About the Open Online Course in Danish History

This online course aims to provide a general introduction to Danish history since the Viking Age - and it is open to anyone who is interested. It is suitable for general readers as well as university students. Beginning with the emergence of the Danish kingdom from the end of the 700s, the course provides an introduction to the history of Denmark as a political entity, from the eighth century to the present day. 

The course is a mixture of texts and films. It is divided into nine modules each amounting to around 42 pages of text, but they also include several mini-lectures and films of around 8-12 minutes long presented by historians from Aarhus University. 

The material has been produced by a range of researchers from the Department of History and Classical Studies at Aarhus University - including three of the department's professors, Mary Hilson, Bjørn Poulsen and Thorsten Borring Olesen, who had overall editorial responsibility for the text and pictures in collaboration with Mette Frisk Jensen og Anne Sørensen, both Senior Advisers at danmarkshistorien.dk. The course was first published online in Danish by danmarkshistorien.dk in 2020, and as a new text book by Aarhus University Press in January 2021, with a second edition in 2022. 

The course was originally developed for teaching history students in their first two semesters at Aarhus University, but it can be used by anyone who is interested in Danish history. If you are not following a course at Aarhus University, you can simply choose which modules you would like to take. For example, it is not necessary to have completed module one before starting module four. You are completely free to choose when you would like to take the course and at what speed - and it does not require any log-in details to participate. Via the front page, you can access all of the course's modules, including the text, films and links to extra material. We do recommend, however, that you read the introduction before you start your first module.  

Each film is in Danish with English subtitles, which can be activated by clicking on 'CC' in the lower right corner on each film. Additional films will be added in the coming months as the English subtitling is completed.

If you would like to find out more, then go to the 'Extra material' tab where you will find sugestions for further reading and links to supplementary articles, sources and films, also from nordics.info

Good luck with the course!

List of illustrations

For clarity, the titles of some of the artworks and the names of institutions are given here in Danish. English translations of the names of institutions can be found in the text for each illustration.

Illustrations used on the front page

Module 1: The Life and Miracles of St. Edmund, Landing of Danes in England. Photo: The Morgan Library

Module 2: Arkonas indtagelse. Painted by Laurits Tuxen. Photo: Det Kongelige Bibliotek 

Module 3: Bishop Jens Iversen Lange in Aarhus Cathedral. Photo: Aarhus Domkirke

Module 4: Nobel couple. The Church of St. Mary in Helsingborg. Photo: Jens-Jørgen Frimand

Module 5: King Christian VI with his family. Photo: Kongernes samling, Rosenborg

Module 6: Constantin Hansen's painting 'Den grundlovgivende Rigsforsamling' from 1848. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Module 7: På vejen til Anacapri, by Gerda Wegener, 1922. Photo: Morten Pors Fotografi 

Module 8: Front cover of the magazine Samvirke no. 19, 1 November 1969. Photo: Samvirke

Module 9: F-16 Fighting Falcon in connection with an aerial refueling of an American tanker. The picture is dated 2 March 2017. Photo: Lars Richter, Flyvevåbnets Fototjeneste

Illustrations in the Introduction

Satellite image of the Danish realm. Photo: NASA Worldview

Satellite image of Denmark. Photo: NASA Worldview

Photo: © The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark. Photo: Werner Karrasch

Front cover of The Economist 6-12 June 1992. Photo: The Economist

Module 1: The Viking Age, 790-1050 

1: The border rampart Danevirke. Copyright: © Archäologisches Landesamt Schleswig-Holstein

2: Reconstructions of the Oseberg and Gokstad ships. Photo: © David Lomax/Robert Harding

3: The Melhus reliquary. Photo: NTNU Vitenskabsmuseet, Trondhjem

4: Coins found at Damhus. Photo: Sydvestjyske Museer (SMJ 810)

5: Haddeby stone 4, erected at Hedeby. Photo: Nationalmuseet

6: The great Jelling stone. Photo: Roberto Fortuna, Nationalmuseet

7: Aerial photo of the ring fortressesTrelleborg, near Slagelse. Photo: Knud Erik Christensen Colourbox

