World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Danish ethnic group

Article Id: WHEBN0022479029
Reproduction Date:

Title: Danish ethnic group  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Waffen-SS, Saltholm, Boho, County Fermanagh, CariDee English, Kølig Kaj, List of Danish punk bands, Amdi Petersens Armé E.P., Hjertestop, Georgios Sinas, Julia Butschkow
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Danish ethnic group

This article is about Danes as a nation and ethnic group. For Information about the Iron Age Germanic tribe, see Danes (Germanic tribe). For information about residents or nationals of Denmark, see demographics of Denmark.
Sweyn Forkbeard
Peter SchmeichelSøren KierkegaardTycho BraheKaren Blixen
Total population
c. 5,602,628[1]
Q1 2013 census
Regions with significant populations
 Denmark 4,996,980[2]
 United States 1,430,897[3]
 Canada 200,035[4]
 Brazil 140,000
 Norway 52,510[5]
 Australia 50,413[6]
 Germany 50,000[7]
 Sweden 42,602[8]
 Argentina 13,000[9]
 United Kingdom 18,493 (Danish born only)[10]
 Spain 8,944[11]
 France 7,000[12]
  Switzerland 4.251[13]
 New Zealand 3,507[14]
 Faroe Islands 2,956
 Iceland 2,802[15]
 Ireland 809[16]
 Austria 806[17]
 Japan 500[18]
 Lebanon 400[19]


Related languages include Norwegian, Swedish, Faroese, Icelandic, and to a lesser extent, all Germanic languages.
Predominantly Lutheran
See Religion in Denmark

The terms Danes (Danish: danskere) and Danish people refer to the nation and ethnic group that is native to Denmark, and who speak Danish.

The first mention of Danes within the Danish territory is on the Jelling Rune Stone which mentions how Harald Bluetooth converted the Danes to Christianity in the 10th century.[20] Denmark has been continuously inhabited since this period and although much cultural and ethnic influence and immigration from all over the world has entered Denmark since then, Danes tend to see themselves as ethnic descendents of the early Danes mentioned in the sources.

Since the formulation of a Danish national identity in the 19th century the defining criteria for being Danish has been speaking the Danish language and identifying with Denmark as a homeland. Danish national identity was built on a basis of peasant culture and Lutheran theology, theologian N. F. S. Grundtvig and his popular movement played a prominent part in the process.[21]

Today the main criterion for being considered a Dane is having Danish citizenship, although also people with a Danish ancestral or ethnic identity, living outside of Denmark such as emigrants, descendants of emigrants or members of the Danish ethnic minority in Southern Schleswig, can be considered Danes under a wider definition taking into consideration cultural self-identification.


The first mentions of "Danes" are recorded in the mid 6th century by historians Procopius (Greek: δάνοι) and Jordanes (danī), who both refer to a tribe related to the Suetidi and which inhabited the peninsula of Jutland, the province of Scania and the isles in between. Frankish annalists of the 8th century often refer to Danish kings. The Bobbio Orosius distinguishes between South Danes inhabiting Jutland and North Danes inhabiting the isles and the province of Scania.

The first mention of Danes within the Danish territory is on the Jelling Rune Stone which mentions how Harald Bluetooth converted the Danes to Christianity in the 10th century.[20] Between c. 960 and the early 980s, Harald Bluetooth established a kingdom in the lands of the Danes which stretched from Jutland to Skåne. Around the same time, he received a visit from a German missionary who, according to legend,[22] survived an ordeal by fire, which convinced Harold to convert to Christianity.

In the following years saw the Danish Viking expansion, which incorporated Norway and Northern England into the Danish kingdom. After the death of Canute the Great in 1035, England broke away from Danish control and Denmark fell into disarray for some time. Vikings from Norway raided Denmark sporadically. Canute's nephew Sweyn Estridson (1020–74) re-established strong royal Danish authority and built a good relationship with the archbishop of Bremen — at that time the Archbishop of all of Scandinavia.

The Reformation, which originated in the German lands in the early 16th century from the ideas of Martin Luther (1483–1546), had a considerable impact on Denmark. The Danish Reformation started in the mid-1520s. Some Danes wanted access to the Bible in their own language. In 1524 Hans Mikkelsen and Christiern Pedersen translated the New Testament into Danish; it became an instant best-seller. Those who had traveled to Wittenberg in Saxony and come under the influence of the teachings of Luther and his associates included Hans Tausen, a Danish monk in the Order of St John Hospitallers. The Dano-Norwegian Kingdom grew wealthy during the 16th century, largely because of the increased traffic through the Øresund, which Danes could tax because Denmark controlled both sides of the Sound. After a failed war with Sweden, the Treaty of Roskilde in 1658 removed the areas of on the Scandinavian peninsula from Danish control, thus establishing the boundaries between Norway, Denmark, and Sweden that still exist today. In the centuries after this loss of territory the populations of the Scanian lands, who had previously been considered Danes, came to be fully considered Swedes. Later in the early 19th century Denmark suffered a defeat in the Napoleonic wars Denmark lost control over Norway and territories in what is now Northern Germany. The political and economic defeat ironically sparked what is known as the Danish golden age in which a Danish national identity first came to be fully formed.The Danish liberal and national movements gained momentum in the 1830s, and after the European revolutions of 1848 Denmark became a constitutional monarchy on June 5, 1849. The growing bourgeoisie had demanded a share in government, and in an attempt to avert the sort of bloody revolution occurring elsewhere in Europe, Frederick VII gave in to the demands of the citizens. A new constitution emerged, separating the powers and granting the franchise to all adult males, as well as freedom of the press, religion, and association. The king became head of the executive branch.


