Icelandic Government Timeline

Icelandic Government Timeline

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  • c. 870 - 930

    Age of Settlement; the period in which Iceland was first settled by Scandinavians (mainly from Norway).

  • 930 - 1030

    Age of Saga; the time, in Iceland, in which many of the Old Norse sagas are set.

  • 1200 - 1262

    Age of the Sturlungs; in Iceland, six family clans have ended up in power, with the Sturlungs being the most powerful. In 1262, Iceland was brought under Norwegian rule.

Geography of Iceland

Iceland, officially called the Republic of Iceland, is an island nation located in the North Atlantic Ocean just south of the Arctic Circle. A large part of Iceland is covered with glaciers and snowfields and most of the country's inhabitants live in the coastal areas because those are the most fertile regions on the island. They also have a milder climate than other areas. Iceland is highly active volcanically and had a volcanic eruption under a glacier in April 2010. The ash from the eruption caused disruptions all over the world.

Fast Facts

  • Official Name: Republic of Iceland
  • Capital: Reykjavik
  • Population: 343,518 (2018)
  • Official Languages: Icelandic, English, Nordic languages, German
  • Currency: Icelandic kronur (ISK)
  • Form of Government: Unitary parliamentary republic
  • Climate: Temperate moderated by North Atlantic Current mild, windy winters damp, cool summers
  • Total Area: 39,768 square miles (103,000 square kilometers)
  • Highest Point: Hvannadalshnukur (at Vatnajokull Glacier) at 6,923 feet (2,110 meters)
  • Lowest Point: Atlantic Ocean at 0 feet (0 meters)

Plague and death

1402-04 - Plague hits Iceland, killing half the population. The plague returns in 1494-5 with similar fatalities.

1550 - Catholic bishop, Jon Arason, captured and beheaded in his northern diocese. This marks the final victory of the Lutheran Reformation in Iceland.

1602 - Denmark assumes a monopoly on all Icelandic trade. This continues for around 200 years.

1700s - A period of decline in Iceland, with disease, famine and a volcanic eruption in 1783 reducing the impoverished population from 50,000 to 35,000.

1814 - Norway enters union with Sweden Iceland remains under Danish rule.

1845 - The Althing meets again in Reykjavik.


U.S. Recognition of Icelandic Independence, 1944 .

When German forces occupied Denmark in 1940, Iceland assumed control over its own foreign affairs and gradually moved toward complete independence from Denmark. Following a plebiscite, Iceland formally became an independent republic on June 17, 1944 . That same day, the United States recognized Iceland in public statements of congratulation by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Secretary of State Cordell Hull.

Diplomatic Relations

Establishment of Diplomatic Relations and the American Legation in Iceland, 1941 .

Diplomatic relations and the American Legation at Reykjavik were established on September 30, 1941, when Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary Lincoln MacVeagh presented credentials and elevated the American Consulate to Legation status. Iceland had taken over full control of its foreign relations on April 10, 1940, although the country had not yet declared itself independent from Denmark, which was then under German occupation.

Elevation of American Legation to Embassy Status, 1955 .

The American Legation was elevated to Embassy status on November 3, 1955, when John J. Muccio presented his credentials as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.

The first conservation groups are dedicated to saving wildlife and wild lands.

1886-1905 The National Audubon Society forms to save plume birds from ladies’ hatters

1887 The Boone & Crockett Club is set up to preserve “manly sport with rifles”

1892 The Sierra Club is established by John Muir and others to defend Yosemite National Park

1918 Save the Redwoods League begins buying the last old-growth redwood trees

1935 The Wilderness Society is started by Aldo Leopold and others to preserve wilderness and the National Wildlife Federation brings together hunters and fishermen

1946 The Ecologists Union, later the Nature Conservancy, is started by scientists to acquire ecologically important reserves

1961 The World Wildlife Fund is founded by Sir Julian Huxley, Dutch and British royals


Icelandic independence in its earliest form was established in 1874, when Denmark gave the colony a right to home rule as well as a constitution. After the Weltkrieg, which Denmark remained neutral in, Iceland joined Mitteleuropa alongside their master Denmark. This allowed for Iceland to tap into a new market for their primary export, fish. The prosperity Iceland experienced as a result of both British and mainland European exports did not last for very long, however. The British Revolution of 1925 crushed any long-lasting dreams the nation had of prosperity, with the Mitteleuropan ban of exports to Syndicalist states, and the Royalists having more pressing matters than resuming the Icelandic fish trade.