8: Queen Emma of Normandy. Photo: British Library

9: The reconstruction of a Viking-Age hall. Photo: Sagnlandet Lejre

10: Overview map of Northern Europe in the Viking Age.  © danmarkshistorien.dk

11: Dress ornament found at Tissø. Photo: Roberto Fortuna og Kira Ursem, Nationalmuseet

12: Brooch found at Lindholm Høje. Photo: Nordjyske Museer

Module 2: The High Middle Ages, 1050-1340

1: The Golden Altar from Sahl Church, 1200-1225. Photo: Arnold Mikkelsen, Nationalmuseet

2: Map of the Danish kingdom in the Middle Ages. © danmarkshistorien.dk

3: Reconstruction of a mouldboard plough with wheel.  © danmarkshistorien.dk

4: Reconstruction of the harbour in Schleswig, 1100. Felix Rösch, Das Schleswiger Hafenviertel im Hochmittelalter (CC BY-SA 3.0)

5: A cog from the first part of the fourteenth century. Photo: Antikvarisk-Topografisk Arkiv, Nationalmuseet (CC-BY-SA)

6: Granite block from Satrup Church, 1200. Photo: Nationalmuseet

7: Crypt under the St Lawrence’s Cathedral in Lund. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

8: Cloth with eagle motifs from the grave of Knud the Holy in Odense. Photo: Nationalmuseet 

9: Danes conquering the Slavic island of Rügen and Arkona in 1168. Photo: Det Kongelige Bibliotek 

10: Map of the Baltic Sea Region with the Danish ‘empire’ in the early thirteenth century.  © danmarkshistorien.dk

11: Fresco in Keldby Church on the island of Møn, c. 1325. Photo: www.kalkmalerier.dk

Module 3: The Late Middle Ages, 1340-1523

1: Map showing The Kalmar Union 1397–1523. © danmarkshistorien.dk

2: Bishop Jens Iversen depicted on the altar piece in Aarhus Cathedral. Photo: Aarhus Domkirke

3: Lithograph of Roskilde Cathedral in the nineteenth century. Photo: Nationalmuseet  

4: Urban settlements in Denmark at the end of the Middle Ages. © danmarkshistorien.dk

5: Altar piece in Odense Cathedral, made by the German sculptor Claus Berg, c. 1514–1523. © Sankt Knuds Kirke, Odense

6: Painting by Carl Gustaf Hellqvists of Valdemar Atterdag’s plundering of Visby after the conquest in 1361.  © Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, Sverige

7: Erik of Pomerania’s coronation charter, issued in Kalmar in 1397. Photo: Tom Jersø, Rigsarkivet (CC BY-SA) 

8: The war ship Gribshunden © Ingemar Lundgren, Blekinge Museum 

9: Fresco in Fanefjord Church on the island of Møn. Photo: Kirsten Trampedach, Nationalmuseet (CC-BY-SA) 

10: Portrait of Christian II painted by Michel Sittow of Flanders in 1515. Photo: Statens Museum for Kunst

Module 4: Reformation and Power State, 1523-1660

1:  The new printing technique, woodcut from 1568 by Jost Amman. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

2: Map of the areas that Denmark-Norway ceded to Sweden as a result of the Swedish wars. ©  danmarkshistorien.dk

3: Antependium from Torslunde Church, 1561. Photo: Nationalmuseet

4: Jost Amman: Bogtrykkeren, c. 1568. Woodcut. Photo: Nationalmuseet

5: Hesselager Manor on Fyn was built in the 1540s. Photo: Hesselagergård

6: G. Bouttats: Den svenske hær på vej over Fyn. Copper plug, 1670. Photo: Det Kgl. Bibliotek

7: Christian IV and Queen Anna Catherine painted by Pieter Isaacsz, 1612. Photo: Kongernes Samling, Rosenborg

8: Johan Timm (probably): Holger ”den lærde” Rosenkrantz, 1636. Oil on canvas. Photo: Hans Petersen. Det Nationalhistoriske Museum, Frederiksborg Slot

9: Map showing the internal borders in the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein in 1622.  ©  danmarkshistorien.dk 

10: Epitaph of pastor Søren Hansen Stenderup in Färlöv Church in Skåne, Sweden, c. 1667. Photo: Erik Fjordhede, livinghistory.dk 

