History of Iceland

Coat of arms
Coat of arms

This is a summary of the history of Iceland in chronological order. Additionally you’ll find some facts on the History of the Vikings in Europe during the Middle Ages and their settlement in Iceland. Further there is a Historic overview on the vikings and some facts and photos of the Viking Festival in Hafnafjörður.

Year Event
17 mio years ago Iceland was formed as a result of volcanic eruptions on the Mid-Atlantic-Ridge.
120,000 up to 10,000 years ago The island was buried under a large ice cap serveral times. The characteristic table mountains were formed.
around 750 Irish monks stayed in Iceland and the Faroes for a short time.
874 Ingólfur Arnarson was the first documented permanent settler. Further settlers followed.
930 The parliament "Althingi" was founded at Thingvellir.
982 Erik Thorvaldson ("Eric the Red") settled in Greenland.
1000 Leif Eriksson discovered North America. Adoption of Christianity in Iceland.
1056 The first bishop was established at Skálholt in South Iceland.
1120-1250 The Sagas were written down. Snorri Sturluson counts to the most important authors.
1241 Snorri Sturluson was murdered in West Iceland.
1262 Iceland became a Norwegian colony.
1380 Norway and Iceland became colonies of Denmark.
1402-1404 Two-thirds of the Icelandic people died due to the plague.
1550 Reformation in Iceland. The last Catholic bishop was beheaded.
1602 Denmark established a Royal trade monopoly.
1783-1790 Natural disaster (Laki eruption) with 10,000 victims.
1787 Denmark abolished the trade monopoly.
1800 Denmark decided to abolish the Althingi, Iceland’s parliament.
1818 The National Library has been founded.
1843 Althingi was reinstated as a consultative assembly.
1863 National museum has been founded.
1874 1000 years of settlement. A new constitution and limited home rule were granted to Iceland by Denmark.
1885 Foundation of the National Bank.
1904 Start of the self-government. Iceland received an own minister in Copenhagen.
1911 Foundation of the University of Iceland
1918 Sovereignty: Act of Crown Union with Denmark
1940 Iceland was occupied by British forces to prevent a German invasion. Replacement in 1941 by American troops.
1944 The Republic of Iceland has been proclaimed at Thingvellir, South Iceland.
1947 Iceland became a member of the United Nations
1947 Iceland became a member of the OEEC (later OECD)
1949 Iceland became a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
1950 Iceland became a member of the Council of Europe
1952 Iceland joined the Nordic Council
1952, 1958,
1972, 1975
Iceland gradually extended its fishery zone from 3 to 200 nautical miles.
1963-1967 Surtsey was formed in the Westman archipelago.
1970 Iceland became a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).
1973 Volcanic eruption on Heimaey, Westman Islands.
1986 Reagan-Gorbachev Summit held in Reykjavik.
2000 Reykjavik was a European Capital of Culture, designated by the European Union for a period of one year.
2004 Thingvellir has been included on UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage list.
2006 The US Air Base in Keflavik closed and the American military left Iceland.
2008 Surtsey has included on UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage list.
2008-2010 Icelandic financial crisis.

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