180 this ill-de?ined entity – was the person of the monarch himself. As Bregnsbo puts it, “the huge Danish state was in practice held together by very little except the person of the reigning monarch and his lawful claims to different territories, often under very different conditions”.8 As in most Danish historiography, 1864 is the major watershed and serves as the basis for the organisation of the chapters, though in this context 1814 or 1849 could also have been proposed as equally signi?icant. In chapters 6 and 7 Poul Erik Olsen focuses on the colonial administration and provides a useful overview of its complex legal and administrative history. Like Bregnsbo, he notes the lack of central control, again emphasising the role of the monarch as the unifying force. In chapter 6, the perspective is from the metropole looking outwards; in chapter 7 this is reversed and the focus is on the relations between the colonies and the metropole. It highlights the opportunities that a career in colonial administration could offer to an ambitious public servant, but also the challenges that accompanied it: isolation, dif?icult communications and the risks of tropical disease. This is history from the colonisers’ perspective, of course. But the colonised subjects are not entirely absent. Enslaved individuals were brought to Denmark, and Olsen notes that it was con?irmed in 1774 that slaves could be legally bought or sold in the kingdom of Denmark-Norway; there is even evidence that this was still regarded as acceptable in the 1830s (pp. 260-2). The striking image chosen for the front cover (and reproduced on pp. 240-1) shows N. P. Holbech’s portrait of the black servant Neky (whether she was free or enslaved is unknown) with a white infant in her arms. Olsen reminds us that, “the sight of people with dark skin colour was not unusual for the inhabitants of the capital” in the eighteenth century, where non-white household servants were seen as a mark of status for the well-to-do.9 Free individuals from Greenland or the West Indies also travelled to Denmark voluntarily or involuntarily: as seamen, servants, entertainers; as convicts if they were serving penal sentences longer than two years; or sometimes to be exhibited as “exotic others”, a practice which continued into the twentieth century. Many of those from Greenland especially seemed to have succumbed quite quickly to infectious diseases against which they had no immunity. From Olsen’s account, and perhaps re?lecting the lack of suitable sources, we know very little about how these individuals experienced the society that they encountered. 8 ”Den uhyre sammansatte danske stat blev i praksis holdt sammen af meget lidt andet end netop den regerende konges person og dennes retsmæssige adkomst til de forskellige territorier på ofte meget forskellige vilkår”, p. 120. My translation. 9 ”Synet af mennesker med mørk hudfarve har ikke været ualmindeligt for indbyggerne i hovedstaden.” p. 255.
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