11: Title page of A Small Catechism (En Liden Catechismus) from 1601. Photo: © 2017 ProQuest LLC/ Det Kgl. Bibliotek

Module 5: Absolute Monarchy, 1660-1814

1: Map of Danish overseas colonies. © danmarkshistorien.dk

2: Maps of Copenhagen in 1650 and 1750. © danmarkshistorien.dk

3: Kongeloven (the King’s Code) from 1665. Photo: Kongernes Samling, Rosenborg

4: Christian V’s anointing in Frederiksborg chapel in 1671. Painted by Michael van Haven. Photo: Kongernes Samling, Rosenborg

5: Christian V presiding over the Supreme Court, c. 1697. Photo: Kongernes Samling, Rosenborg

6: The sea battle of Køge Bay on 1 July 1677. Painted by Anton Melbye, 1855. Photo: Statens Museum for Kunst

7: The bombardment of Copenhagen in September 1807. Copper plug by G.L. Lahde based on C.W. Eckersberg’s painting from 1807. Photo: Det Kgl. Bibliotek

8: Diagram of the British slave ship Brooks from c. 1808. Photo: Det Kgl. Bibliotek

9: Banknote issued by the Danish central bank, 1813. Photo: Den kgl. Mønt- og Medaillesamling, Nationalmuseet

10: Liberty Memorial in Copenhagen Frihedsstøtten. Copper plug by Frederik Ludvig Bradt, c. 1800. Photo: Statens Museum for Kunst

11: Lille Heddinge Rytterskole (cavalry school) c. 1722.  Photo: skolehistorisk fotosamling, Det Kgl. Bibliotek

Module 6: From Absolutist Composite State to Nation State, 1814-1914

1: Map of Schleswig and Holstein and their borders with the Danish kingdom in 1864 and 1920. © danmarkshistorien.dk

2: The morning after the Battle of Isted on 25 July 1850, painted in 1876 by Jørgen V. Sonne. Photo: Statens Museum for Kunst 

3: Prussian troops pose at the Danish fortification at Dybbøl after the battle on 18 April 1864. Photo: The Gallery of the Danish Armed Forces, Forsvarsgalleriet

4: Painting by Constantin Hansen: Den Grundlovgivende Rigsforsamling, carried out 1860-64. Photo: Wikimedia Commons, original in the Museum of National History at Frederiksborg Castle 

5: Daily exercise for the ‘paupers’ in the Ladegården workhouse, c. 1900. Photo: Det Kgl. Bibliotek 

6: Map of the Danish railway network between 1844 and 1875. © danmarkshistorien.dk

7: Søndre Toldbod (South Customs Station) in the port of Copenhagen, c. 1870. Photo: Museet for Søfart 

8: A smallholding in Karup in central Jutland,1895. Photo: Lokalhistorisk Arkiv, Karup 

9: Interior of the home of Chr. Bang, owner of Aarhus oil factory, Aarhus c. 1895. Photo: Den Gamle By, Aarhus 

10: A working-class home in Ægirsgade in Nørrebro in Copenhagen, 1914. Photo: Arbejdermuseet 

11: The development of Copenhagen: 1840, 1880 and 1920. © danmarkshistorien.dk

12: Women at work in the kitchen at Bejstrupgaard, 1912. Photo: Skrave Lokalarkiv

13: Painting by H. A. Brendekilde: En landevej, 1893. Photo: Statens Museum for Kunst 

Module 7: The World War Era, 1914-1945

1: Map showing the percentages of pro-Danish votes in the 1920 referendums. Photo: Arkivet ved Dansk Centralbibliotek for Sydslesvig 

2: Women and men under the searing sun on the island of St Croix, c. 1900. Photo: Nationalmuseet

3: Population distribution between rural and urban areas from 1901 to 2018. © danmarkshistorien.dk based on Statistics Denmark

4: The Danish rail network in 1930. © danmarkshistorien.dk

5: The Battle at Grønttorvet on 13 November 1918. Photo: Politimuseet 

6: Election poster for the Social Democrat Party from 1935.  © Kehlet, Danmarks Fotomuseum, Det Kgl. Bibliotek 

