Prehistory[ edit ] The gilded side of the Trundholm sun chariot dating from the Nordic Bronze Age The earliest archaeological findings in Denmark date back to the Eem interglacial period from ,—, BC.
Evidence of strong Celtic cultural influence dates from this period in Denmark and much of North-West Europe and is among other things reflected in the finding of the Gundestrup cauldron.
Historians believe that before their arrival, most of Jutland and the nearest islands were settled by tribal Jutes. The Jutes migrated to Great Britain eventually, some as mercenaries by Brythonic King Vortigern , and were granted the south-eastern territories of Kent , the Isle of Wight and other areas, where they settled.
They were later absorbed or ethnically cleansed by the invading Angles and Saxons , who formed the Anglo-Saxons. The remaining Jutish population in Jutland assimilated in with the settling Danes. A short note about the Dani in " Getica " by the historian Jordanes is believed to be an early mention of the Danes, one of the ethnic groups from whom modern Danes are descended.
Viking and Middle Ages[ edit ] Main articles: Viking Age and Kalmar Union The Ladby ship , the largest ship burial found in Denmark From the 8th to the 10th century the wider Scandinavian region was the source of Vikings.
They colonised, raided, and traded in all parts of Europe. More Anglo-Saxon pence of this period have been found in Denmark than in England. Under the reign of Gudfred in the Danish kingdom may have included all the lands of Jutland, Scania and the Danish islands, excluding Bornholm. It is believed that Denmark became Christian for political reasons so as not to get invaded by the rising Christian power in Europe, the Holy Roman Empire , which was an important trading area for the Danes.
In that case, Harald built six fortresses around Denmark called Trelleborg and built a further Danevirke. In the early 11th century, Canute the Great won and united Denmark, England, and Norway for almost 30 years with a Scandinavian army. Most of the latter two now form the state of Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany. However, even from the start, Margaret may not have been so idealistic—treating Denmark as the clear "senior" partner of the union.
The issue was for practical purposes resolved on 17 June , as Swedish King Gustav Vasa conquered the city of Stockholm. The Protestant Reformation spread to Scandinavia in the s, and following the Count's Feud civil war, Denmark converted to Lutheranism in Later that year, Denmark entered into a union with Norway. Early modern history — [ edit ] Main articles: King Christian IV attacked Sweden in the — Kalmar War but failed to accomplish his main objective of forcing it to return to the union.
Inspired by the Dutch East India Company , he founded a similar Danish company and planned to claim Ceylon as a colony, but the company only managed to acquire Tranquebar on India's Coromandel Coast. Denmark's large colonial aspirations were limited to a few key trading posts in Africa and India. The empire was sustained by trade with other major powers, and plantations — ultimately a lack of resources led to its stagnation.
In , Swedish armies invaded Jutland and claimed Scania in Charles X Gustav quickly regretted not having wrecked Denmark and in August , he began a two-year-long siege of Copenhagen but failed to take the capital. Denmark tried to regain control of Scania in the Scanian War — but it ended in failure.
After the Great Northern War —21 , Denmark managed to restore control of the parts of Schleswig and Holstein ruled by the house of Holstein-Gottorp in the Treaty of Frederiksborg and the Treaty of Tsarskoye Selo , respectively.
Denmark prospered greatly in the last decades of the 18th century due to its neutral status allowing it to trade with both sides in the many contemporary wars. This led to the so-called Danish-British Gunboat War. British control of the waterways between Denmark and Norway proved disastrous to the union's economy and in Denmark—Norway went bankrupt. The union was dissolved by the Treaty of Kiel in ; the Danish monarchy "irrevocably and forever" renounced claims to the Kingdom of Norway in favour of the Swedish king.
A nascent Danish liberal and national movement gained momentum in the s; after the European Revolutions of , Denmark peacefully became a constitutional monarchy on 5 June A new constitution established a two-chamber parliament.
Denmark was defeated and obliged to cede Schleswig and Holstein to Prussia. This loss came as the latest in the long series of defeats and territorial loss that had begun in the 17th century. After these events, Denmark pursued a policy of neutrality in Europe. Industrialisation came to Denmark in the second half of the 19th century. Trade unions developed starting in the s. There was a considerable migration of people from the countryside to the cities, and Danish agriculture became centred on the export of dairy and meat products.
Denmark maintained its neutral stance during World War I. After the defeat of Germany, the Versailles powers offered to return the region of Schleswig-Holstein to Denmark. Fearing German irredentism , Denmark refused to consider the return of the area without a plebiscite ; the two Schleswig Plebiscites took place on 10 February and 14 March , respectively. In Denmark signed a year non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany but Germany invaded Denmark on 9 April and the Danish government quickly surrendered.
World War II in Denmark was characterised by economic co-operation with Germany until , when the Danish government refused further co-operation and its navy scuttled most of its ships and sent many of its officers to Sweden, which was neutral.
The Danish resistance performed a rescue operation that managed to evacuate several thousand Jews and their families to safety in Sweden before the Germans could send them to death camps.
Denmark became a member of the European Union in and signed the Lisbon Treaty in The Maastricht Treaty , which involved further European integration, was rejected by the Danish people in ; it was only accepted after a second referendum in , which provided for four opt-outs from policies. The Danes rejected the euro as the national currency in a referendum in Greenland gained home rule in and was awarded self-determination in Neither the Faroe Islands nor Greenland are members of the European Union, the Faroese having declined membership of the EEC in and Greenland in , in both cases because of fisheries policies.
Constitutional change in led to a single-chamber parliament elected by proportional representation, female accession to the Danish throne, and Greenland becoming an integral part of Denmark. The centre-left Social Democrats led a string of coalition governments for most of the second half of the 20th century, introducing the Nordic welfare model.
In recent years the right-wing populist  Danish People's Party has emerged as a major party—becoming the second-largest following the general election —during which time immigration and integration have become major issues of public debate.