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History

Nuuk was home to 12 Greenlandic families in 1728 when missionary Hans Egede moved in and officially founded the trading-post village as Godthåb. Egede is now revered as the 'Greenland Apostle', yet his insistence on nuclear families caused enormous social change, the impact of which can still be traced today. One Greenlandic leader, Ulaajuk, dismayed at his people's growing materialism and dependence on mission trade goods, moved them away from Nuuk. Then in 1736 a smallpox epidemic decimated the remaining population. Hans Egede's wife, Gertrude Rask, was among the dead, and Egede himself returned to Denmark. Nonetheless, he left his sons to carry on his work, and their missions continued to attract people to Godthåb. During WWII the town became the administrative centre of Greenland. It boomed from the 1950s, when Denmark made a well-intentioned but retrospectively questionable attempt to launch Greenland into the 'modern' world. The giant, ugly housing blocks were initially a great opportunity for locals to escape the discomfort and sometimes unhealthy conditions of their turf homes. However, as elsewhere, the estates soon dislocated people from their culture and became centres of social discontent.