7: Uniformed Young Conservatives march outside the main train station in Copenhagen, 1933. Photo: Ritzau Scanpix 

8: Workers from Nationalbanken 1922. Photo: Holger Damgaard, Det Kgl. Bibliotek

9: Painting by Harald Giersing: Fodboldspillere. Sofus header, 1917. Photo: ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum

10: Recruitment poster for the Free Corps Denmark. Photo: Frihedsmuseet, Nationalmuseet

11: Woman and two men lie dead on a street corner in the workers’ district in Copenhagen, 1944. Photo: Frihedsmuseet, Nationalmuseet

Module 8: The Post-War Era, 1945-1973

1: The momnument of the Isted Lion on an American military vehicle in Berlin in October 1945. Photo: Det Kgl. Bibliotek 

2: Danish Foreign Minister Per Hækkerup met with the US President John F. Kennedy, December 1962. Photo: JFK Library

3: Illustration of the northern hemisphere. Illustration: Hans Møller  

4: Pamphlet issued by the Danish Red Stockings (Rødstrømperne) EC group. Source: Kvindehistorisk Samling, Jette Szymanski: 1971-1984 Diverse, A3/3-4, Rigsarkivet   

5: Graph showing Denmark’s GDP from 1815 until 2015. © danmarkshistorien.dk based on figures from Statistics Denmark

6: State-employed home carer (husmoderafløser) Kirstine Vilhelmine Thomsen. Photo: Historisk Arkiv Hjørring 

7: The distribution of taxes as a percentage of GNP, 1948–1990. © danmarkshistorien.dk based on figures from Statistics Denmark

8: Press conference in 1947 with the most prominent post-war Social Democrat politicians. Photo: Allan Moe, Ritzau Scanpix

9: Demonstration against the Vietnam War in Copenhagen in 1969. Photo: Gregers Nielsen, Ritzau Scanpix 

10: Photo of Peter Rindal (1923-2009). Photo: Viggo Landau, Ritzau Scanpix 

11: Eric Danielsen hosted the first TV-Avisen (TV News) on 15 October 1965. Photo: Hakon Nielsen, Ritzau Scanpix

Module 9: Global Times, after 1973

1: Danish prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen in 2017. Photo: Finn Frandsen, Ritzau Scanpix 

2: The new prime minister Poul Schlüter and the outgoing prime minister Anker Jørgensen in 1982. Photo: Erik Petersen, Ritzau Scanpix   

3: Per capita income in Denmark, Holland and Sweden compared with the USA, 1970–2014. © danmarkshistorien.dk baseret på tal fra Danmarks Statistik

4: Mærsk drilling platform in the North Sea. Photo: Claus Fisker, Ritzau Scanpix 

5: Annual development of GDP as a percentage from 2004 to 2018. © danmarkshistorien.dk based on figures from Statistics Denmark

6: The Øresund Bridge, 2014. Photo: Øresundsbron.dk

7: The New Map of Denmark – Planning under New Conditions, 2006. Illustration: Landsplanredegørelsen 2006   

8: Kaj and Andrea in the programme Legestue (Play Room) broadcast by DR from 1969. Photo: DR og Ritzau Scanpix

9: Wedding in Åbyhøj Church, 2012. Photo: Gorm Branderup, Ritzau Scanpix 

10: A peace demonstration in the streets of Aarhus in 1984. Photo: Jens Tønnesen, Aarhus Stadsarkiv

11: Still photo from the news 26 June 1992 of minister of foreign affairs Uffe-Ellemann-Jensen. Photo: Danmarks Radio 

12: Danish referendums on the EC/EU. Illustration: EU-Oplysningen, Folketinget

Development of material

A long list of people have contributed to the development of Aarhus University's Open Online Course in Danish history, which was published by the Department of History and Classical Studies and danmarkshistorien.dk in Danish in 2020 and 2022, and in English in 2023.

