bought and sold European slaves.

Following the baptism of the Danish King Harald Bluetooth in 965 AD, the Christian clergy became influential in Danish society. The newly-adopted religion, however, did not immediately turn the Danes into a peaceful people. They continued to fight to maintain and expand their territory, conquering parts of Germany and Estonia. 

In 1397, with the Kalmar Union,  Denmark (incl. Greenland and Iceland), Norway, and Sweden were joined into a single monarchy ruled by Queen Margrethe I.

The Kalmar Union lasted until Sweden broke away in 1523, the first shot in a long rivalry between Denmark and Sweden for dominance in the region. The two countries fought regularly and in 1658 Denmark had to cede the provinces of Skåne, Halland, and Blekinge, which today make up the Southernmost provinces of Sweden. In 1814, the sovereignty of Norway was transferred to Sweden too. Iceland gained independence in 1918.

The humiliating defeat and loss of Skåne, Halland, and Blekinge to Sweden set the stage for a power grab that introduced a hereditary and absolute monarchy in Denmark. The strong central government helped to create a well-organized bureaucratic state and introduce agricultural reforms that made farming more efficient, although many peasants were still tied to the land and forced to work at least part of their time for the landowner.

Reforms in 1784 changed this scenario and paved the way for additional rights for the peasants, and in 1814 universal primary education was introduced. 

In a power struggle with the German Confederation about the affiliation of the duchies of Schleswig, Holstein, and Lauenburg on the southern border with Germany. The Danish king declared himself a constitutional monarch, paving the way for the present democratic constitution.

This move led to the war with the Germans (1848-1851) which Denmark won. But tensions continued and Denmark was defeated by Germany in a renewed conflict in 1864. As a result, Denmark had to cede all three duchies.

The northern, predominantly Danish part of Schleswig, returned under Danish rule in 1920 as a result of a plebiscite following Germany’s defeat in World War I. Denmark remained neutral in World War I. A small German minority still lives in the region. 

After World War I, the Danish economy began evolving. With the help of the cooperative farmers’ movement, there was a large-scale shift from the cultivation of grain to livestock farming. Industrialization and dairy production also accelerated, and a social welfare state was established.

On April 9, 1940, neutral Denmark was invaded by German troops. Overwhelmed by the German war machine, the country put up minimal resistance at first. During the five-year occupation, an underground resistance developed to fight the Nazi rule. On May 5th, 1945, Denmark has liberated from the German occupation thanks to the efforts of the Grand Alliance (UK, US, and the Soviet Union) and the Danish resistance. Light returned to Danish cities after five years of darkness.

The post-war Danish economy became more and more international with an increase in exports, a contributing factor to prosperity. Danish design goods and furniture were popular around the world along with Danish bacon, butter, and other agricultural products.

In 1972, Denmark joined the European Economic Community (EEC) - the leading economic partner in Europe - which later became the European Union. Denmark was also one of the founding members of the United Nations (UN) and continues to be a member of the military alliance - the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Today, Denmark is a constitutional monarchy ruled by representative democracy and a strong defender of free trade and human rights. Denmark also helps fight poverty around the world through its long-standing development cooperation.


Located in Northern Europe, Denmark consists of the peninsula of Jutland and 443 named islands (1,419 islands above 100 square meters (1,100 sq ft) in total). Of these, 74 are inhabited (January 2015), with the largest being Zealand, the North Jutlandic Island, and Funen. The island of Bornholm is located east of the rest of the country, in the Baltic Sea. Many of the larger islands are connected by bridges; the Øresund Bridge connects Zealand with Sweden; the Great Belt Bridge connects Funen with Zealand, and the Little Belt Bridge connects Jutland with Funen. Ferries or small aircraft connect to the smaller islands. The four cities with populations over 100,000 are the capital Copenhagen in Zealand; Aarhus and Aalborg in Jutland; and Odense on Funen.

