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Denmark Norway
First posted on March 24th 2002, last revised on December 9th 2013

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960-1261 . 1261-1500 . 1500-1721 . 1721-1815 . 1815-1912 . 1912-1939 . 1939-1945 . 1945-1969 . 1969-1990 . since 1990
see also History of Denmark, History of Norway

Greenland is said to have been discovered in the 10th century by Viking sailors from Iceland; in 986, Eric the Red, fleeing from Iceland, settled on Greenland's western coast, establishing a Viking settlement colony consisting of three village settlements, that was to last into the late 15th century.
The Greenland Vikings, finding a lack of essential raw materials such as timber on their island, ventured further south; the Greenland Saga reports on their discoveries (Leif Ericsson) and attempted settlement, excavated at L'Anse-aux-Meadows on the northern tip of Newfoundland. However, this settlement was of short duration.
Greenland was christianized (under pressure from Norway) and a bishopric was established with seat in Gardar in the central settlement (c.1125). In 1261 the island community accepted Norwegian sovereignty; at that time the population of Greenland Vikings was about 3,000.

In 1261 Greenland recognized the sovereignty of the King of Norway. The country had long been dependent on supplies channeled via the western Norwegian port city of Bergen; ecclesiastically, the bishopric of Greenland was placed under the archbishop of Nidaros (Drontheim) in Norway. From 1261 onward, Greenland was regarded a Norwegian sideland.
During the 14th century, the climate took a turn for the worse. As Norway herself was severely hit by the plague, concern for the remote settlement colony decreased; communication between Greenland and Norway became first irregular and then a rare occasion; for the island community, which so heavily depended on the arrival of supplies from Norway, this had a devastating effect.
In order to maintain their fleet, the Greenlanders had to sail southward to Labrador (Markland) and cut timber. In the 14th century, seemingly the Greenlanders were no longer able to do so, as their ships were so deteriorated that they could not sail out. This marked the beginning of the end. The western (= northern) settlement fell in the middle of the 14th century to an Innuit attack; the eastern (= southern) settlement is believed to have held out until c. 1490, when it finally subdued, too. The Viking population of Greenland was extinguished.

Some time during the late 15th century the Viking population of Greenland succumbed to a combination of a climate which had turned colder, communication with Norway having broken down, diseases and attacks by the Innuit.
When the new world was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492, the Greenland (-Vinland) connection had been forgotten.
A small population of Innuit, spread over a long coastal stretch, lived of fishing and hunting, self-sufficient and practically without contact to the outside world, as well as unaffected by 'civilization'.
This changed when a new generation of discoverers, such as Henry Hudson, reached Greenland en route to what they believed to be the Northwest Passage. In 1652 the Danish (and Norwegian) monarch, recalling that as successor of the Viking kings of Norway he had a xlaim on the entire island, sent out an expedition under Dannels. While the Danes did not repeat the Viking attempt to settle, they found Greenland an area where fur, a valuable commodity, could be acquired.

In 1720, Greenland (at that time only a Danish claim) was administratively merged with the Faroe Islands to form a united province, headed by a governor. In 1776 Greenland was separated from the Faroes.
Since 1652, the Danish monarchs had shown their interest in the island which centuries ago used to be a Norwegian colony. In 1721, Hans Egede, the "apostle of the Eskimos", began converting Greenlanders to the Lutheran belief. Missionary work was accompanied by economic enterprises, i.e. the establishment of trading factories at Christianehaab (1734), Jacobshavn (1741), Frederikshaab (1742). The Danish merchants were mainly interested in acquiring fur of seals etc., ivory and other natural products. The waters off Greenland also proved rich fishing and whaling grounds.
In 1775 the government established a monopoly over the Greenland trade, granted to the Royal Greenland Trade Company (property of the Danish state), which simultaneously was given the task of administrating the province.

Greenland was a Danish province with a small population spread over a vast area. The Danish government treated ex- and import as a state monopoly. It also supported the work of Lutheran and other missionaries. The province was administered by the state-owned Royal Greenland Trade Company. Most of the settlements were located along the western coast, which was relatively well explored; the 19th century saw expeditions exploring the uninhabited regions of the eastern coast and the interior.
Greenland had been given separate superintendentships in 1857. In 1908 two Greenlandic county councils were established, one for the north and one for the south. The administration was entirely in the hands of the Danes. In 1912 the Danish government took over from the Royal Greenland Trading Company.
Greenland's main exports at the turn of the century were fur (of polar bears, seals, polar foxes), duck feathers, minerals.

