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From Saxo Grammaticus to Peter Friedrich Suhm: Danish views on medieval Estonian history

From Saxo Grammaticus to Peter Friedrich Suhm: Danish views on medieval Estonian history

By Tyge Andersen and Priit Raudkivi

Acta Historica Tallinnensia, Vol.11 (2007)

Abstract: A line of early Danish historians, who wrote on Medieval Estonia in relation to Denmark, is presented. Each author’s social background and the date of their contribution stand out through their sympathies and antipathies. Likewise, every author also had a Danish bias. German views were challenged, whereas Estonian views never mattered to these Danish authors. To them, the Estonians only played the part of silent extras on the historical stage; first as barbarous enemies, then as faithful subjects or allies and finally as victims. The most attractive theme to the Danish historians is the dramatic conquest in 1219, and its royal or clerical front figures, and the legends of a divine origin of Dannebrog – the national flag. The latter has been the single most popular subject, taking precedence over everything else. The history of Danish-Estonian active political and diplomatic relations until 1346, let alone until 1645, has been a mere niche in Danish history writing. It is possible to follow the different roles of the Danish historians in a changing political and ideological context and to view their position towards topical subjects such as justification of conquest, the means of Christianisation, colonialism and the genesis of medieval polities or states. Historiographic studies such as the present enable to understand the long and winding road towards establishing a concord on the simple course of events and critically question the written evidence, let alone the aristocratic and clerical traditions.

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