Economic Development in Denmark Before and During the World War/Early German Influence in Denmark

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Early German Influence in Denmark

If we look at a map of Europe, we see that the development of Denmark must have been strongly influenced from the south. Had Jutland been separated from Germany by the sea, it is apparent that many political events which contributed to bring about the recent world conflict might have taken another course. But only under primitive conditions do forests and wastes keep neighbouring peoples apart. As populations increase and push forward from all sides, there is a natural interchange of influence. That southern Sleswick, originally Danish, thus became Germanized, is no wonder. German artisans found their way into Denmark and brought with them the customs of their guilds; and the language of Danish artisans to-day is clearly marked by this influence. During the flourishing period of the Hanseatic towns German trade found fertile soil in Denmark, and Danish economic life was in many ways dependent on Hamburg. Moreover, many Germans came to Denmark in official capacities and acquired property here. It is, nevertheless, remarkable that the results, in spite of these influences, were characteristically Danish. At the outbreak of the World War Denmark was in many respects actually ahead of its great southern neighbour, especially as regards social organization. The country had a decidedly democratic constitution, the latest change in which​—​the granting of suffrage to women by the Constitution of June 5, 1915​—​was in reality independent of the great events then agitating the world. That women were admitted into public life in Denmark, first into municipal government, then into parliament, was a quite natural consequence of the general trend of Danish opinion. Long before women were admitted into the universities in Germany they had enjoyed free access 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.