Editors: Mary Hilson, Bjørn Poulsen and Thorsten Borring Olesen, Professors at Department of History and Classical Studies, Aarhus University

Image editors: Mette Frisk Jensen and Anne Sørensen, danmarkshistorien.dk, Aarhus University

Editor from Aarhus University Press: Anette Stoffersen

Translation: Sarah Jennings

Overall coordination of digital publishing: Mette Frisk Jensen, danmarkshistorien.dk, Aarhus University

Authors: Søren M. Sindbæk, Bjørn Poulsen, Jeppe Büchert Netterstrøm, Charlotte Appel, Carsten Porskrog Rasmussen, Nina Javette Koefoed, Mette Frisk Jensen, Claus Møller Jørgensen, Bertel Nygaard, Anne Sørensen, Thorsten Borring Olesen, Helle Strandgaard Jensen, all from the Department of History and Classical Studies at Aarhus University

Films: Hans Plauborg, TV-producer, Aarhus University and Astrid Ølgaard Christensen Schriver, danmarkshistorien.dk, Aarhus University

Films: David Kiel and Troels Pedersen, EDU IT Hub, Aarhus University

Website set-up: Maria Nielsen Pedersen and Gustav Emil Ølgaard, Student Assistants at danmarkshistorien.dk, Aarhus University

Web design: Radomir Gluhovic, Communications Adviser at Arts, Aarhus University

Editorial Assistance: Holly Marriott Webb and Ida Svinth-Værge, danmarkshistorien.dk, Aarhus University


The editors wish to thank all of our colleagues at the Department of History, and not only those who contributed to writing the course, but also those who have provided useful input since the very start of the project. Thanks must also go to the historians from other institutions who have provided constructive feedback on the text during the publication process.

Finally, we also owe thanks to a number of supportive administrative and economic actors, without whom the project would have proved impossible. This includes particularly the leadership of our faculty and institute at Aarhus University, and the Spar Nord Foundation. The latter provided us with a very large grant during the project's early phase which was decisive in us being able to realise the course - the very first comprehensive web-based history of Denmark.   


The text of Aarhus University's Open Online Course 'A History of Denmark from the Viking Age to the 21st Century' may be printed, cited and used for non-commercial purposes, when the author and publisher (danmarkshistorien.dk, Aarhus University) are clearly indicated (with an active link for publications online). This means that the text may be used freely for non-commercial purposes such as teaching, research and private use. If you wish to use the material for commercial purposes or publication, please contact the Project Manager of danmarkshistorine.dk, Mette Frisk Jensen.

Some of the image material does not belong to danmarkshistorien.dk, but has been purchased for the purpose. In addition, several rights holders have given permission for the use of illustrations in this context. This permission does not apply to others using the material for publication and/or commercial purposes. Any other use thus requires permission from the original rights holder. Questions regarding rights and use of the material for other purposes (e.g. publication) must be addressed directly to the respective rights holder (author/publisher/archive/photographer etc.).

Information about the illustrations used in the online course and their origin can be found under the 'List of illustrations' tab.

We have sought to track down and obtain permission from all copyright holders for illustrations used. If there are rights holders we have not been able to locate, they are very welcome to contact us so that we can find a solution. If we have infringed copyright in this way, it has happened involuntarily and unintentionally.

A big thank you to the public institutions, photographers and others who have given us permission to reproduce illustrations free of charge. These are, for example, Kongernes Samling, the National Museum, the Royal Library, the National Archives, the National Gallery of Denmark and a number of local archives.

Information about the course

Open Online Course in Danish History: A History of Denmark from the Viking Age to the 21st Century

Edited by Mary Hilson, Bjørn Poulsen and Thorsten Borring Olesen

Aarhus University, danmarkshistorien.dk, 2023

ISBN 978-87-975045-0-5

The books in both Danish and English published by Aarhus University Press

The text from the Online Course in Danish History has also been published as a book by Aarhus University Press in November 2023 with the title 'A History of Denmark from the Viking Age to the 21st Century'. The book originally appeared in Danish as 'En danmarkshistorie - Fra vikingetid til nutid' edited by Thorsten Borring Olesen and Bjørn Poulsen (Aarhus University Press 2021; second edition 2022). Most of the authors are historians based at the Department of History and Classical Studies at Aarhus University, with contributions from Søren M. Sindbæk of the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies, also at Aarhus University, and Carsten Porskrog Rasmussen of Museum Sønderjylland.