1794 brand

A Truly Grand Spectacle – The 1794 Christiansborg Palace Fire

“I had attained the age of fourteen when the dreadful conflagration of the king’s enormous palace of Christianbourgh took place. The flames that issued from the immense pile, awful as they were, filled my youthful mind with the most lively emotions of delight. I never contemplated for a moment the destruction of property in the striking magnificence of the scene. At night the spectacle was truly grand, and I stood looking on with unwearied pleasure as the devouring element continued its ravages.”


Behind the painting: Martinus Rørbye’s “The Prison of Copenhagen”, 1831

Considering how many danish artists and architects traveled to Italy as part of their studies throughout the 18th and 19th century, it is not surprising that some parts and buildings of Copenhagen have a distinct mark of Italian style. That is especially the case in the areas of the city that were destroyed during the great fire of 1795 and the British bombardment in 1807.


Behind the painting: Jens Juel’s “The Ryberg Family”

As a historian I find portraits of historic people to be extremely interesting, especially portraits which they had stood model for themselves. Not only do they give us a chance to look the people we as historians read and write about straight in the eyes, but they also give us a chance to see how they wanted to portray themselves.

One of my favorite portraits is by the Danish painter Jens Juel (1745-1802) titled “Niels Ryberg with his son Johan Christian and daughter in law Engelke, born Falbe”, though it is more commonly known as “The Ryberg Family”.

Historic photos uncovered

It seems to be high season for uncovering “new” historic photos. 10 days ago the photo enthusiast Anton Orlov found an old camera which held 8 previously unknown photographs from World War One, and now a long lost photo of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima on August 6 1945 has been unearthed. Read more

Facebook: a source for historic pictures

I might be a bit late on this “discovery” but recently I’ve become aware of how good a source Facebook can in fact be, when it comes to historic pictures. If you look in the right places, there are plenty of interesting galleries with photos, paintings and images from history. Of course I will not recommend using pictures from Facebook in academic work or articles, but when you are looking for pictures for your work, it can be a really good inspiration. Read more

Square roots of reality

While I usually talk about history, today we will take a step into another academic world. The interesting, but to many often confusing world of mathematics. As anyone who has ever asked me anything on the subject will know, I am no expert when it comes to mathematics. But now my good friend and colleague from Sweden, Marcus Näslund, has released a book that will make me and (hopefully) many others see the light and find the beauty of mathematics and the square roots of reality. Read more

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The African King of Copenhagen

The night between the 25th and 26th of November 1844
A bloody event is taking place this night in the village Orsu outside the Danish fortress Christiansborg (Christian’s Castle) on the African Gold Coast. In the flickering candle light local tribesmen are frantically beating the village’s war drum as part of a fetish ceremony lead by the local chieftain Adum Takori. The former translator at the nearby Danish fort, Sebah Akim, drags two children to the drum, where he cuts their throats so that their blood gushes over the drum. The locals are of the belief that it will keep the souls of the children in a state of agony every time the drum sounds. The next day five siblings to the murdered children are sold to a Portuguese slave trader. Read more.


When the news get it right

Just a quick moment of joy at the way the Danish national broadcasting company DR covered the Australian bush and forest fires tonight. After the initial clips of firefighters and burning forest and bush areas, DR chose to follow up by interviewing an expert (I think from the Danish forestry department), who explained how the fires benefits the nature by clearing paths for new vegetation and in some cases being crucial for certain seeds to open etc. Read more

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The power of a memo

Sometimes you can be surprised by how much influence a simple email or a memo might have. In the autumn of 2011 I was an intern at the Danish Cultural Institute in Tallinn. At that time plans for the renovation of the Danish King’s Garden in Tallinn were underway. The garden holds the monument for the myth surrounding the danish national flag, Dannebrog, which is said to have fallen from the sky there during a battle in 1219, just as the Danish crusading army was faltering and close to collapse. The falling flag was, according to the myth, seen as a sign from God, and the army rallied and won the day, or at least, so goes the tale. Read more