To try and stop the rising unemployment Iceland was facing, the Althing initiated the City-Work Creation Scheme to get people working on manual labor construction projects. For a while, it worked, but after some time, it became a divisive issue, and in November of 1932 the Althing was debating shutting it down. News of these talks reached the population - who arrived in droves to riot, demanding that it stay, due to the fact that the same economic recession still gripped Iceland. They became known as the Gúttóslagurinn riots, and ensured the CWCS stayed in effect for the near future, at least.

Timeline: 1975

Jan 9 In Florence, Italy, police raid an abortion clinic, creating controversy.

Jan 15 In Greece, former dictator, George Papdopoulos, is charged with high treason and insurrection.

Feb 11 In Britain, Margaret Thatcher is chosen leader of the Conservative Party, the first woman to lead a British political party. She is known as an articulate member of the House of Commons.

Feb 18 Jane Fonda files $2.8 million damage suit against the US government, charging violation of her civil rights. The Justice Department confirms that the CIA intercepted her overseas mail.

Feb 18 Italy's highest court rules that abortion is legal if a pregnancy threatens the mother's physical or psychological health.

Feb 21 The Vatican declares the ruling on abortion questionable and of extreme gravity and states that abortion is morally unconscionable even if it is permitted by civil law.

Feb 25 The West German Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe declares as unconstitutional a law allowing abortions on request during the first three months of pregnancy.

Mar 6 The Shah of Iran and Baathist Iraq agree on a border between the two countries and declare a bond of "friendship and neighborliness.".

Mar 15 Aristotle Onassis dies. The former Jacqueline Kennedy is a widow again.

Mar 18 In Iraq, the peace and friendship between Iran and Iraq ends a year-old Kurd rebellion led by Mullah Mustafa Barzani. The Kurds had been supported by the Shah of Iran and by the CIA, the latter having been disturbed by Iraq's association with the Soviet Union.

Mar 26 During a royal audience, the young Saudi prince, Faisal ibu Masaed, fires three bullets at his uncle the king, Faisal ibn Abd al-Aziz, fatally wounding him.

Mar 30 North Vietnam's Army is the fifth largest army in the world. It has overrun the city of Hue. Saigon's military is in full retreat. The city of Da Nang is overrun. Around 100,000 South Vietnamese soldiers surrender after being abandoned by their commanding officers.

Apr 4 The first group of boat people from South Vietnam begin arriving in Malaysia.

Apr 5 Chiang Kai-shek's dream of taking back the mainland has come to an end with his death. Taiwan is shifting its focus from that project to advancing its economy.

Apr 12 In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge are closing in on the capital, Phnom Penh. The US evacuates its embassy personnel. Among the evacuees are some of Cambodia's most senior government ministers, including its acting president, Saukham Khoy.

Apr 17 In Paris, representatives of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge announce that the new Khmer Rouge government will follow a policy of neutrality and nonalignment. In Phnom Penh, many are joyous, believing that five years of civil war has ended. Khmer Rouge troops march into the city, disciplined, without a smile of friendship toward the celebrants in the streets.

Apr 18 China conveys its "warmest congratulations and highest esteem" to Prince Norodom Sihanouk and the new Cambodian leaders on their victory.

Apr 20 A radio station in Phnom Penh has been broadcasting only revolutionary music and slogans. The Khmer Rouge tells the people of Phnom Penh that the Americans are going to bomb the city. They begin to evacuate all residents.

Apr 21 Members of the Symbonese Liberation Army rob a bank in suburban Sacramento, California. One member, Emily Harris, kills a mother of four with a 12-gauge shotgun. Patricia Hearst drives the getaway car.

Apr 21 Nguyen Van Thieu resigns as President of South Vietnam. In an address he accuses the United States of having broken its promises. He is succeeded by Vice President Tran Van Huong.

Apr 23 President Ford announces that the Vietnam War is "finished as far as America is concerned." He says that "the fate of responsible men and women everywhere, in the final decision, is in their own hands, not ours."