In 1814 when Denmark ceded the sovereignty over Norway to Sweden, the Danes kept the northern Atlantic island possessions of Greenland, Iceland and the Faroes - which actually had beeb old Norwegian sidelands (dependencies). The Danish administration in fact covered only the settled areas of Greenland, on the island's southwestern coast.
In 1925 an administrative reform elevated Greenland's two superintendentures into separate provinces, with a governor each.
Norway, one of the most active nations in Arctic exploration (Amundsen, Nansen), saw Greenland as one of the last frontiers. Norway , independent only since 1905, regarded Greenland as ancient Norwegian possession and did not recognize Danish sovereignty over the uninhabited stretches of the island. Vidkun Quisling, minister of defense 1931-1933, ordered Norway's navy to occupy uninhabited eastern Greenland in 1931. The occupied stretch, called Eirik Raudes Land, lay hundredds of kilometers distant from Danish-held, inhabited Greenland; Norway proclaimed annexation of the stretch on July 12th 1932.
The conflict was brought before the International Court of Justice in the Hague, which, in 1933, decided in favour of Denmark, a decision Norway accepted.
In 1935 a scientific expedition established the settlement of Thule in northwestern Greenland, for which separate stamps were issued. In 1937 Denmark took the Thule region under its administration, and these stamps seized to be used; the Danish administration, by these incidents, had been occasioned to establish posts in remote regions to ensure international recognition of its sovereignty.

In 1939, at the outbreak of World War II, Denmark declared neutrality.
On April 9th 1940, German troops invaded Denmark and Norway, without a previous declaration of war (Operation Weserübung). Denmark surrendered without offering resistance. The royal familt remained in Kopenhagen; the Danish government had to cooperate with the German military authorities.
For Greenland this meant that it's government now was leaning toward the Axis powers. The USA was not willing to accept this; on April 9th 1941 Greenland was occupied by U.S. troops (in agreement with the Danish minister in Washington); the U.S. established an airbase in unpopulated northwestern Greenland. Greenland's ties to Denmark were for the remaining war years 'on ice'.

In 1951 the US and Denmark signed a treaty providing the legal basis for continued presence of US troops on Greenland.
In the 1950es and 1960es, Danish politicians were concerned to provide basic services such as modern medical service and schooling to Greenland's population. In order to facilitate this, they concentrated the population (hitherto spread over numerous small villages) into a number of larger settlements. As many Greenlanders had great difficulty in adapting to city life, as they lost their fishing grounds and often did not find a suitable job, new social problems arose, the gravest being unemployment.
Another well-intended measure gone wrong was the removal of Greenlands historical documents intended to be stored in the State Archive in Copenhagen (where they have better facilities to preserve documents). The plane transporting the documents crashed into the sea.

When Denmark joined the EEC in 1973, Greenland was included. In 1979, Greenland achieved political autonomy (home rule). The country was renamed into Kalaatlit Nunaat - Greenland, Innuit and Danish both being official languages. In 1985, Greenland decided to leave the European Union, the only country to do so so far.
The large country with a population of merely 60,000 now has a (tiny) university, established in 1987.

since 1990
An Inuit campaign to get Thule airbase closed and to have Inuit resettle their ancestral lands there failed fo far. The US (which uses Thule airbase) and Denmark in 2004 signed an agreement on the modernization of Thule airbase.
Greenland is affected by global warming; the inland glacier recedes.

Historical Atlas, Greenland Page

Narrative . References : ONLINE SECONDARY SOURCES . Online Primary Sources . Bibliographic and Print Sources

