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Rated: 13+ · Assignment · History · #2215407
A description of the Schleswig-Holstein Question.
D. Tweedledum and Tweedledee

3. "Prepare for Battle" – There have been many wars/battles in history. Choose one that interests you. However, your short story must be a tale of how things escalated to the final event! This can be comedic or serious. (<1000 words)

Prepare for Battle

The Schleswig-Holstein Question

British Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, once said, “The Schleswig-Holstein question is so complicated, only three men in Europe have ever understood it. One was Prince Albert, who is dead. The second was a German professor who became mad. I am the third and I have forgotten all about it.”

Such is the subject I propose to tackle here. It’s a matter so fiendishly complex that I will only be able to provide a simplified version and there may well be occasions where my version differs from the precise facts as a result. I will strive to achieve the right spirit in the thing, however.

Schleswig and Holstein are two former duchies that form the present day most northern provinces of Germany. They lie at the southern end of Denmark’s Jutland peninsula. In viking times they were solidly Danish and they were created duchies in the 12th Century.

In following centuries, German immigration into the duchies increased to the extent that Germans formed a majority portion of the population, particularly in Holstein. And then came 1848.

That year became known as the Year of Revolution in Europe. There was unrest and rebellion in most European countries and, it seems, Schleswig-Holstein did not want to be left out The Danish government introduced an order that Schleswig was to be part of the Danish state. Revolted by the idea, both duchies’ Germans rose in rebellion, demanding independence from Denmark.

It should be remembered that, at the time, there was no such creature as Germany, the Germans being grouped into many princedoms, duchies and who knows what other ways to describe small states, loosely related under the auspices of the Holy Roman Empire. Unification into the nation of Germany had to wait until Bismarck and 1870. The most militaristic and powerful of German states, Prussia, sent an army into the duchies to support the rebellion. This was called the First Schleswig War (1848-1851), ended by the Battle of Idstedt. To everyone’s amazement, it was won by the Danes and things settled down into the status quo.

For a complete understanding of the relationship of the duchies, it is necessary to delve into matters of the Salic Law, but I dare not enter into that minefield. Suffice to say that the difference between the duchies’ adoption of the Law and the Danish rejection of it complicated the matter of who should have sovereignty over the duchies. When Denmark again tried to integrate Schleswig with itself in 1863, the Second Schleswig War of 1864 broke out. The confusion of this event resulted eventually in both duchies being tied more closely to the German states, ultimately becoming part of the new Germany of 1870.

Denmark did not lose out completely, however. After the First World War, when the victors were trying to prevent future wars by incorporating ethnic populations into new or redesigned states, the northern half of Schleswig, where Danes were in the majority, was given to Denmark. While the whole idea broke down in manufactured states like Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, in Schleswig the arrangement worked and holds true to this day.

There we have a simplified form of the inscrutable Schleswig-Holstein Question, a problem that exercised the greatest political minds of the 19th Century. And be grateful that only weird, history freaks like me remember such obscure matters and sift through the facts in search of a truth that hardly matters today, thus freeing you for more worthy pursuits. But you’ll know what they mean if someone else ever mentions the Schleswig-Holstein Question.

Word Count: 588
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