Denmark Essay

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This northern European  country  has  a population of around  5.5 million (2007), and has a land border with Germany, but has always had close contact with Sweden. Historically, Denmark was one of the major powers in Scandinavia, where it controlled, at times, modern-day  Norway (until 1814, then ruled by Sweden until 1905) and Iceland (until 1944). It still controls the Faeroe Islands and Greenland making it, technically, the second largest country in Europe.

In the  Middle Ages, Denmark  was the  center  of a large trading  network.  Copenhagen,  on the island of Jutland, emerged  as a major port,  and there  was a great  concentration of traders  and  wealth.  As a result, with the start of European colonial expansion to Africa and the Americas, Danes started taking part in the slave trade, establishing forts in West Africa, in modern-day Ghana, and also taking over three Caribbean  islands,  which  became  known  as the  Danish West Indies (modern-day  U.S. Virgin Islands). There was also extensive trade  with India, and the Danish East India Company was founded in 1614 (dissolved in 1729). Denmark was to lose its possessions in West Africa with the  rise of British maritime  power, but held  onto  the  Danish  West  Indies—major  producers of sugar—until 1917, when it sold the islands—St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John—to the United States for $25 million.

Denmark  remained  neutral  in the  Crimean  War and in World  War I, emerging as a major producer and exporter  of dairy products,  biscuits, chocolates, and  fish products.  Its neutral  status  in most  European  conflicts allowed it to establish  contacts  with some countries anxious not to get entangled in European politics, with Danes training the Siamese (Thai) police force. The East Asiatic Company, founded  in 1897, also developed into becoming agents for many European  products  in east Asia and southeast  Asia, taking  its lead from  the  business  Andersen  & Co., which had been operating  in Bangkok, Siam (Thailand) from 1884.

The Nazi Occupation  of Denmark from 1940 until 1945 left the economy of the country badly damaged, although  because  there  was little  fighting  in  Denmark, the infrastructure was not damaged as much as in most other European countries. With high rates of literacy in Denmark,  the country  emerged from the war as a small but significant economic  power, but one which was fiercely independent. Denmark joined the European Economic Community, the precursor to the European Union (EU), in 1973, and in a referendum held in September 2000 rejected a closer monetary union. In spite of this, and occasional opinion polls published showing dislike of some EU policies, the Danish governments  have committed  themselves to remaining in the EU, especially since its expansion into the Baltic.

Some 76 percent  of the workforce are in the services sector, and produce 74 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), with 21 percent working in industry contributing 24 percent to the nation’s GDP. Only 3 percent work in agriculture, and in spite of the continued  reputation of Danish dairy products and bacon, this provides only 2 percent of Denmark’s GDP. In terms of its balance of payments, Denmark generally runs  a surplus, with exports  being mainly machinery  and  instruments, meat,  meat  products, dairy products,  fish, chemicals, furniture,  and ships and shipping equipment.  In addition,  Denmark  has harnessed wind power and exports wind technology, including  windmills.  Lego has  been  a major  Danish export,  as have been other  toys and playground equipment. Major imports include machinery, raw materials, and semi-manufactures for Denmark’s industry,  chemicals,  grain  and  foodstuffs, and  consumer  products.  Some 17 percent  of exports  go to Germany, which makes up 23 percent of its imports. Sweden also contributes much to bilateral trade, with many exports  to the United  Kingdom, and imports from the Netherlands.


  1. “Denmark, Immigration   and  the  EU— Hoist  by Its Own  Policy,” Economist (v.388/8593, 2008);
  2. The Europa Year Book (Europa Publications,  2008);
  3. Ole Feldbaek, India Trade under Danish Rule 1772–1808: European Enterprise and Anglo-Indian Remittance and Trade (Studentlitteratur, 1969);
  4. Palle Lauring, A History of Denmark (Dorset  Press,  1991);
  5. Anders Ølgaard,  The Danish Economy (Commission  of the European  Communities, 1980);
  6. Harald Westergaard, Economic Development in Denmark Before and During the World War (Humphrey Milford, 1922);
  7. Paul Westphall, The East Asiatic Company Limited (East Asiatic Company, 1972).

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