Danish Empire Timeline


Denmark only began its colonial expansion in the seventeenth century, much later than most other modern European empires. Their first settlement was in southern India (followed by others in the subcontinent), but soon the Danish shifted their focus from Asia, and sought control of areas in the Caribbean and present-day Ghana. Trading in slaves and gold on Ghana’s Gold Coast from the seventeenth to nineteenth century proved to be the empire’s most lucrative colonial enterprise. The Gold Coast was a coveted trading-area that was initially colonized by the Portuguese, after which the French, English, Dutch, and eventually Danish, arrived.   


1620: Denmark establishes their first colony at Tranquebar on India’s southern coast. The Danish Empire had several small colonies throughout the Indian subcontinent (excluding Ceylon), which were either sold or ceded to the British by the mid nineteenth century.

1650: Danish East and West Indian Companies are founded. By the mid-1650s, these enterprises were failing, but received endorsement from Amsterdam as the Danish Empire was preparing for a war against Sweden (who had been gaining footholds on the Guinea and Gold coasts).

1657: The Danish conquer Carolusburg (Cape Coast Castle) on the Gold Coast from the Swedish Empire.

1660s: The Danes establish a minor fort at Frederiksborg (in Cape Coast).

1661: The Empire begins to build their largest settlement at Osu on the Gold Coast, the Chrsitansburg Castle. It was from this castle that the Danes carried out most of their trade.

1679: The Portuguese occupy the Christiansburg Castle, but sell it back to the Danes in 1683, at which point it became the permanent headquarters of the Danish Empire in Africa.

1685: The Danish Empire sells Frederiksborg Fort to the British to alleviate their debt.

1693: The Danish lose control of the Christiansburg Castle to Assameni, a powerful trader and chief from Akwamu (a state established by the Akan people in Ghana).

1694: Just a year later, the Danes purchase the castle back from Assameni, where their trade of gold and slaves grew extensively, resulting in the expansion of the castle between the late-seventeenth century and the early-nineteenth century. Over this time, the Christiansburg castle was enlarged to almost four times its original size.

1807: The Danish Empire abandons their trading posts on the Gold Coast after problems with their African trading partners.

1850: The Empire sells its forts in Ghana to Britain.