Page:Economic Development in Denmark Before and During the World War.djvu/19

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EARLY GERMAN INFLUENCE

to all schools in Denmark. General education had long been at a relatively higher level, and the lower classes in particular had better educational opportunities. The resulting difference between the two countries is perhaps most strikingly illustrated in the respective conditions of their agricultural populations. For a long period Danish agriculturalists learned much from the south, but during the last generation they themselves, in turn, have exerted an influence extending far beyond the boundaries of their country. Well equipped both technically and intellectually, they have created a co-operative movement which has improved agricultural production to a remarkable degree. It is also characteristic that the labour movement, notwithstanding the fact that Denmark acquired her principles of socialism from Marx, Lassalle, and other practical and theoretical German leaders, has developed on saner lines and with greater strength here than in Germany.

Early Condition of the Danish Peasants

Some three hundred years ago a French writer, Pierre d'Avity, in reviewing the living conditions and the character of the natives of various countries, said of the Jutlanders: 'They are a strong people who eat and drink a great deal; they are provident and clever and cling to their own; they are quarrelsome, suspicious, and irascible, and fight stubbornly in defence of their opinions.' If this judgement is true to fact, it is difficult to think of the Danish peasants of that day as members of a cowed and oppressed class, in spite of all the burdens that were imposed upon them.

From the Middle Ages until late in the eighteenth century there was a continuous change to the disadvantage of the peasants. Freeholds gradually disappeared and were replaced by leaseholds. On taking over a patch of land the leaseholder had to pay a premium to the landowner or lord, besides which he had to make a yearly payment called Landgildet (ground-rent), which in most cases was an incommutable