Q. Name of area
Q. Current status:
A nation state
Q. Outline history: describe the historical development of the unit, as it affected its external borders and internal boundaries:
Denmark has had the present external boundaries since 1920. Going back in history Denmark was much larger than today. Denmark consisted of Norway, Scleswig-Holstein, southern part of Sweden and present day Denmark. In 1658 we lost the Southern part of Sweden (Skaane, Halland, Blekinge) which had been Danish until then. In 1814 we lost Norway to Sweden. In 1864 we lost Schleswig -Holstein and the southern part of Jutland to Germany. In 1920 we were reunited with the southern part of Jutland and the borders have not changed since then.
The internal boundaries - that is the internal borders in the geographical area as they are today - have remained rather stable. The units did not change much over time even if the borders changed.
Most of the units that we use today can be found in sources from app. 1000.
It is assumed that the oldest and smallest unit - the parish ('sogn') - was used even before Denmark became Christianised. A parish is defined as an area where all visit and pay to the same church. From the Middle Ages until the Reformation in 1536 did the parish boundaries not change. After the Reformation some of the smallest parishes were abolished and united with into bigger parishes. Due to the wars in the 17th century many churches were plundered and never rebuilt with the result that the parish to that church was abolished. But since 1660 has the parish boundaries remained stable to a very large degree. In the towns some new parishes has been introduced due to the growing number of people in this century.
The district ('herred') is an old unit but its origin is not clear. Possibly it’s a unit that was large enough to equip a certain amount of soldiers and horses. The district normally comprise 5-15 parishes and the districts were most often defined by natural boundaries such as rivers, hills etc. After the reformation in 1536 Denmark was divided into deaneries which were identical with the districts. Over time some differences arose between the two units when used for temporal or clerical purposes. The clerical purpose became the predominant use. The identical area of deaneries and districts was abolished in 1806 when the deaneries and the counties became identical. The districts have been used as the basis for many administrative purposes as e.g. a base unit in the censuses. The use of the districts as they were in 1688 and 1844 is used in the contemporary source entry project for census records.
The county ('amt') is a unit based on the older unit fief. The counties were introduced by law in 1662 and have been changed in 1793 because the counties were very unequal in size and population. The reform of the counties in 1793 has remained rather stable until 1970. Some changes have been made between 1793 and 1970 but care has been taken not to divide a district between two counties. In 1920 when the southern part of Jutland were reunited with Denmark 4 new counties were added. The counties were named after the biggest town in the county.
Q. Describe the MODERN hierarchy of geographical areas used for civil administration:
In 1970 we had a big reform of the administrative hierarchy and now we have only two levels:
(Primary) municipality: 277
Q. How long has this system existed?
The boundaries were introduced in 1970 in a very big reform of the administrative units.
Q. Describe earlier administrative geographies:
See the description of the development of boundaries above.
Q. Can we identify a hierarchy of broadly similar units that exist for all countries?
I am not qualified to comment.
Q. When was the first national census of population carried out?
The first census was carried out in 1769 but only for a very few number of cities does it contain information about individuals. It was an aggregate census. The first census, which has information about all individuals, was carried out in 1787.
Q. Outline the later history of the census. Have censuses been carried out at regular intervals, and if so with what frequency?
Censuses have been carried out in Denmark at a fairly regular interval. Here is the list:
1787, 1801, 1834, 1840, 1845, 1850, 1855, and every fifth year until we stopped having censuses in 1970. From that time everybody have a unique personal id-number. Twice a year since 1970 Statistics Denmark take a 'snapshot' of the database with the census relevant information and save it in the State Archives.
Q. What are the main geographical units used in published reports? Have these changed over time?
The reports have been based on the units mentioned above and followed the administrative changes. It is especially districts and parishes. Fortunately we have had very few changes over time.
Q. Is there access to more detailed unpublished information? If so, what geographical units do these refer to? Here again, have these units changed over time?
It is always possible to use the old accounts from the fiefs - some studies have been made using these sources. See about fiefs above.
There is free access to census records after 80 years. Access can be given to newer censuses if you can explain the reason: e.g. looking for a certain person and you can prove some kind of relationship. It is only possible to look at the records in the State Archives and it is not allowed to make copies.
