Home Iceland The history of Iceland

The history of Iceland

vikingsThe settlement
The settlement of Iceland by the Vikings started in 874 and was largely over by 930 AD. But there are some literary evidence that monks called Papar from a Hiberno-Scottish mission may have settled in Iceland before the arrival of the Norse. The monks are believed to have left Iceland soon after the heathen Vikings arrived. Iceland was the last European country to be settled.

landnamaThe script Landnámabók claims that the first Norseman to rest his feet on Icelandic soil was a viking by the name of Naddoddr. Naddoddr stayed for only a short period of time, but gave the country a name: Snæland (Land of Snow). He was followed by a Swedish sailor, Garðar Svavarsson, who was the first to stay over winter. At some time around 860 AD, a storm pushed his ship far to the north until he reached the eastern coast of Iceland. He named the island Garðarshólmur.The first Scandinavian who deliberately sailed to Garðarshólmi was Flóki Vilgerðarson, also known as Hrafna-Flóki (Raven-Flóki). It was a cold winter, and when he spotted some drift ice in the fjords he gave the island its current name, Ísland (Iceland).

The first settler in Iceland is considered to have been a Norwegain chieftain named Ingólfur Arnarson. According to the story, he threw two carved pillars overboard as he neared land, vowing to settle wherever they landed. He then sailed along the coast until the pillars were found in the southwestern peninsula, in a place he named Reykjavík (Cove of Smoke). This place would eventually become the capital and the largest city of modern Iceland. Ingólfur was followed by many more Norse chieftains, their families and slaves who settled all the inhabitable areas of the island in the next decades. wikingboatThese people were primarily of Norwegian, Irish and Scottish origin. It was the love of freedom and adventure that inspired many vikings to make their homes in Iceland in the ninth century AD. Icelanders are of Scandinavian origin, with some early mixing of Celtic blood. Freedom and respect for the individual are still at the heart of twentieth century Iceland.

The Althingi, Iceland´s present-day parliament, is the world´s oldest existing national assembly. It was founded at Thingvellir (Parliament Plains) in 930 AD, the country´s democratic system af government was completely unique in its day.

The Sagas
snorri_sturlusonThe Sagas include some of the classics of the world medieval literature and are written in the ancient viking language – Old Norse. Of the modern languages, Icelandic is the closest to Old Norse. And the people of Iceland can read and understand the sagas really well. Between 1120 and 1230 the Norse Sagas were written down on vellum in Iceland. The first literary medium to emerge was poetry, which tended to be heroic in theme. Poetry was then replaced by epic and dramatic tales of early settlement, romance, disputes and the development of Iceland. There were stories about ancient Scandinavian and Germanic history, about early viking voyages, the battles that took place during the voyages, about migration to Iceland and of feuds between Icelandic families. These provided both a sense of cultural heritage for everyday Icelanders as well as providing entertaining stories on bitterly cold winter nights. One of the most famous saga writers (and also historian and poet), Snorri Sturluson, wrote the Prose Edda and the Heimskringla. 

http://visiticeland.com/media/Thjonusta/Com_262_1___Selected.jpg - Hólar in Hjaltadal Reformation in Iceland started in the middle of the 16th century and is based on the execution of the Bishop Jón Arason at Hólar in 1550. After Gissur Einarsson died Jón Arason became the last Catholic bishop of the North-Region. In the reformation the church’s properties moved to the Danish monarch who took the highest position of the Icelandic church instead of the pope, Danish people got more effective in Iceland and e.g the legislation.
Danish influence grew especially in trade issues but that development ended when the Danish started the trade monopoly.



Autocracy in Iceland began when Icelanders signed a contract that made them a Danish colony in 1662, two years later than the contract was signed in Denmark. Autocracy ended when it was officially abolished in 1871. Danish-Norwiegian state became a autocad after Denmark had won  the Karl Gústafs war in 1660.

http://www.archives.is/skolavefur/images/arfahylling_300.png - An example of a scriptAfter that Alþingi got a new role. Law which had been approved in Copenhagen didn‘t have to get the Alþingi‘s approval.  Despite that Alþingi continued making laws until 1700. Later on Alþingi was reformed as a Consultative Assembly in Reykjavík. The first meating of the new Congress was in 1845.
The years of autocracy went from 1602 to the end of the year 1787. In that period danish merchants monopolized the stores in Iceland. The meaning of the autcracy was to promote the danish merchants and danish stores and also increase the power of the danish king in Iceland.
Iceland still has this monoply but it is now especially handled by the goverment. Stores like the ÁTVR(the liquor store).

A new constitution
Iceland had been occupied by Denmark since 1662. It wasn't until the year 1904 that Kristjan IV the king of Denmark presented us with a new constitution. This change had massive influence on the Icelandic nation. In the past, many Icelanders went to north-America to find new opportunities and better life but when people started to believe they could be free from Denmark and Iceland could be independent, the locals decided to keep faith with their own country and settle down on this island of ours. But although we had our constitution 1904 we were still under the Danish crown. It wasn't until 1918 that we got sovereignty, still with the Danish King as our national leader. 1940 we got occupied by the British, but for our benefits, Denmark did as well.

A catastrophic year
The year 1918 was a very bad year for Iceland. One of the coldest year in recorded history  in Iceland. The volcano Katla erupted and the Spanish flue became an epidemic and many Icelanders died. The Spanish flue came with the ships Botnía from Copenhagen and Willemoes from USA in October, the first death was in November and after that 2/3 of Reykjavík citizens were in bed with the flue. Reykjavík was divided í 13 neighborhoods and people walked from house to house to find people with the flue, sometimes the parents were ded and alive babies in a cradle. About 484 Icelanders died, 258 in the capital Reykjavík.

http://www.forsaetisraduneyti.is/media/Fanabokin/medium/ThjodfaninnGIF.gif - The national flag of Iceland. Iceland gained its independence in 1944. We used the opportunity when Denmark was occupied by Germany in WWII and cut our ties and declared our independence.

The Cod Wars were a series of conflicts between Iceland and the United Kingdom from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s. In the cod wars Iceland was defending the right to their own fishing grounds.  This is the only real war Iceland took part in. And we won.

The women of Iceland
http://nd03.jxs.cz/331/046/5ea4a32f13_58176562_o2.jpg - Linda Pétursdóttir miss world 1988. Icelandic woman like to say that their independence comes from a long history of having to tame the land while their men were off at sea, but whatever the explanation, this is not a country where you will find many women staying in as housewifes. In fact, 90 percent of Iceland women have jobs outside the home, and many of them, including former President Finnbogadottir (she retired in 1996) are single mothers. Unlike they do in most western cultures, Icelandic women do not change their last names when they get married - a fact that sometimes confuses outsiders.
According to Newsweek, it‘s the best to be a woman in Iceland. 
Iceland has 3 Miss World winners, for a country that small it is really impressive.


Written by  Amna, Egill and Kristjana