Apr 25 A few members of Germany's Red Army Faction take over the German embassy in Stockholm, and after denied their demand for the release of twenty-six of their comrades they explode a bomb that kills two German diplomats.

Apr 26 From the French Embassy in Phnom Pehn, diplomats express concern about shortages of food, water and medical supplies. The embassy is housing diplomats and other foreigners, including five American newsmen.

Apr 27 Saigon is encircled by North Vietnamese troops. Looting erupts.

Apr 29 US helicopters lift people to three US aircraft carriers. South Vietnamese pilots land their helicopters, which are pushed over the side to make room for more arrivals.

Apr 29 US and Greek officials announce the end of the home-port arrangement for the US Sixth Fleet and the closing of the US air base at Athens airport.

Apr 30 The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong occupy the presidential palace in Saigon.

May 5 The US State Department announces its belief that the Khmer Rouge has forcibly evacuated virtually the entire population from Phnom Penh.

May 12 The Khmer Rouge, aboard three gunboats, takes possession of a US cargo ship, the US Mayaguez, in a shipping lane off the coast of Cambodia.

May 14 US President Gerald Ford sends a company of Marines to rescue the Mayaguez and its crew. The ship's 40 crew members are rescued and an equal number of US servicemen are killed in the operation. Three Marines are taken prisoner and will not survive their captivity. The Khmer Rouge have gained nothing.

May 16 In Sikkim, people have rebelled against their monarchy. India annexes Sikkim, which becomes India's second smallest state.

Jun 2 In Maine, James A. Healy becomes the first black Roman Catholic bishop.

Jun 5 The Suez Canal, closed during Egypt's 1967 war with Israel, is reopened.

Jun 18 In a Riyadh shopping center, Prince Faisal ibu Masaed Faisal Ibn Mussed is beheaded for having killed his uncle, King Faisal.

Jun 25 In Eastern Africa, Mozambique becomes independent after five centuries of Portuguese rule. Around 600,000 Portuguese farmers have abandoned their farms, devastating Mozambique's agriculture.

Jul 1 Thailand and China establish diplomatic relations.

Jul 5 Arthur Ashe defeats Jimmy Conners, becoming the first black to win a Wimbledon singles title.

Jul 5 Portugal grants independence to the Cape Verde Islands, off the coast of West Africa.

Aug 1 In Helsinki, Finland, representatives of 35 countries sign the Helsinki Accords. They include the Soviet Union, the United States, Turkey and Europe's various states. The Accords declare respect for the rights inherent in sovereignty, the inviolability of frontiers, non-intervention in internal affairs, self-determination, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief. The Soviet Union is happy with the Accords, believing it offers them more security.

Aug 4 In Malaysia, the Japanese Red Army raids a building that houses the US, Swedish, Japanese and Canadian embassies. They take 50 hostages and demand release of comrades in prison in Japan.

Aug 8 The Japanese government sends the Red Army their seven comrades, and the Red Army releases its hostages. Japan Airlines flies the Red Army members to Libya where the army members surrender peacefully to Libyan authorities.

Aug 15 In Bangladesh, a pre-dawn military coup by mid-ranking army officers murders the country's founding leader, Sheik Mujibar Rahman, and his family.

Aug 16 In Bangladesh, coup officers back a political figurehead, Khondakar Mushtaque Ahmed. He announces that parliamentary democracy will be restored by February 1977, and he lifts what had been the ban on political parties.

Aug 18 A Japan Air Lines spokesman expresses his view that the airline will refuse future requests to fly terrorists to countries that might offer them political asylum.

Aug 23 In Laos, a coalition government created by Communists takes power peacefully following days of planning and negotiations. The king of Laos, Savang Vatthana, is reduced to a figurehead.

Aug 24 In what has been an open trial, Col. George Papadopoulos and 19 others who took power in 1967 are found guilty of high treason and insurrection. Papadopoulos and two others are sentenced to death by firing squad.

Aug 25 Greece's government spares the lives of Papadopoulos and the two others sentenced to death, leaving the three with life sentences.

Aug 26 In Venice, Italy, preventive measures, long in progress, stop the city from sinking into the sea.

Aug 27 Haile Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia, out of power for almost one year and still worshipped as a savior and as God Incarnate by Rastafarians, dies at the age 83.

