The article presents the history and history writing of Danish cities approx. 1840-2000 by help of the two concepts urban system and urbanism. The urban system (including urbanization) is believed to comprise the development of the cities versus the countryside as well as the size, function, interdependence and mutual competition of the cities. Urbanism is regarded to be covering both the urban life as a social phenomenon and the idea that the urban world is a precondition for the creativity of society as a whole. Until 1857 the privileged market towns - with a few exceptions - were the only recognized urban settlements. The free trade act of 1857 lifted the market towns' monopoly on trade and skilled craft and the rest of the century witnessed a growing number of rural urban settlements and suburbs. The statistical city concept was changed accordingly in 1901. Figure 1 presents an overview of all Danish cities in the official statistics 1801-1981. Figure 2 shows a rank-size distribution of the cities in 1840, 1901 and 1960. Table 6 shows the main tendencies of the spatial restructuring in Denmark 1980-2003. The urban development was marked by a huge growth from the middle of the 19th and hundred years ahead. The growth was primarily concentrated to the existing cities with the Capital of Copenhagen as a clear number one. In the beginning of the period the location of the cities on the coastline clearly indicated that the cities were part of networks that stretched over the sea, but at the same time it was a common precondition for the vast majority of cities that they depended on the primary (and secondary) trades in their surrounding area. New towns occurred in the countryside from around 1890 and until the first decades of the 20th century; they functioned to a large extent as local service centres and were placed in proper distance from the old cities and each other. It is therefore obvious that these new towns filled the geographical ‘gaps' of the existing urban system while at the same time they formed a secondary level of cities to supply the old market towns. The special (and late) industrialization of Denmark, that primarily took place in the old market towns, is regarded as a likely explanation for the very decentralized urban structure with a solid group of large market towns and many small urban settlements in the countryside, of whom only few grew into larger cities. Two factors helped to maintain this urban hierarchy. One was the demand of agriculture that in many ways favoured the existence of a combination of small towns in the countryside and large cities by the sea. The other factor was transport conditions that not until the breakthrough and spread of the automobile to the masses in the 1960s passed the bounds of urban development. Many things seem therefore to speak in favour of treating the period from the middle of the 19th century until around 1960 as one coherent urban phase. Hereafter, several changes took place that affected the settlement structure. The place of dwelling and the place of work were seperated much more often than before and commuting became regular. New means of communication and traffic were introduced, and Denmark even ceased to be a predominantly agricultural society around 1960. Finally, the impact of town planning on the both the local and national settlement structure grew. The development of the Danish urban system after 1960 falls into two phases. Until around 1980 the urban system was changing and expanding with a growth in urbanization, not least in sub urbanization. On a general level, the growth was decentralized on the expense of the Capital and the larger provincial cities and in benefit of smaller local service centres that were trusted with municipal functions and had a growing export industry. The period after 1980 has been characterized by a continued but subdued urbanization and by concentration. The concentration has tipped the balance between both the smaller and the larger urban centres in general and between the largest centre of the individual municipalities and the other centres. Copenhagen has grown again after around 1993 while a new kind of growth centre has occurred in East Jutland where the old market towns in some respects are becoming one functional unit. As it seems that the urban system is still a pronounced primate system, but now it has tendencies to becoming a multi-chore system. De-industrialization has not hit the Danish cities as hard as cities in many other countries. Only a minority of cities have in contemporary time been dependent on a single-stranded business structure and the consequences of outsourcing to foreign countries have with relative success been limited by industrial re-structurering and knowledge-based specializations. On the other hand, this has caused a concentration of knowledge economy to the largest cities and because the so-called cluster competences have progressed as well, the result is that urban economy today is more regionally divided than ever before. The article then discusses the history of urban life - or urbanism - on the basis of the prevailing Danish research. Danish historians and ethnologists have been - more or less explicitly - inspired by international community studies and studies of the urban space as a framework for social disciplinization and social organisation; a few have even studied the urban ‘place' in phenomenological sense The articles claims that the studies of neighbourhoods, the development of the 'place', urban societies and urban space have demonstrated that it was very much possible for lasting and intimate social relations to occur in the modern city. Just to mention one such finding: From the 1870's to the 1920s there was a huge rise in the numbers of houses in which people could meet and share common ideas and beliefs and formulate social and political strategies. It was in the temperance lodges, the church halls, the many social institutions, the community centres, and hotels etc. that the new urban population got together and found answers to the challenge of urban life. Today, life in the city is regarded as attractive as ever before. A modern café culture, immense architectural restoring and a larger spending power have given a new life to the old socio-cultural urban figures, the flaneur, the consumer and the aesthete. The article is concluded with an overview of how these urban archetypes and the new aesthetical urban space are being used as tools in the mutual competition between cities, as city branding and characters of urban identity.