Denmark is dominated by water. The sea encloses the Danish lands, where only the peninsula of Jutland is directly connected to mainland Europe, and rivers as well as bays and fjords penetrate both the peninsula and the many islands or various sizes. Considering this maritime topography, it may appear obvious ... (Show more)
Denmark is dominated by water. The sea encloses the Danish lands, where only the peninsula of Jutland is directly connected to mainland Europe, and rivers as well as bays and fjords penetrate both the peninsula and the many islands or various sizes. Considering this maritime topography, it may appear obvious that ferries played a crucial role in the infrastructure of late medieval and early modern Denmark. This was the case up until the 20th century, when ferries all over Denmark were replaced by bridges. Research on the ferries connecting Denmark in pre-modern times is, however, very limited, and the Danish Viabundus sub-project represents the first attempt to register the numerous ferries within the Danish realm c. 1350-1650. As part of the digital mapping of the late medieval and early modern road network, around 100 ferries have been confirmed. Based on this registration it is now possible to conduct more substantial research into the economic, political, and social roles of the ferries. Thus, this paper represents the first attempt to unfold the character and social significance of the stable network of ferries in late medieval and early modern Denmark.
It is, of course, difficult to define when a boat or ship was considered a ferry in pre-modern times. One may define ferries as any kind of vessel departing on a regular basis from a permanent location, and carried people, cargo and vehicles across water for payment. Following this definition, it has become clear that many ferries within the Danish realm were an essential part of the Danish infrastructure from the 13th century onwards, and that the most important ferries belonged to the king, and always departed from ports in the most important Danish towns. In this paper the focus will be on the social history of the historical Danish ferries. By discussing the late medieval and early ferries within the Danish realm as a social phenomenon, the paper seeks to illuminate a subject which up until now has not received much scholarly attention. The paper will touch upon questions such as:
- Who were the royal privileged ferrymen?
- What were the social implications of ferries in their local urban or rural communities?
- How did people, who were not included in the social and political elite, benefit from stable ferry routes?
- What can be said about the price developments for using ferries?
- How were ferries integrated in the general maritime and land-based route network? (Show less)