Denmark lies between 54° and 58° of latitude north and 8° and 15° of longitude east. In addition to Denmark itself, the kingdom also includes the Faroe Islands and Greenland.
Denmark consists of the peninsula of Jutland and c. 406 islands, of which c. 78 are inhabited (2003). Of these, the largest and most densely populated are Zealand on which the capital of Copenhagen is situated, Funen and the north Jutland island.
The North Sea defines Denmark to the west, while the islands divide the Baltic from the Kattegat. The Danish islands are thus on the sea lane from the Baltic to the main oceans of the world and at the same time on the trade route from the Nordic countries to central Europe.
Throughout the entire history of the country, this position has been influential on the circumstances governing developments in trade and on political and military strategy.
Administratively, the country is divided into 5 regions (regioner) and 98 local authorities (kommuner).
Towards the end of the 10th century, Denmark was united into a single kingdom. It has been an independent country ever since, and is thus one of the oldest states in Europe.
The form of government is a parliamentary democracy with a royal head of state. The system of production is capitalist (economic liberalism) with private ownership of businesses and production. The state and other public authorities, however, exercise a considerable regulatory control and provide comprehensive services for the citizens.
Denmark is a developed industrialised country. By international standards, the standard of living is high, and the differences between rich and poor are smaller than in many of the countries with which Denmark is traditionally compared.
Denmark is a member of the European Union. The proximity of Germany has traditionally orientated the country south in an economic and political sense, but close co-operation with Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland, with which Denmark enjoys a passport union, also ties Denmark to the North.
The country has a coastline totalling c. 7,300 km in all and a 68-km-long frontier with Germany. It is a distinctly low-lying country, the highest point being only 173 metres above sea level, but the landscape is undulating and varied; only occasionally is it possible to find undisturbed nature, and the view everywhere shows signs of human activity. Only on the island of Bornholm do we find bedrock, and otherwise the land is characterised by fertile clayish or sandy moraine landscapes.
Denmark is poor in mineral deposits. However, chalk for the production of cement is found in considerable quantities, and more oil and gas is extracted from the North Sea than is needed for home consumption.
Most of the country, c. 66%, is under cultivation. 12% is covered by deciduous or coniferous forest, while meadow, heath, marshland, bogs, sandhills and lakes constitute c. 10%. Built-up areas and traffic areas make up the remaining c. 12%. The climate is temperate, and precipitation is sufficient to provide all the water needed.
The population stands at c. 5.427 million, and the population density is c. 125 per square kilometre. Foreign immigrants and their descendants amount to c. 463,000, 240,000 of whom come from Europe; in addition there is a small German minority in southern Jutland. The language is everywhere Danish, and the vast majority of the population has been baptised into the established protestant church. Denmark is therefore nationally and culturally very homogeneous.
85% of the population lives in towns. Greater Copenhagen accounts for c. 1.09 million inhabitants. The second city is Århus (222,559 inhabitants). In addition the entire country is otherwise covered by a network of medium-sized towns.
Danish agriculture is highly developed, producing a considerable surplus of manufactured foods which are exported to other countries. Industrial production is very varied in relation to the size of the country. Among the commodities that have made Denmark known abroad are, in addition to agricultural produce, beer, medicines, furniture, shipping, wind turbines and products of the advanced metal industries.
Both agriculture and industry are highly effective. Agriculture and fisheries employ only 3.7%, and industry and construction 23% of the population. The remaining 73% are employed in the service sector, 35% in public and personal services and 38% in private business, including financial activities and the traditional shipping trade.
Denmark is well provided with traffic systems. The road network is good everywhere in the country; railways and air links provide quick transport, and the islands are connected by ferries and a large number of bridges. Kastrup near Copenhagen is the largest international airport in the country and is at the same time a crossroads for air traffic to and from the other Scandinavian countries.
Denmark has an open economy, and trade with the rest of the world is of great importance. Imports and exports of goods and services thus represent, respectively, c. 37% and 43% of the country’s GDP (2003). Around 2/3 of foreign trade is with the other countries in the EU; the remainder is divided among a very large number of trading partners, of which Norway and the USA are the most important.