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

By Claus Møller Jørgensen, PhD, Associate Professor, Aarhus University

From the middle of the nineteenth century, the absolutist composite state was dissolved as a result of two opposing political-national movements, which led to the First Schleswig War in 1848–1850 and the Second Schleswig War in 1864. In 1849, Denmark gained a free constitution and, after its military defeat in 1864, it became a nation state. Political development in the country was then characterised by the emergence of political parties and oppositions between Right and Left. At the same time, agricultural modernisation and industrialisation took place, organised around the co-operative movement; after 1870 industrialisation occurred in urban areas, supported by investment banks. During this period, there were huge differences in living conditions for the various classes in the towns and countryside, and an increasing proportion of the population settled in urban areas, where a working class began to develop. Poverty was widespread, but the middle classes in particular – the landowning farmers in the countryside and the wealthier middle class in the towns – experienced material progress. The century was characterised by both social differentiation and national integration, where people from different standpoints all identified as Danish.

Watch this introduction to the module where Claus Møller Jørgensen discusses a series of key points for the period 1814-1914. The film is in Danish with English subtitles, and lasts about eight minutes. Click 'CC' and choose 'English' or 'Danish' for subtitles.