The country occupies a total area of 42,943.9 square kilometers (16,581 sq mi). The area of inland water is 700 km2 (270 sq mi), variously stated as from 500 to 700 km2 (193–270 sq mi). Lake Arresø northwest of Copenhagen is the largest lake. The size of the land area cannot be stated exactly since the ocean constantly erodes and adds material to the coastline, and because of human land reclamation projects (to counter erosion). Post-glacial rebound raises the land by a bit less than 1 cm (0.4 in) per year in the north and east, extending the coast. A circle enclosing the same area as Denmark would be 234 kilometers (145 miles) in diameter with a circumference of 736 km (457 mi) (land area only: 232.33 km (144.36 mi) and 730 km (454 mi) respectively). It shares a border of 68 kilometers (42 mi) with Germany to the south and is otherwise surrounded by 8,750 km (5,437 mi) of tidal shoreline (including small bays and inlets). No location in Denmark is farther from the coast than 52 km (32 mi). On the southwest coast of Jutland, the tide is between 1 and 2 m (3.28 and 6.56 ft), and the Tideline moves outward and inward on a 10 km (6.2 mi) stretch. Denmark's territorial waters total 105,000 square kilometers (40,541 square miles).

Denmark's northernmost point is a Skagen point (the north beach of the Skaw) at 57° 45' 7" northern latitude; the southernmost is a Gedser point (the southern tip of Falster) at 54° 33' 35" northern latitude; the westernmost point is Blåvandshuk at 8° 4' 22" eastern longitude, and the easternmost point is Østerskær at 15° 11' 55" eastern longitude. This is in the small Ertholmene archipelago 18 kilometers (11 mi) northeast of Bornholm. The distance from east to west is 452 kilometers (281 mi), from north to south 368 kilometers (229 mi).

The country is flat with little elevation, having an average height above sea level of 31 meters (102 ft). The highest natural point is Møllehøj, at 170.86 meters (560.56 ft). Although this is by far the lowest highest point in the Nordic countries and also less than half of the highest point in Southern Sweden, Denmark's general elevation in its interior is generally at a safe level from rising sea levels. A sizeable portion of Denmark's terrain consists of rolling plains whilst the coastline is sandy, with large dunes in northern Jutland. Although once extensively forested, today Denmark largely consists of arable land. It is drained by a dozen or so rivers, and the most significant include the Gudenå, Odense, Skjern, Suså, and Vidå—a river that flows along its southern border with Germany.

The Kingdom of Denmark includes two overseas territories, both well to the west of Denmark: Greenland, the world's largest island, and the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic Ocean. These territories are self-governing and form part of the Danish Realm.

Government and politics

Politics in Denmark operate under a framework laid out in the Constitution of Denmark. First written in 1849, it establishes a sovereign state in the form of a constitutional monarchy, with a representative parliamentary system. The monarch officially retains executive power and presides over the Council of State (a privy council). In practice, the duties of the monarch are strictly representative and ceremonial, such as the formal appointment and dismissal of the Prime Minister and other Government ministers. The Monarch is not answerable for his or her actions, and their person is sacrosanct. Hereditary monarch Queen Margrethe II has been head of state since 14 January 1972.


Denmark has a developed mixed economy that is classed as a high-income economy by the World Bank. In 2017, it ranked 16th in the world in terms of gross national income (PPP) per capita and 10th in nominal GNI per capita. Denmark's economy stands out as one of the freest in the Index of Economic Freedom and the Economic Freedom of the World. It is the 10th most competitive economy in the world, and 6th in Europe, according to the World Economic Forum in its Global Competitiveness Report 2018.

Denmark has the fourth-highest ratio of tertiary degree holders in the world. The country ranks highest in the world for workers' rights. GDP per hour worked was the 13th highest in 2009. The country has a market income inequality close to the OECD average, but after taxes and public cash transfers, the income inequality is considerably lower. According to Eurostat, Denmark's Gini coefficient for disposable income was the 7th-lowest among EU countries in 2017. According to the International Monetary Fund, Denmark has the world's highest minimum wage. As Denmark has no minimum wage legislation, a higher wage floor has been attributed to the power of trade unions. For example, as the result of a collective bargaining agreement between the 3F trade union and the employer's group Horesta, workers at McDonald's and other fast-food chains make the equivalent of US$20 an hour, which is more than double what their counterparts earn in the United States, and have access to five weeks' paid vacation, parental leave and a pension plan. Union density in 2015 was 68%.

