Economizing Science and National Identities: The Royal Greenland Trading Department and the Making of Modern Denmark and Greenland

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Nanna Katrine Lüders Kaalund


University of Cambridge


DKK 1,216,285




Reintegration Fellowships


Since its foundation in 1774, the Royal Greenlandic Trading Department (KGH) has played a crucial role in shaping Greenlandic-Danish relations. Through its monopoly on trade, the KGH not only controlled the flow of goods to and from Greenland, but also Greenland's administration, while simultaneously seeking to further Denmark's economic, scientific, and cultural interests in the Arctic region. However, the KGH's position within the Arctic has been historically problematic. The aim of this project is to reassess the significance of the trading company in constructing modern Greenlandic and Danish national identities, through three main themes: 1) 'Money' including trade and economics: 2) 'Knowledge' including science and exploration: and 3) 'Culture' including law and people.


Through its control over the flow of goods to and from Greenland, the KGH shaped the livelihoods of both Greenlanders and Danish settlers in Greenland. In addition, the KGH also traded in knowledge and scientific specimens, and the science produced in Greenland shaped Danish and international perceptions of Greenlanders, as well as perceptions of Denmark as a colonial state. The KGH's trade monopoly was dismantled in 1950, which was one of several transformative moments in Greenland and Denmark's shared history. Yet, the legacies of the monopoly trade are still felt today, in complex ways. This project will interrogate the history and legacy of the trading company, thereby offering a new and timely contribution to our understanding of Danish colonialism and Danish-Greenlandic relations.


This project combines insights from Arctic studies, history of science, intellectual history, and museum studies, to interrogate how objects and scientific knowledge travelled across national boundaries. The data for this project consists of written sources and cultural objects, which are held in Aarhus, Copenhagen, Nuuk, and Upernavik. The textual sources includes the KGH's administrative files, private letters and diaries, and published articles and books. Material sources includes art, fur products, food, transport and hunting equipment, and specimens of natural history. In combining such textual and material archives, this project interrogates how the monopoly trade, including the trade in objects and scientific knowledge, shaped all aspects of Greenlandic life.

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