Country Profiles . Links . Organizations . Accounts of History . Politics . Military History . Economic History . Social History . Ethnography
History of Religion . Regional History . Local History . Institutions . Culture . Biography . Environmental History . Others
Country Profiles modern from CIA World Factbook; BBC Country Profiles; from Wikipedia
historical I. de la Peyrere (1594-1676), Relation du groenland, IA
H. Egede (1686-1758), A Description of Greenland, 1818, IA
H. Rink, Danish Greenland, its people and its products, 1877, IA
Links General from Larry's Grenland Picture Book
on History
Historical Dictionaries
Timelines from timelines.ws, from BBC News
Accounts of History General, Modern Greenland : Recent History, from Randburg
Main Events in Greenland History, from Greenland Home Rule
Article : History of Greenland, from Wikipedia
General, Historical D. Cranz, The History of Greenland, vol.1 1767, IA, vol.2 1767, IA
J. Nicoll, An historical and descriptive account of Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands, 1840, IA
Specific Periods A. Slack, Why did Norse Greenland fail as a colony ?, York Medieval Yearbook, ISSUE No. 1, (2002)
T.H. McGovern, Cows, Harp Seals, and Churchbells: Adaptation and Extinction in Norse Greenland, Human Ecology, Vol. 8:3 (1980)
M.K. Poppel et al., The political development in Greenland. Greenland from Colony - to Home Rule Government - to Self Government
Politics Political Resources on the Net : Greenland
Article Politics of Greenland, from Wikipedia
Economy & Finances A Global History of Currencies : Greenland
G.R. Scott et al., Tooth-tool Use and Yarn Production in Norse Greenland, Alaska Journal of Anthropology: vol. 6, no. 1 & 2 (2008) 253
L. Fransen et al., Medieval Garments Reconstructed: Norse Clothing Patterns 2012
W.G. Mattox, Fishing in West Greenland 1910-1966 : the development of a new native industry, thesis McGill 1971
E.D. Meinild, Before the Bonanza: Hydrocarbons in Greenland, thesis Bergen 2010
C. Smits, Governance of oil, gas and mining development in Greenland and the Arctic, thesis Wageningen 2012
Social History Greenland's Viking settlers gorged on seals, Medievalists.Net 2012
Ethnography Languages of Greenland (2), from Ethnologue
C.R. Markham, On the Origin and Migrations of the Greenland Esquimaux, Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 35 1865, IA
A. Venovcevs, North America's First Contact: Norse-Inuit Relations 2010
K.J. Shypski, The North Pole Controversy of 1909 and the Treatment of the Greenland Inuit People: An Historical Perspective, thesis Buffalo State 2011
E.A. Pierce, Identity at the far edge of the earth: an examination of cultural identity manifested in the material culture of the North Atlantic, c. 1150-1450, thesis Glasgow 2011
Religion Chronology of Catholic Dioceses : Greenland, from Kirken i Norge
L.M. Larson, The Church in North America (Greenland) in the Middle Ages, The Catholic Historical Review 5, 1919, IA
E. Beauvois, Origines et fondation du plus ancien évêché du Nouveau monde : le diocèse de Gardhs en Groenland : 986-1126 1878, IA
W. Oliphant, The Moravians in Greenland 1839, IA
A. Umbrich, Early Religious Practice in Norse Greenland: From the Period of Settlement to the 12th Century, thesis Univ. of Iceland 2012
Local History Article Nuuk (Godthåb), from Wikipedia
C.L. Giesecke, On the Norwegian Settlements on the Eastern Coast of Greenland, or Osterbygd, and Their Situation, The Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy 1825, IA
C.S. Francis, The Lost Western Settlement of Greenland, 1342, thesis California State Sacramento 2011
C. Keller, The Eastern Settlement Reconsidered. Some analyses of Norse Medieval Greenland , thesis Islo 1989
Institutions Greenland, from Airline History
Structurae : Greenland
Culture The Cultural History of Greenland, from Sila
Biographies List of Greenlanders, from Wikipedia (one entry)
Environmental History T.C. Chamberlin, Former Extension of Greenland Glaciers, Science 5 1897, IA
A.J. Dugmore et al., Norse Greenland Settlement: Reflections on Climate Change, Trade, and The Contrasting Fates of Human Settlements in the North Atlantic Islands, Arctic Anthropology, Vol. 44, No. 1 (2007)
T.W.N. Haine, Greenland Norse Knowledge of the North Atlantic Environment, 2009
Vikings not alone when they crossed the North Atlantic - mice hitched a ride too, Medievalists.Net 2012
T. Kobashi, Greenland temperature, climate change, and human society during the last 11,600 years , thesis Univ. of California San Diego 2007
N. Hayashi, Cultivating Place, Livelihood, and the Future : An Ethnography of Dwelling and Climate in Western Greenland, thesis Univ. of Alberta 2013

