Danish-German Cultures (1773-1864): Conflict and Cohesion

The project investigates the Danish-German cultures in the Danish composite state from 1773-1864 focusing on the identity formations, narratives, and imaginaries in a zone with conflicting and coexisting national, regional and lingual orientations.

The project aims at writing a new transcultural history of art, literature, language and human practices. This will challenge the dominant national history writing of antagonisms, exclusions and war, and instead examine the dual conditions of conflict and cohesion before the formation of the Danish nation state in 1864.

This period of pluralistic and bilingual identity formation will be examined in case studies from four disciplines of the humanities: comparative literature, art history, history and linguistics from the approach of entangled history by, a) analyzing the interplay between the micro level of individual practices and the macro level of state, politics, and institutions and b) offering a longitudinal perspective of the period divided into two phases from 1773-1814 and 1814-1864 and c) taking into consideration the spatial relations between Copenhagen-Kiel, the Danish Kingdom-the German Duchies, and the Conglomerate State-Europe.




The project goes beyond the nationalized frameworks (canons, art collections etc.) and analyse the repressed narratives of the hybrid cultural identities of artists, writers and thinkers in different fields of cultural production in order to present a new history of transcultural knowledge. We ask:

  1. How did writers, artists, thinkers and intellectuals in their border-crossing practices develop hybrid and multilingual cultural identification models as alternatives to state citizen identity (after 1773) and mono-national identity (before and after 1864)?
  2. Which narratives and imaginaries were employed in the fields of literature, art, language and life-writing?
  3. How can we map the multiple Danish-German identity within the borders of the composite state as well as in the exchanges with European centres?
  4. Which types of interplay evolved between the multilingual practices in the composite state and the ideologization of the national languages?
  5. Which potentials do the regional and pluralistic identity-formation of the Danish-German case have in a European comparison and can it serve as a model in today’s nationalized and globalized world?







The subprojects (WPs) are in-depth source-driven case studies of art, literature, biography, and language structured along the concepts of “contrastive pairs” or “generational clusters” between 1773-1864. The analyses will benefit from the interdisciplinary exchange and design of the output.

WP 1 Art (Sine Krogh)

Since the establishment of the Danish Royal Academy in 1754, up until the 1840s, German-speaking artists from Schleswig and Holstein and the neighbouring states travelled to Copenhagen to educate themselves (Monrad 1989), but the nationalization and wars of the 19th century changed the conditions of mobility and aesthetic exchange (Krogh 2021). The subproject will investigate the negotiations of the concept of nationality and identity models amongst artists, not only from the duchies but also from Hamburg, Dresden and Düsseldorf, updating research on Danish and German communities (Johansson 1997; Henningsen 1998; Gelius & Miss 2000).

WP 2 Literature (Anna Sandberg)

The case study of literature combines an analysis of cultural mobility as a practice and German-Danish imaginaries in the literary travelogues from late-Enlightenment to the Romantic and the late Golden Age. The authors can be described as border-crossing figures between German and Danish language and literature, which characterized their education, work and way of life. Several adressed two different audiences, translated their texts from Danish into German themselves or wrote in two languages. The aim is a diachronous account of the understandings (socially, culturally and politically) and imaginaries of: 1) the German states and cities as the nearest European abroad and 2) of the kingdom's relationship with the duchies as destinations and life stations for several authors (for instance at Kiel University). The travel literature documents how Danish culture and cultural identity are formed in exchange with the experience of the “other” (Harbsmeier 1997; Andersen 2007) – not only as negative demarcation and stereotyping but also as exchange in the journeys’ "contact zones" (Pratt 2008).

WP 3 Biographies (Steen Bo Frandsen)

Biographies offer one of the most promising fields for discussing the reality of entangled histories (Caine 2010; Renders et.al. 2017). A large number of protagonists in politics and public life spent part of – or their entire – life between different languages and cultures. Characterized by bilingual and bicultural competencies their biographies were formed before the culture would be organised in national categories. Through a selection of biographies of protagonists with different professions, the project sheds light on how the idea and existence of a multicultural composite state was retrospectively opposed and denied.

WP 4 (NN)

PhD Project on language change and ideology, supervised by AS: While the mid-1700s showed a balancing act between a linguistically defined Danish identity and the multi-linguistic composite state (Winge 2021; Albrectsen 2015, Øhrgaard 2015), language became crucial to the development of national self-understanding and state border demarcations in the 19th century (Gregersen 2015; Joseph 2016). Culture and daily life were determined by bilingual practice (Snell 1999) until after 1800, where a sociolinguistic change, understood as a reconfiguration of language- - 6 - society relations (Mortensen 2020), took place. However, the history of language is written after the nation state and thus from the perspective of the triumphant monolingualism (Skautrup 1944-1968; Diderichsen, 1968). In order to map the language ideologies and the possible linguistic contact zones of the period (including the perception of the language realms of German and Danish understood as spheres of influence), a contrastive analysis of the German and Danish language histories is necessary. Sources are language histories by Jakob Grimm (1848), C.F.Allen (1857-58), N.M. Petersen (1829-30) and letters between Grimm and Rasmus Rask.













  • Adam Paulsen, Associate Professor, University of Southern Denmark
  • Anna Schram Vejlby, Director Fuglsang Kunstmuseum
  • Heinrich Detering (Georg-August- Universität Göttingen),
  • Helena Březinová (Univerzita Karlova Prag)
  • Lasse Horne Kjældgaard (Director Carlsberg Foundation)
  • Per Øhrgaard (prof. emer. Copenhagen Business School & honorary prof. University of Copenhagen)














Name Title Phone E-mail
Anna Lena Sandberg Associate Professor - Promotion Programme +4535328156 E-mail
Sine Krogh postdoc skro@hum.ku.dk


Funded by Independent Research Fund Denmark

Project period: 2023-2027

PI: Anna Sandberg

PhD position

Read more about the PhD position

Application deadline 1 November.


Steen Bo Frandsen Professor, Center for Grænseregionsforskning, SDU
Karin Hoff professor, Inst.für Frisistik, Skandinavistik und Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft, Christian-Albrecht Universität Kiel