Sep 5 In Sacramento, California, Lynette "Squeeky" Fromme, a mystic and follower of Charles Manson, plans to speak to President Ford about the plight of California's redwood trees. President Ford is visiting Sacramento. Fromme points a pistol at the president and pulls the trigger but there is no round in the chamber. She is arrested.

Sep 8 Boston's public schools begin a court-ordered citywide busing program. The National Guard has been called out to prevent violence.

Sep 18 In an apartment in San Francisco with other Symbionese Liberation Army members, Patty Hearst is arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Sep 22 In San Francisco, Sara Jane Moore, an FBI informer and self-proclaimed revolutionary fires a shot at President Ford. She had tried to reach by telephone those protecting the President. She believes that the government is making war against the left. She is to say that she did not want to kill anybody but "there comes a point when the only way you can make a statement is to pick up a gun."

Oct 9 Soviet scientist Andrei Sakharov, civil rights advocate and creator of the first hydrogen bomb, is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Soviet Union will not allow him to travel to Norway to receive the prize.

Oct 10 Israel and Egypt sign the Sinai Accord. Borders between the two countries are re-established and shipping through the Suez Canal is opened to Israel.

Oct 15 Iceland, committed to its fishing industry, moves its international boundary from 50 miles offshore to 200 miles.

Oct 30 The dictator Franco is incapacitated. Prince Juan Carlos assumes power in Spain.

Nov 3 In Bangladesh, military officers who resent the military coup of August 15 take power.

Nov 7 Fear that the new regime will renew ties with India, another coup takes place in Bangladesh. President Khondakar Mushtaque Ahmed returns as a figurehead president. Ziaur Rahman is the power behind the president. He cancels the elections for 1977.

Nov 11 Angola acquires independence from Portugal. Fidel Castro orders Cuban troops to Angola to support the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), which declares itself Angola's legitimate government.

Nov 18 Apparently having given up on revolution and seven years of exile, Eldridge Cleaver flies from Paris to New York, willing to face legal charges against him.

Nov 20 Spain's dictator, Francisco Franco, dies at the age of 83.

Nov 22 Juan Carlos is proclaimed king of Spain.

Nov 26 A federal jury in Sacramento finds Lynette Fromme guilty of trying to assassinate President Ford.

Nov 26 Harvard professor Edward O. Wilson has created a new field of study, expressed in his book Sociobiology: The New Synthesis. He is being attacked from the political left and answers a hostile article in the New York Review of Books in this week's issue of that journal.

Nov 28 In Southeast Asia, East Timor proclaims independence from Portuguese rule.

Dec 3 In Laos, King Savang Vatthana is forced to abdicate. The People's Democratic Republic is proclaimed. The new republic is aligned with Vietnam and gives Vietnam the right to station troops within its borders and to appoint personnel to assist in overseeing the country.

Dec 6 Lebanon's army has disintegrated as soldiers have deserted to ethnic militias. On this day, to be known as Black Saturday, an estimated 200 to 600 people, mostly civilians, are killed in sectarian violence. A civil war has begun that will last to 1990.

Dec 8 Indonesia claims rule over East Timor and invades.

Dec21 In Austria the Saudi oil minister, Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani, and other oil ministers at the OPEC gathering are abducted by four "pro-Palestinian" terrorists. They kill three and take 11 oil ministers and about 80 others hostage.

Dec 23 The terrorists have been flown to Algiers with forty hostages and $1 billion in ransom money, a stop on a journey that will extend into 1976, to Baghdad and then to Tripoli. A Venezuelan revolutionary in his twenties, to be known as Carlos the Jackal (Ilich Ramirez Sanchez), is to take credit for planning the operation. He speaks five languages, has been in Europe since 1968, and has been active with Palestinians.

Dec 25 Equatorial Africa's dictator, Francisco Macías Nguema, has 150 of his political opponents executed in football stadium football in Malabo to the amplified sound of a band playing the Mary Hopkin's tune Those Were the Days.

Iceland History

The country joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949 and subsequently received an American air force base in 1951. In 1970, it was admitted to the European Free Trade Association. Iceland unilaterally extended its territorial fishing limit from 3 to 200 nautical miles in 1972, precipitating a dispute with the UK known as the ?cod wars,? which ended in 1976 when the UK recognized the new limits. In 1980, the Icelanders elected a woman to the office of the presidency, the first elected female chief of state (i.e., president as distinct from prime minister) in the world. After the recession of the early 1990s, Iceland's economy rebounded.

