If you think of Iceland, what would be the first thing popping up in your mind – propably Vikings, vulcanoes and rough living conditions? Indeed, the Atlantic island is a relatievely young settled living environment with a highly interestring development.
Til Modern Age
Iceland has a moving history which is characterized by brave settlers, foreign rule and especially harsh natural conditions. Continue reading to learn more about Iceland´s exciting history.
9th to 13th Century
Around 870, tribal chief Ingólfur Arnason and his fellows arrived in the south-western part of Iceland after being expelled from Norway. He named the settlement Reykjavik (translated it means smoky bay) after he saw steam rising from the thermal springs. He and his continuously trailed Nordic settlers banished the few Irish monks who already settled down in Iceland. This period, in which the Nordic men settled down in Iceland, is called settlement. Due to an increasing population growth, the tribal chiefs called for an Althing, the Icelandic parlament, in the year 930. As a consequence, the first Islandic Free State was born. As a result, the Althing is considered to be the oldest parlament of the world. This substantial place of Icelandic history can be found in the national park Thingvellir.
The 11th century is considered to be the Saga-Age. In this era, Greenland has been colonialized by Eric the Red, America has been discovered (Vinland) and Christianity was carried over from the prevailing pagan faith. After aggravating living conditions and years of fights and war between the hostile Islandic clans, Iceland fell under Norwegian highness in 1262. This was the end of the Free State.
14th to 17th Century
In the year 1380, Norway and therewith also Iceland, fell under Danish rule. The Black Death attacked Iceland and reduced the population by two-third. In 1550, the Danish King forced through a reformation. One century later, Friedrich III. declared Denmark as absolut sovereign over Iceland. This caused a Danish trade monopoly with the Icelandic external trade. At this time, most of the inhabitants were workers or tenants.
18th to 19th Century
In 1783, volcanic eruptions of laki-crater desolated the whole country and ended in a hunger crisis. More than one fifth of the population died in the following years. In 1800, Denmark dissolved the althing. But as the rest of Europe, Iceland also strived for independence. Jon Sigurdsson became the leader of the Icelandic liberation movement and in 1874, exactly 1000 years after the first settlement, Iceland achieved their first own constitution.
20th to 21th Century
In 1904, Iceland established their seat of government in Reykjavik. 14 years later, Iceland and Denmark agreed on the union contract, which made the independence official. Only the foreign policy remained in Denmark´s hands. But the Icelandic republic was first announced in Thingvellir in 1944. Sveinn Björnsson became the first president of the country. Already after two years, Iceland entered the UN.
Fishing was one of the most important economic factors and therefore, Iceland expanded their fishing borders between 1952 and 1975. This led to the so called Cod Wars with Great Britain. It took quite some time (1985) until those fishing borders were officially accepted.
Nowadays, almost two third of the Icelandic population is living in Reykjavik. The financial crisis of 2008 almost ended in a national bankruptcy, but the established emergency laws prevented it. In the past years, Iceland is flourishing again – thanks to the growing interest of people around the world in Iceland.