Page:Economic Development in Denmark Before and During the World War.djvu/28

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
12
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN DENMARK

revolts. But in spite of dissatisfaction and revolt the conviction persisted that every man must remain in the class into which he was born. In the same way it was an idea inherited from the Middle Ages that the conditions in which an artisan or peasant lived must also be satisfactory to his children and his children's children.

During the developments of the nineteenth century all this necessarily changed. On the one hand, numerous intermediate stages arose which made it possible for a successful peasant or citizen to rise from the lowest class to the highest. Any member of the lower classes might have 'a marshal's baton in his knapsack'. Unfortunately, however, there were only a few marshals' posts, and the many who were left in the lower classes quite naturally began to compare their condition with that of their successful brethren who had risen to higher positions. The distinction between the citizen, the peasant, and the noble was superseded by the distinction between the poor and rich. It was the good fortune of Denmark that the sharpness of this distinction was somewhat dulled by various favouring circumstances.

Great landowners, as has been said before, did not occupy at all the same position in Denmark as in many other countries; even to-day the two thousand great farms comprise only one-sixth of the Hartkorn (the Danish unit of land-tax). Nor have our large manufacturers had such chances for outgrowing the swaddling-clothes of handicraft as have those of other countries. Moreover, education in Denmark was at a comparatively early time so far advanced that class distinctions were thereby largely removed. It is well known that at a certain stage in the social-economic development of a country strong demands are made for the education of the lower classes, many thinkers considering it the most important social problem to be dealt with. Its solution was not everywhere so successful as it was in Denmark, where education was made compulsory as early as 1739. But in many places the quality of the instruction was poor. In