Historical Data . Statistical Data . Documents Newspapers . Yearbooks . Image Databanks . Archival Deposits . Laws . Historiography
Document Collections . Historical Maps . Historical Encyclopedia Articles . Travelogues . Institutions . National Symbols
Historical Data Lists of Statesmen from World Statesmen (B. Cahoon); from Rulers (B. Schemmel); from Regnal Chronologies
Statistical Data Population Figures Historical Population Statistics : Bulgaria, from Population Statistics, Univ. Utrecht
Historical Abortion Statistics - Greenland, from Johnston's Archive
Election Results from Psephos (since 2002); from IFES Election Archive (since 1999)
Documents Historical Newspapers Timarit, Icelandic Server of Historical Newspapers (also for Greenland, Faroe Islands, 1773-2001)
Historic Newspaper Articles The History of Greenland, from World History Archives
Life Magazine, 1936-1972, Search for "Greenland", search all issues; 536 Greenland articles, GB
Modern Newspapers Greenland Newspaper & Media Guide, from ABYZ News Links
Online Yearbooks International,
Greenland Entries
Image Databanks Europeana
Wikimedia Commons
License Plates, from Francoplaque, from License Plates of the World
Airline Timetable Images : Greenland
Archival Deposits
Cartularia Diplomatarium Norvegicum Online (1050-1590)
Diplomatarium Norvegicum, vol.1 pt.1, 1847, vol.1, 1849, vol.2, 1852, vol.3 pt.1, 1853, vol.3, 1855, vol.4 pt.1, 1857, vol.4 pt.2, 1858, vol.5 pt.1, 1860, vol.5 pt.2, 1861, vol.6 pt.1, 1863, vol.7 pt.1, 1863, vol.7 pt.2, 1864, in Latin, GB
Specimen diplomatarii norvagici, exhibentis monumenta diplomatica ..., 1828, in Latin, GB
Regesta Norvegica Online
Diplomatarium Arna-Magnaeanum vol.1, 1786, vol.2, 1786, in Latin, GB
Diplomatarium Danicum
Documents on Danish History, from Eurodocs; Skræp, from Nomos, in Danish, numerous sources, many in excerpt
Dokumentation, from Plads til os alle, Danish language site
Documents on Danish Naval History, posted by Lars Bruzelius
Danish state finance 1230-1806 (Poulsen), Danish state finance under Christian IV (1589-1648) (Krug), European Armies: 1660-1861 (Lind); mostly on Danish-Norwegian Army; from ESFDB
Regesta diplomatica historiae danicae, 1847, another scan 1847, 1870, II.1.1-3 1880, II.1.4-6 1880, II.2.1-3 1880, II.2.4-6 1880, 1889 1895, 1907, posted on Internet Archive
Historiography Eiriks Saga Rauda ok Groenlendingathattr, 1926; Article Greenland Saga, Wikipedia
Greenland Saga, from Project Runeberg, in Icelandic
Document Collections European History Primary Sources : Greenland
Presbyterian Church, Missionary records, Greenland, Labrador and Asiatic Russia, 1858, IA
A. White et al., A Collection of Documents of Spitzbergen & Greenland, 1855, IA
Individual Documents Defense of Greenland: Agreement Between the United States and the Kingdom of Denmark, April 27, 1951, from Avalon Project at Yale Law School
Historical Maps click here
Encyclopedia Entries
General from EB 1911; from Meyers Konversationslexikon 1885-1892, in German
Religious from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907-1914 edition
Economic J. Chr. Nelkenbrecher, Allgemeines Taschenbuch der Münz-, Maass- und Gewichtskunde für Banquiers und Kaufleute (General Manual on Coinage, Measurement and Weights, for Bankers and Merchants) Berlin 1832, in German, entries Grönland, posted by DTBSWS
Geographical Entry : Groenland, pp.16-51, in : T.G. Smollett, The Present State of the World, vol.1 1768, posted on Google Books
Greenland, pp.28-29 in A. Harris, A geographical hand book, 1862, GB
La Groenlande, pp.104-105 in vol.1 of J. Vaissette, Geographie historique ecclesiastique et civile 1755, in French, GB
Historical Greenland, pp.423-424 in vol.2 of S. Maulder, The history of the world, 1856, GB
Parliamentary Debates
Historic Tour Guides
Travelogues H.P. Biggar, The voyages of the Cabots and of the Corte-Reals to North America and Greenland, 1497-1503... 1903, IA
Institutions Archives Repositories of Primary Sources : Europe : Greenland, from Univ. of Idaho. Mostly Archive Webpages, 2 entries
Libraries Libraries on Greenland, from LibDex, 1 entry
National Symbols Flags, Coats of Arms Flag, from FOTW; Coat of Arms, from International Civic Heraldry; National Anthem, from National Anthems Net
Coins, Banknotes Banknotes of Bulgaria, from World Currency Museum; from Ron Wise's World Paper Money
Stamps Rare Greenland Stamps, from Sandafayre Stamp Gallery
Thule Stamps of 1935, article from DeJa Scan

