The German question

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The German in us all

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Denmark's relationship with the country commonly called Germany" was pivotal for Danish history in the 19th and 20th centuries, and it was the decisive factor in the country's transformation from multinational state to nation state. "Germany", however, is an imprecise term, since no German state existed until the establishment of the German Empire on 1 January 1871.

The struggle for the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein was an essential element in the creation of the nation states of Denmark and Germany. Not until Germany's defeat in World War II, and with the accession of both countries to Nato and the EU did the two neighbours finally become friends.

Until then, the German Question was essential for Danish national identity. The question occupied so much space in the national consciousness that historians long saw Denmark as a country whose existence had been threatened for a thousand years by German" expansion. But the reality was that until 1871 "Germany" only existed as a loose confederation of states.

A multinational kingdom

Until the mid-19th century Denmark was in many ways a part of the German-speaking cultural sphere in northern and central Europe. Many young Danes studied at German universities, and many Germans loyally served the Danish king.

In Copenhagen, where as many as a quarter …

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