Ancient History to 1448
The Danes probably settled Jutland by c.10,000 BC and later (2d millennium BC) developed a Bronze Age culture there. However, little is known of Danish history before the age of the Vikings (9th-11th cent. AD), when the Danes had an important role in the Viking (or Norse) raids on Western Europe and were prominent among the invaders of England who were opposed by King Alfred (reigned 871-99) and his successors. St. Ansgar (801-65) helped convert the Danes to Christianity; Harold Bluetooth (d. c.985) was the first Christian king of Denmark. His son, Sweyn (reigned c.986-1014), conquered England. From 1018 to 1035, Denmark, England, and Norway were united under King Canute (Knut). The southern part of Sweden (Skane, Halland, and Blekinge) was, with brief interruptions, part of Denmark until 1658.
After Canute's death, Denmark fell into a period of turmoil and civil war. Later, Waldemar I (reigned 1157-82) and Waldemar II (reigned 1202-41) were energetic rulers who established Danish hegemony over N Europe. With the end of the Viking raids and the development of a strong and independent church, the nobles were able to impose their will on the weaker kings. In 1282, Eric V (reigned 1259-86) was forced to submit to the Great Charter, which established annual parliaments and a council of nobles who shared the king's power. This form of government persisted until 1660.
Waldemar IV (reigned 1340-75) again brought Danish power to a high point, but he was humiliated by the Hanseatic League in the Treaty of Stralsund (1370). Waldemar's daughter, Queen Margaret , achieved (1397) the union of the Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish crowns in her person (see Kalmar Union ). Sweden soon escaped effective Danish rule, and with the accession (1523) of Gustavus I of Sweden the union was dissolved. However, the union with Norway lasted until 1814.
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