Bibliographies . Online Libraries . Thesis Servers . Online Journals . General Accounts . Specific Topics . Historical Dictionaries . Statistical Data . Yearbooks
Bibliographies general Search ISBN Database
RHS Bibliography
UK National Archive Online Library
on Greenland survey of bibliographies
bibliographic database
general bibliographies K.E. Miller, World Bibliographic Series 125 : Greenland, Oxford : Clio 1991 [G]
Friends of Denmark, A Brief Bibliography of Denmark and Greenland 1945, IA
annual bibliographies
specialist bibliographies Historia Grönlandiae, p.469 in vol.8 of J.D. Reuss, Repertorium commentationum a societatibus litterariis editarum, 1810, GB
serial publications
general bibliographies
Greenland entries
Online Libraries general Internet Archives
Gutenberg Library Online
on Greenland Scandinavian Digital Libraries and Projects, from Wess Web
Electronic Resources of the Royal Library (Copenhagen); Project Runeberg
Copenhagen, Det Kongelig Bibliothek : Dansk Nationallitteraturet Arkiv (archive of Danish national literature)
Thesis Server Registry of Open Access Repositories, Denmark, Norway
Open Access Theses and Dissertations
Online Journals full text online Directory of Open Access Journals
tidsskrift.dk, online library providing free access to a number of Danish-language scholarly magazines
General Accounts
Specific Topics The North Atlantic Saga, in : Historical Atlas of the Vikings, by John Haywood, London : Penguins 1995, pp.86-99, illustrated, concise, scholarly
Statistical Data IHS : B.R. Mitchell, International Historical Statistics. Europe 1750-1988, London : Palgrave 2000 [G]
Yearbook Entries Britannica Book of the Year Greenland, 1944 p.326, 1945 p.329, 1946, pp.356-357, 1950, p.334, 1951, p.336, 1952, pp.327-328, 1953, p.325, 1954, p.323, 1955, p.371, 1956, pp.310-311, 1957, p.372, 1958, p.309, 1959, pp.307-308, 1960, p.30, 1961, p.31, 1962, pp.305-306, 1963, p.422 [G]
Colonies and Dependent Territories, 1964, pp.265-268 [G]
Colonies and Other Depencies : Greenland, 1965, p.253, 1966, p.204, 1967, p.219, 1968, p.217 [G]
Dependent States : Greenland, 1969 p.279, 1970, p.279, 1971, p.269, 1972, pp.240-241, 1973, p.232, 1974, p.248, 1976, pp.246-247, 250, 1977, pp.246, 250, 1978, p.303, 1979, p.304, 1980, pp.300, 302, 1981, p.302, 1982, p.296, 1983, pp.295-296, 299, 1984, p.292 [G]
Greenland, 1985, pp.603, 688, 1986, pp.597, 685, 1988, pp.518, 606, 1989, pp.518, 607, 1990, pp.534, 622 [G]
Statesman's Yearbook Denmark : Colonies, 1919 p.796, 1924 p.802, 1925 p.813, 1926 p.789, 1928 pp.800-801, 1929 pp.791-792, 1932 p.799, 1937 p.839, 1943 pp.831-832 [G]
Denmark : Greenland, 1970-1971 p.862, 1975-1976 pp.870-871, 1978-1979 pp.400-40, 1980-1981 pp.401-402, 1983-1984 pp.412-413, 1984-1985 pp.410-411, 1985-1986 pp.412-413, 1987-1988 pp.423-425, 1988-1989 pp.425-427, 1989-1990 pp.428-430, 1990-1991 pp.427-429, 1991-1992 pp.427-429, 1992-1993 pp.494-496, 1993-1994 pp.501-503, 1994-1995 pp.487-489, 1995-1996 pp.482-484, 1996-1997 pp.423-424, 1997-1998 p.433, 1998-1999 pp.474-476, 2000 pp.545-549, 2001 pp.530-533, 2002 pp.552-555, 2003 pp.551-555, 2004 pp.552-555, 2005 pp.552-555 [G]
Americana Annual Greenland, 1927 p.396, 1928 p.349, 1930 p.364, 1931 p.363, 1932 p.330, 1933 p.361, 1934 p.284, 1935 p.331, 1936 p.334, 1937 p.329, 1943 p.332, 1944 p.312, 1945 p.332, 1946 p.335, 1947 pp.307-308, 1957 pp.337, 1961 pp.318-319, 1962 p.323, 1963 p.295, 1964 p.293 [G]
Other Article : Greenland, in : International Year Book 1898 p.379 [G]

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