The History of Iceland

by Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson


Modern-day Iceland, a rugged island in the North Atlantic Ocean roughly the size of the state of Ohio, is home to over 300,000 individuals. In the early 19th century, however, Iceland's population had dropped to less than 40,000 as a result of a series of natural disasters and epidemics. At the time, some even wondered if moving the entire population of Iceland off what seemed to a cursed island would have been wise.

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Cover image for The History of Iceland

January 2013


Pages 172
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics World History/Politics and Government

Based upon the most recent research, this thought-provoking, up-to-date survey of the history of Iceland provides unique insight into the challenges facing a small nation in a globalized world.

In more recent times, Iceland has faced other major challenges, most notably its economic fall in 2008 when a nationwide failure of its financial systems eroded it from its former position as one of the most developed and wealthiest countries in the world.

The History of Iceland describes how a small nation situated on a rocky and isolated island struggled for centuries to survive but then rose to great prosperity in the modern era. The work provides a comprehensive summary of Iceland's history that shares a tale of independence versus interdependence—one that underscores how recent events have forced a people with great pride in their unique heritage to reconsider well-established notions about themselves as a nation.

Based on the most recent research, this work is the first comprehensive overview to cover in detail the collapse of Iceland's economy and its subsequent effect on its people. Organized into seven main sections that chronologically cover the history of Iceland from the island's settlement to the present day, the book concludes with a revealing discussion of how each period has been perceived by later generations of Icelanders.


  • Maps of Iceland
  • Biographical sketches of notable people in the history of Iceland
  • A chronology of events and glossary of terms
  • Bibliographies of selected materials at the end of each section


  • Provides an up-to-date survey of Iceland's history
  • Written by one of Iceland's most renown historians and prolific authors on the subject
  • Demonstrates how the history of Iceland perfectly parallels the challenges facing small nations in a globalized world today
  • Underscores the effects of nature and climate on human sustenance through the ages
Series Description

The Greenwood Histories of the Modern Nations

Every school and public library should update its resources with these engagingly written and succinct narrative histories of the world's nations covering prehistoric times through today. Based on the most recent scholarship, each history provides a chronological narrative examining the political, cultural, philosophical, and religious continuities in the featured nation's long, rich history in an exploration of how its people came to be who they are today. Each volume includes a chronological narrative history, a timeline of events, biographical sketches of key figures, a glossary, and a bibliographic essay.
Author Info

Guðni Jóhannesson, PhD, is president of Iceland and historian at the Reykjavík Academy, Iceland. An author of numerous works on Icelandic history and current affairs, he has taught at the University of Iceland and Reykjavík University. Jóhannesson studied at the universities of Warwick and Oxford in Britain and completed his doctorate at the University of London. His published works include Troubled Waters: Cod War, Fishing Disputes, and Britain's Fight for the Freedom of the High Seas, 1948–1964; Sympathy and Self-interest: Norway and the Anglo-Icelandic Cod Wars; and the article "To the Edge of Nowhere?: U.S.-Icelandic Defense Relations during and after the Cold War".



"Recommended for public and undergraduate libraries; suitable for circulating collections."Booklist

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