Historical Social Research

Klaus Petersen: The Welfare Defence: Military Security and Social Welfare in Denmark from 1848 to the Cold War. [Abstract]

In this article, I discuss the connection between security and social policy strategies in Denmark from 1848 up to the 1950s. Denmark is not the first country that comes to mind when discussing the connections between war, military conscription, and social reforms. Research into social reforms and the role war and the military play in this field has traditionally focused on superpowers and regional powers. The main argument in the article is that even though we do not find policy-makers legitimizing specific welfare reforms using security policy motives, or the military playing any significant role in policy-making, it is nevertheless relevant to discuss the links between war and welfare in Denmark. This article focuses on three historical periods where the Danish state was under pressure: First, the decades from 1848 to the end of the 19th century, during which the military challenge from Germany influenced Danish state building. Second, the interwar period, during which Danish society was under severe strain from political radicalization and growing international tensions, culminating with the German occupation of Denmark (1940-45); and lastly, the early Cold War period (1947-1960), marked by the fear of conflict between the superpowers and the risk posed by an internal enemy (the communists). In all three periods, external and internal security threats influenced the welfare agenda in Denmark by evoking questions on the use of social policy for loyalty building and the safeguarding of the country’s democracy as well as trade-offs between welfare and military.

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