Danishness (danskhed) is the concept on which contemporary Danish national and ethnic identity is based. It is a set of values formed through the historic trajectory of the formation of the Danish nation. The ideology of Danishness emphasises the notion of historical connection between the population and the territory of Denmark and the relation between the 1000-year old Danish monarchy and the modern Danish state, the 19th century national romantic idea of "the people" (folk), a view of Danish society as homogeneous and socially egalitarian as well as strong cultural ties to other Scandinavian nations.[23]

Importantly, since its formulation Danish identity has not been linked to a particular racial or biological heritage, as many other ethno-national identities have. Grundtvig for example emphasised the Danish language and the emotional relation to and identification with the nation of Denmark as the defining criteria of Danishness. This cultural definition of ethnicity has been suggested to be one of the reasons that Denmark was able to integrate their earliest ethnic minorities of Jewish and Polish origins into the Danish ethnic group. Jewishness for example was not seen as being incompatible with a Danish ethnic identity as long as the most important cultural practices and ideologies were shared. This inclusive ethnicity has in turn been described as the background for the relative lack of virulent anti-semitism in Denmark and the rescue of the Danish Jews[24]

This ideology of Danishness has been politically important in the formulation of Danish political relations with the EU, which has been met with considerable resistance in the Danish population, and in recent reactions in the Danish public to the increasing influence of immigration.[25][26]


According to the Danish statistics institute, approximately five million people of Danish origin live in Denmark today. In this context "Danish origin" is defined as being born to parents who are Danish citizens, and the number is arrived at by subtracting from the total population (5,564,249) those who are born abroad to non-citizens who are themselves born abroad (called immigrants), and those who are born in Denmark to parents who are either immigrants or who have foreign citizenship.[2]

Danish citizenship is granted to anyone who has one parent of Danish citizenship, whether the child is born in or outside of Denmark. Citizens of Greenland and the Faroe islands are considered Danish citizens for all purposes. Those who do not achieve Danish citizenship by birth (or by Adoption) can only receive Danish citizenship through decree of law. Danish citizenship is automatically lost if one applies for foreign citizenship or when a 22 year old child of Danish citizens has never lived in Denmark and has not formally applied for Danish citizenship.

Danish diaspora

Danish diaspora consists of emigrants and their descendants, especially those that maintain some of the customs of their Danish culture. A minority of approx. 50,000 Danish-identifying German citizens live in Southern Schleswig in Germany, a former Danish territory, forming around 10% of the local population. In Denmark, the latter group is often referred to as "Danes south of the border" (De danske syd for grænsen), the "Danish-minded" (De Dansksindede) or simply "South Schleswigers". Due to immigration there are considerable populations with Danish roots outside of Denmark in countries such as USA, Brazil, Canada and Argentina.

Danish Americans (Dansk-amerikanere) are Americans of Danish descent. There are approximately 1,500,000 Americans of Danish origin or descent. Most Danish-Americans live in the Western United States or the Midwestern United States. California has the largest population of people of Danish descent in the United States.[27] Notable Danish communities in the United States are located in Solvang, California and Racine, Wisconsin, but these populations are not considered to be Danes for official purposes by the Danish state, and heritage alone can not be used to claim Danish citizenship, as it can in some European nations (see below).

According to the 2006 Census, there were 200,035 Canadians with Danish background, 17,650 of whom were born in Denmark.[28][29] Canada became an important destination for the Danes during the post war period. At one point, a Canadian immigration office was to be set up in Copenhagen.[30]

The Danish nation in a political context

Det danske folk (The Danish people) as a concept, played an important role in 19th century ethnic nationalism and refers to self-identification rather than a legal status. Use of the term is most often restricted to a historical context; the historic German-Danish struggle regarding the status of the Duchy of Schleswig vis-à-vis a Danish nation-state. It describes people of Danish nationality, both in Denmark and elsewhere. Most importantly, ethnic Danes in both Denmark proper and the former Danish Duchy of Schleswig. Excluded from this definition are people from the formerly Norwegian Faroe Islands and Greenland as well as members of the German minority as well as members of other ethnic minorities.

The term should not be confused with the legal concept of nationality, danske statsborgere (Danish nationals) i.e. individuals holding Danish citizenship.

See also

Denmark portal


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.