The cradle of democracy


From absolute monarchy to parliamentarism

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Starting in the 1830s and until 1915, three decisive changes were implemented that were crucial for the development of democracy in Denmark. Citizens were given a legislature, the right to vote was expanded from just a small percentage of the population to nearly all adults and the introduction of a parliamentary system gave the legislature a say in the formation of the government and voters a voice in politics.

Democracy, it is popularly held, was born in Athens in the fifth century BC and spread to the rest of Europe and the world. When democracy reached Denmark is a matter of debate. Some argue that democracy in Denmark developed organically during the time of the Vikings, others that democracy took root only under the international pressures of the post-war world. Most, though, consider the adoption of the Constitution on 5 June 1849 as the birth of democracy. Democratisation, however, started a number of decades before and continued for a number of decades after. Not until then could Denmark be considered a democracy in the modern sense.

From assembly to absolutism
The Vikings created various forms of assemblies to discuss matters of common interest, pass judgement, make decisions and elect kings. Far from democratic, the assemblies may have laid the foundation for a democratic culture that emphasised arguing one’s case. During the Middle Ages, power…

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