Once a predominantly agricultural country on account of its arable landscape, since 1945 Denmark has greatly expanded its industrial base and service sector. By 2017 services contributed circa 75% of GDP, manufacturing about 15%, and agriculture less than 2%. Major industries include wind turbines, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, machinery, and transportation equipment, food processing, and construction. Circa 60% of the total export value is due to export of goods, and the remaining 40% is from service exports, mainly sea transport. The country's main export goods are wind turbines, pharmaceuticals, machinery and instruments, meat and meat products, dairy products, fish, furniture, and design. Denmark is a net exporter of food and energy and has for several years had a balance of payments surplus which has transformed the country from a net debtor to a net creditor country. By 1 July 2018, the net international investment position (or net foreign assets) of Denmark was equal to 64.6% of GDP.

A liberalization of import tariffs in 1797 marked the end of mercantilism and further liberalization in the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century established the Danish liberal tradition in international trade that was only to be broken by the 1930s. Even when other countries, such as Germany and France, raised protection for their agricultural sector because of increased American competition resulting in much lower agricultural prices after 1870, Denmark retained its free trade policies, as the country profited from the cheap imports of cereals (used as foodstuffs for their cattle and pigs) and could increase their exports of butter and meat of which the prices were more stable. Today, Denmark is part of the European Union's internal market, which represents more than 508 million consumers. Several domestic, commercial policies are determined by agreements among European Union (EU) members and by EU legislation. Support for free trade is high among the Danish public; in a 2016 poll, 57% responded saw globalization as an opportunity whereas 18% viewed it as a threat. 70% of trade flows are inside the European Union. As of 2017, Denmark's largest export partners are Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Denmark's currency, the krone (DKK), is pegged at approximately 7.46 kroner per euro through the ERM II. Although a September 2000 referendum rejected adopting the euro, the country follows the policies outlined in the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union (EMU) and meets the economic convergence criteria needed to adopt the euro. The majority of the political parties in the Folketing support joining the EMU, but since 2010 opinion polls have consistently shown a clear majority against adopting the euro. In May 2018, 29% of respondents from Denmark in a Eurobarometer opinion poll stated that they were in favor of the EMU and the euro, whereas 65% were against it.

Ranked by turnover in Denmark, the largest Danish companies are A.P. Møller-Mærsk (international shipping), Novo Nordisk (pharmaceuticals), ISS A/S (facility services), Vestas (wind turbines), Arla Foods (dairy), DSV (transport), Carlsberg Group (beer), Salling Group (retail), Ørsted A/S (power), Danske Bank.


Denmark shares strong cultural and historic ties with its Scandinavian neighbors Sweden and Norway. It has historically been one of the most socially progressive cultures in the world. In 1969, Denmark was the first country to legalize pornography, and in 2012, Denmark replaced its "registered partnership" laws, which it had been the first country to introduce in 1989, with gender-neutral marriage, and allowed same-sex marriages to be performed in the Church of Denmark. Modesty and social equality are important parts of Danish culture. In a 2016 study comparing empathy scores of 63 countries, Denmark ranked 4th worldwide having the highest empathy among surveyed European countries.

The astronomical discoveries of Tycho Brahe (1546–1601), Ludwig A. Colding's (1815–1888) neglected articulation of the principle of conservation of energy, and the contributions to atomic physics of Niels Bohr (1885–1962) indicate the range of Danish scientific achievement. The fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875), the philosophical essays of Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855), the short stories of Karen Blixen (pen name Isak Dinesen), (1885–1962), the plays of Ludvig Holberg (1684–1754), and the dense, aphoristic poetry of Piet Hein (1905–1996), have earned international recognition, as have the symphonies of Carl Nielsen (1865–1931). From the mid-1990s, Danish films have attracted international attention, especially those associated with Dogme 95 like those of Lars von Trier.

A major feature of Danish culture is Jul (Danish Christmas). The holiday is celebrated throughout December, starting either at the beginning of Advent or on 1 December with a variety of traditions, culminating with the Christmas Eve meal.

There are seven heritage sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in Northern Europe: Christiansfeld, a Moravian Church Settlement, the Jelling Mounds (Runic Stones and Church), Kronborg Castle, Roskilde Cathedral, and The par force hunting landscape in North Zealand and 3 in the World Heritage list in North America: Ilulissat Icefjord, Aasivissuitz — Nipisat, Kujataa within the Kingdom of Denmark.