Q. What publications describe the history of the census, and of census geographies? Are any available in English?
From Statistics Denmark and from its predecessor publications were made based on each census. They began in the 1850'es to make very detailed reports on the censuses.
As far as I know we do not have any publications in English.
Q. When was the recording of vital events (births, marriages and deaths) first required by law?
From 1787 'age' was asked for but not until 1901 was the actual dates for birth and marriage used in the censuses.
Q. What organisation was responsible for recording vital events? How has this changed over time?
Birth, marriage and death are all recorded in the parish registers. All recognised religious communities keep their own registers and give this information to the central administration. If you are not married in the church the marriage is registered by the municipality administration.
Q. What geographical units were used in recording vital events?
District (and parish) is used as the base unit and today everybody still belongs to both a parish and a municipality.
Q. What historical taxation records exist for your area?
We have many taxation records kept in the State Archives. The oldest is from 1231 but from the middle of the 16th Century records are rather complete. It is especially the accounts from the fiefs.
Q. What geographical units do these use?
The fief (and later the counties).
Q. What other major sources exist, and what geographical units do they use?
We have the lists used for recruiting soldiers. They have special geographical units excluding the major towns. These boundaries have been changed in 1788 and in 1870.
We have the land registers from 1688 and 1844.
Q. When was the first computerised map of administrative units created?
In 1981 the project of making a computerised map of the whole of Denmark began and the project was finished in 1984.
Q. What does it show?
Municipalities, counties and all details of roads etc..
Q. How easily is it to obtain a copy?
Everybody is welcome to buy a map of a certain area or the whole country (if you can afoord it). There are two levels of rights: the normal is when you buy a map to use for yourself and the extended right is e.g. when a municipality buys it and distributes it to be used by others. This is more expensive.
Q. Who was responsible for changing boundaries? How has this changed over time?
All boundaries was until 1660 authorised by the king and after 1660 it was the government.
Q. Who was responsible for creating a legal record of boundary changes?
Before 1660 all changes were recorded by the king's administration and published in rescripts.
After 1660 changes can be seen in laws and decrees.
The towns were responsible for their boundaries and changed them according to the growth of the town.
Q. What records have been preserved of boundary changes? Are they published or unpublished? How do they describe the old and new boundaries? How accurately do they give the dates of changes?
Records of all the changes are very well preserved. We have 'Sechers forordninger' ("Sechers orders") from the 16th Century and from a later period we have 'J.H. Skovs rescripts' which covers the next centuries. And from 1849 and onwards the boundary changes can be seen in the published newsletters from the government.
Q. Who was responsible for mapping your area? When was this organisation created?
The department for the Land register did the actual mapping.
Q. When did systematic mapping of boundaries begin?
The first one was from 1688 but the drawing of the maps were made from 1779 and on. At that time there was a land reform and maps were necessary to divide the land among the farmers.
A new version of the land registers was published in 1844. The maps of the towns began in 1863 based on a new measuring and were finished in 1883.
The scale for the towns was 1:800 and for the rest of the country 1:4000.
Q. What maps are available showing boundaries?
'Trap Danmark' has published 5 editions of detailed maps based on the districts but also 'Pontoppidan ' has published maps based on the counties and parishes - published in the 1880'es (?). The 'Trap Danmark' described the boundaries accurately until 1970 when we had the administrative reform.
Q. For periods before maps are available, are there descriptions of boundaries in words? Where are they preserved? How easy are they to interpret?
The oldest source I have heard of is from 1608 when a merchant in writing described the administrative geographical organisation. In the accounts from the fiefs it will also be possible to see the boundaries. The land registers do also have accurate descriptions of the country.
Q. What research projects have gathered information on HISTORICAL boundaries for your area?
Individual researchers are working on specific areas and mapping information and maps. There is not a project for the time being covering the whole country.
Q. What historical gazetteers are available for your area, in published or unpublished form? How do they indicate the location of the places listed? Do they cover variant forms of names?
I'll get some answers to this question later I hope.
Q. Are more specialised geographical thesaurii available?
We have a list of unique numeric code for each parish and town, including numbers for a part of a town when this for practical reason was divided. As it is the case for e.g. Copenhagen.
© Nanna Floor Clausen (May 2000)