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December 21st, 2012


SHOT 2012
Copenhagen: A Brief History

The earliest known part of Copenhagen dates back to the 7th century.  It was a fishing hamlet located at Gammel Strand on the Zealand side of the sound with the island of Amager, which held several small islands, including today's Slotsholmen with Christiansborg Palace housing the parliament (Folketinget), Prime Minister's office, and the Supreme Court.

During the Viking age, the hamlet grew into a small town.  In 1167, the entrepreneurial Bishop Abasalon of Roskilde started constructing a castle on an island of Slotsholmen in the sound.  The objective was to protect trade against the Hansa network of cities in Northern Germany who were working to disintegrate the state of Denmark.

The excellent harbor encouraged Copenhagen's growth and it became an important centre of commerce.  However, it didn't become the nation's capital until the mid 15th century.  At that time, the kings of Denmark started extending their court and bureaucracy which didn't allow previous travel of court and bureaucracy to several locations across the country.  Originally Denmark had been a republic, where nobility and the clergy elected the king for lifetime, i.e. a tiny fraction of the people.  In 1660, King Frederik III committed a coup d'état making him sovereign and introduced succession.  The growing power with the king and his court was based on growing trade and reflected in the building of monumental buildings in Copenhagen, including four successor palaces to Absalon's castle.  During the French Revolution wars and the US War of Independence, Denmark was a flag of convenience and housed extensive trade for all parties.  This was reflected in extensive building activity still visible in the town, particularly along the harbor on Christianshavn.  The sovereign king's dictatorship – by today's terms – collapsed during the early 19th century and Denmark established a democracy during the 19th century.  The king remained as nominal head of state.

Also in that period, Copenhagen became a significant industrial city, the country's largest.  Some of the Copenhagen Business School's Porcelænshaven (Porcelain Garden) renovated buildings remain from this period, as do several factory buildings and workers' dwelling neighborhood across the city (pictured here).  The SHOT awards dinner is located in the Kiln halls (oldest part from 1884) of Royal Copenhagen.  The Danish pharmaceutical industry dates back to the early 20th century and is a significant Danish industry with an international perspective.  Novo Nordisk has become one of the world's leading companies in diabetes care and one of the SHOT tours will visit one of its facilities.  In the inter-war-years, Ford and GM established assembly plants no longer in operation.

The Copenhagen Business School (CBS) is located in Frederiksberg which is a separate municipality from Copenhagen municipality.  Frederiksberg was established in 1841 and is completely surrounded by Copenhagen municipality.  Copenhagen Town Government is governed by the labor party.  People living in Frederiksberg are on average more affluent than people living in Copenhagen and Frederiksberg is governed by the conservative party.

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