Module 4: Reformation and Power State, 1523–1660

By Charlotte Appel, PhD, Associate Professor, and Carsten Porskrog Rasmussen, PhD, Honorary Professor, Aarhus University

The period 1523–1660 began with political, religious and social unrest in connection with the Reformation movement and the civil war known as the Count’s Feud. With the instalment of a new Lutheran church from 1536–1537, however, the king became leader of an independent Danish Church, which strengthened his power both politically and economically. Lutheran pastors became royal officials and the population now had to be educated according to Luther’s teachings. At the same time, the nobility succeeded in expanding its position as the kingdom’s undisputed elite, aided by generally favourable economic conditions until around 1640. Periods of upturn, however, were transformed into periods of downturn and crisis over the course of the seventeenth century. Denmark was involved in a number of wars that led not only to death and destruction but also to an explosion in state spending, and thus an increased tax burden in times of war and peace alike. The result of this was the so-called ‘military-fiscal state’. At the end of the period, large parts of the realm had to be ceded to Sweden, and a coup d’état paved the way for the introduction of absolute monarchy.

Watch an introductory film for this module in which Charlotte Appel presents a series of key developments that took place from 1523-1660. The film is in Danish with English subtitles, and lasts about nine minutes. Click 'CC' and choose 'English' or 'Dansk' for subtitles.