At the International Whaling Commission meeting in July 2001, Iceland refused to agree to the continuation of the moratorium on commercial whaling that had been in effect since 1986. In 2003, after a 14-year lull, the country began hunting whales for scientific research.

In May 2003, David Oddsson was reelected, making him the longest-serving prime minister in Europe. In 2004, in a prearranged agreement made between the two parties of the coalition government, Oddsson and Foreign Minister Halldr sgrmsson switched positions. In June 2006 sgrmsson resigned as prime minister after his party did badly in local elections. Economic troubles were cited as the main reason for the Progressive Party's poor showing. Geir Haarde, leader of Iceland's largest political party, the Independence Party, became prime minister and announced the implementation of more fiscally conservative measures.

On October 9, 2008, amidst international stock market turmoil, the Icelandic stock exchange suspended trading and the government decided to nationalize three major banks. In November 2008, the IMF extended a $2 billion rescue package to Iceland to help its battered currency and stock market. Despite the aid, the financial crisis continued into 2009, prompting demonstrations against the government. Prime Minister Geir Haarde resigned on January 26, 2009, causing the collapse of Iceland's government. On February 1, 2009, Johanna Sigurdardottir was sworn in as the new prime minister, becoming Iceland's first female prime minister and the modern world's first openly gay head of government. In April parliamentary elections, Sigurdardottir's center-left coalition won 34 out of 63 seats.

In a March 2010 referendum, voters in a landslide rejected the government's proposal to reimburse Britain and the Netherlands for $5 billion in losses incurred in the collapse of Landsbanki in 2008.

The Arts in Iceland

Considering that Iceland has only 320,000 people, the number of museums and art galleries in the country is astounding. Even in small towns and out-of-the-way fishing villages, you will encounter some public place dedicated to preserving the national heritage or displaying the work of local artists.

From the avant-garde to the historical, Reykjavik ’s galleries, museums and theaters support a vibrant yet sophisticated artistic culture. The Reykjavik Arts Festival, cutting-edge music festivals like Airwaves, special exhibitions and stage productions mean that the cultural calendar is always full of events for the visitor to enjoy.


Iceland is a nation of music lovers, with a trending music scene that has gained widespread international acclaim. The scene offers a diversity of styles and genres with everything from punk and indie rock to chamber music and hip-hop.

The Icelandic Symphony Orchestra

The capital boasts a large number of intimate music venues, as well as the newly opened Harpa Concert Hall which houses the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra. Iceland ’s cultural season begins in the fall with the first concert by the orchestra, which has won fine reviews for its regional tour performances. Throughout the season the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra gives around 60 performances which include traditional classical concerts and contemporary music.

The Icelandic Opera

The Icelandic Opera also opens its cultural season in the fall and produces about two to four operas or other musical events throughout the winter at its new home at Harpa Hall. The Icelandic Opera is a world-class professional company, featuring Iceland ’s top performers including the country’s newest opera star, Gardar Thor Cortes.

Contemporary music

Reykjavik is renowned for its ever evolving contemporary music scene with everything on offer from jazz to heavy metal every night of the week/throughout the year. Gigs are held in local cafes and tucked-away bars where you may up and coming bands or some of the more established acts that have gone on to international fame like Olafur Arnalds, Of Monsters and Men, Emiliana Torrini and Kaleo, just to name a few.

Music festivals

There are a number of wonderful music festivals throughout the country and the most celebrated are the Reykjavik Jazz Festival in August, Iceland Airwaves Music Festival held in November and the Secret Solstice festival in June, all of which draw bands and music fans from all over the world.

How Iceland Recovered

In February 2009, voters elected Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir and her coalition. She barred capital from leaving the country. She raised taxes. But she also kept social services and provided debt relief to mortgage holders. She prohibited citizens from buying foreign currency or foreign stocks.

As a result, people invested in local businesses, including real estate and private equity. Tourism boomed when local prices fell thanks to the low currency exchange rate. It increased further after both the 2010 and 2011 volcanic eruptions.

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