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Danes in Britain and in Denmark

Even as a child in America, I had heard about the Danes arriving in England. They came summer after summer, plundering monasteries and farms. Around AD 850 they came bent on conquest, invading and settling Anglo-Saxon eastern England north of the Thames, which came to be known as the Danelaw. (These Danes were distantly related to the Anglo-Saxons, Jutes from Denmark having come centuries earlier, and merged with Angles and Saxons.) Danes made incursions south, and west as far as Wales, plundering and burning. They were sometimes bought off with gleaming Danegeld, and often, not.


Alfred the Great and his Anglo-Saxons defeated the Danes at Ashdown – the story is here – and made them peaceful citizens in his kingdom. It may not seem important now that he did, but according to Churchill, “If the West Saxons had been beaten all England would have sunk into. . .anarchy.” To try to live in an anarchy is extremely unpleasant. Alfred managed to preserve Christianity, Anglo-Saxon culture, and the rule of just law. Again, this may not seem important, but they were rather crucial to the creation of justice and freedom in Britain.

The Danes who stayed home became Christian in the 10th century. During the cartoon crisis, you probably saw the Danish flag, a white cross on a red ground. In the early 11th century, Canute, a king famously unmoved by the flattery of courtiers, united Denmark, England and Norway for almost 30 years.

With all these connections between the British and Danish people, it's interesting to read in Powerline that Denmark has

“resisted, perhaps more than any other country, the imperial designs of the European Union. . . .Danish membership is subject to various caveats and exemptions from common social mandates and defense cooperation requirements. The Danes have not been asked to vote on the European Constitution because there has been little reason to believe they would ratify that monstrous document. Meanwhile, the Danish Constitution sagely requires that treaty obligations of this type be put to a popular referendum.

"The Danes have also held the line on immigration. Immigrants comprise only five percent of the population. Few Danes want that percentage to increase, so the government has enacted some of the strictest anti-immigration laws in Europe. Denmark also requires its immigrants to learn Danish."

According to UNESCO and the CIA – and you could hardly find two more disparate sources – Denmark is the happiest nation on earth.

I wonder how they define happiness – it is a word with a range of meanings. Perhaps, unlike those Danes who went to Britain long ago, they prefer a more settled life, with less change.