When did Iceland become an independent country?

Iceland's history From the settlement until today

From the conquest

When you think of Iceland, you quickly think of Vikings, volcanoes and harsh living conditions. In fact, the Atlantic island is a comparatively young populated habitat, the development of which is nevertheless no less interesting.

Up to the modern age

Iceland can look back on a moving history, which was shaped by courageous settlers, foreign rule and, last but not least, by harsh natural conditions. Learn more about the exciting history of Iceland.

9th to 13th centuries

Around 870, the tribal leader Ingólfur Arnason, who had been driven out of Norway, reached the southwest of Iceland with his entourage. When he saw the smoke rising from the thermal springs, he called the settlement "Reykjavík", which means something like smoke bay. The few Irish monks who were already in Iceland were driven out by him and the steadily moving Nordic settlers. The phase in which the Northmen settled is known as the land grab. In 930, due to the sharp increase in the population, the tribal leaders convene the Althing, the Icelandic parliament, and the first Icelandic free state is established. This makes it the oldest parliament in the world.

Today you can visit the significant site of Icelandic history in Thingvellir National Park. The 11th century is considered the saga age. During this time, Erik the Red colonized Greenland, discovered America (Vinland) and adopted Christianity according to the previously ruling pagan beliefs. In 1262, after years of fighting between the hostile Icelandic clans and under aggravating living conditions, Iceland fell under Norwegian sovereignty, which meant the end of the Free State.

14th to 17th centuries

In 1380 Norway, and with it Iceland, fell under Danish rule. The plague wreaked havoc on the island and reduced the population by two thirds. In 1550 the Reformation was enforced by the Danish king. A century later, Friedrich III. Denmark as the absolute sovereign of Iceland, which led to a trade monopoly for Denmark with Icelandic foreign trade. A large number of the residents earned their living as workers or tenants.

18th to 19th century

In 1783, volcanic eruptions from the Laki crater devastated the country and plunged the population into famine. More than a fifth of Icelanders died in the years that followed. In 1800 the Althing was dissolved by a ban in Denmark. But as in the rest of Europe, Iceland is also striving for independence. Jon Sigurdsson became the leader of the Icelandic freedom movement. In 1874, exactly 1000 years after the country was first settled, Iceland received its first constitution.

20th to 21st century

In 1904, the country on the Arctic Circle gains its own seat of government in Reykjavik. In 1918 Iceland signed the Union Treaty with Denmark, which officially confirmed the country's independence. Only foreign policy was directed by the Danish side. It was not until 1944 that the Icelandic Republic was proclaimed in Thingvellir and Sveinn Björnsson became the country's first president. Only two years later Iceland becomes a member of the UN.

One of the main economic drivers of the country is fishing and so between 1952 and 1975 Iceland expanded its fishing limits. These actions led to the so-called Cod Wars (Cod Wars) with Great Britain. It was not until 1985 that the fishing limits were officially recognized.

Today around two thirds of the population live in the greater Reykjavik area. The financial crisis in 2008 almost forced the country into bankruptcy, but emergency laws prevent this. In recent years, Iceland has recovered from the crisis thanks to a booming interest from visitors.