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The Danish urban system pre-1800: a survey of recent research results

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2007

The Danish Centre of Urban History, Institut for Historie og Områdestudier, Aarhus Universitet, 8000 Århus C, Denmark
The Danish National Archives, Landsarkivet for Sjælland, Jagtvej 10, 2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark


In Denmark, the first actual towns can be dated to the eighth and ninth centuries. The establishment of towns became more significant in the eleventh and twelfth centuries in connection with the state-building process, and these towns were distinctly consumer towns serving as administrative, religious and military centres. From 1200 to 1350 Denmark, similar to the German area, underwent considerable urbanization; a large number of market towns were created, and in contrast to the older ones they were mercantile towns. Denmark thus clearly became the most urbanized country in Scandinavia. As Copenhagen grew in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the urban system decisively changed its character in the direction of a primate system. The characteristics of the primate system are particularly distinct within the boundaries of the Kingdom of Denmark, but less pronounced if the entire monarchy is included in the period in which Denmark was a conglomerate state. The institutional conditions must in general be attributed considerable importance in explaining Danish urban development. Thus, Denmark is one of the countries where town privileges were of great significance until the middle of the nineteenth century.

Research Article
© 2006 Cambridge University Press

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