Dannebrog falling from the sky during the Battle of Lindanise with Roskilde-bishop Peder Jacobsen pointing at Dannebrog while informing king Valdemar II of Denmark, by Christian August Lorentzen (1219) Statens Museum for Kunst (CC0)

Medieval Colonialism: The Danish Duchy Of Estonia

Within the pantheon of great empires, the Kingdom of Denmark has received very little attention, yet this small European civilization was one the most enterprising of its day following its unification after the Viking period. As the Danes reached their peak under the stewardship of Valdemar the Great, they began to harbor even grander ambitions of conquest as they sought to expand the frontiers of their newly-unified kingdom. Their territorial desires were helped immensely by the papacy, who at the same time were appealing to the warriors of Christendom to set aside their differences to slaughter and extinguish all traces of pagan evil in the form of a crusade.

Instead of Jerusalem, where the majority of crusaders set out on their divine quests, the Danes looked to the Baltics in the east of Europe where a considerable infidel population still existed. To the rallying calls of Christian jihad, the Danes would establish Estonia as one of their first colonies. But as they ruled over this distant province between 1219 and 1346, many of the same problems experienced by the later colonial powers of the 19th and 20th centuries would arise, and, unfortunately for the Danes, many of the same disastrous solutions would also be attempted.

Contemporary illustration of King Canute, c.995-1035. Illuminated manuscript, Liber Vitae (1031) The British Library. (Public Domain)

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