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The Image of the King of Denmark in Medieval Estonia

Other Postdoctoral Fellowships


The project aims at researching how the kings of Denmark were envisaged and remembered by the political elite of Estonia, from the 13th century until the first half of the 16th century. It seeks to delineate a perception of a belonging to the Danish realm among the king’s vassals and subjects in northern Estonia (1219/1238–1346), as well as the remembrance of their previous connection with Denmark after the sale of northern Estonia to the Teutonic Order. The project also addresses the expectations, hopes and fears related to the Danish king among the political elite in those parts of Estonia, which were not under his rule. Furthermore, the project analyses the role of the Danish king in political discussions between the various elitist groups in Medieval Estonia.


Danish-Estonian relations in the Middle Ages have hitherto been studied from the Danish perspective, focusing on the actions and goals of the Danish kings and queens. Previous research has only paid little attention to the elitist groups in Estonia, as far as their relations with Denmark go, and this has led to a skewed historical narrative, where the Danish king is depicted as the only active party. By studying the image of the king of Denmark among the political elite of Medieval Estonia and the remembrance of actions of previous kings in the region, my research project will bring about a reinterpretation of Danish-Estonian relations as reciprocal in character. In this manner, the project will further the historical perception of interconnectedness in the Baltic Sea area.


The main sources of my research project are medieval documents, such as charters, diplomatic correspondence, instructions to envoys, reports on negotiations etc., and medieval chronicles and annals. In addition to source publications, I intend to study unpublished sources in Estonian, Danish, Swedish, German and Austrian. Research on written sources will be supplemented by the study of material objects and works of art from the period with the intent to gain further insight. The sources will be analysed by employing the methods imagology (i.e. image studies) and mnemohistory (i.e. the study of historical memory).


History writing has a profound influence on the general populace. A common past is one of the central building blocks of group identities, especially in nation states. Through a new interpretation of the relations between Denmark and Estonia during Medieval times, my project will further a perception of a common European history among the general public in both countries by increasing the awareness of a shared past. In this way, my project will work towards the general goal in European history writing to move away from a narrowly national conception of the past. The study of a common Danish-Estonian past is especially important in this respect, because the general populace in both countries is largely unaware of their interconnectedness during Medieval times.