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NextGen Trips Europe - Iceland Destination
Iceland History - Middle Ages to the Early Modern Era


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A 19th-century depiction of a meeting of the Alþingi at Þingvellir.

The internal struggles and civil strife of the Sturlung Era led to the signing of the Old Covenant, which brought Iceland under the Norwegian crown. Possession of Iceland passed to Denmark-Norway in the late 14th century when the kingdoms of Norway and Denmark were united in the Kalmar Union. In the ensuing centuries, Iceland became one of the poorest countries in Europe. Infertile soil, volcanic eruptions, and an unforgiving climate made for harsh life in a society whose subsistence depended almost entirely on agriculture. The Black Death swept Iceland in 1402-1404 and 1494-1495, each time killing approximately half the population.

Around the middle of the 16th century, King Christian III of Denmark began to impose Lutheranism on all his subjects. The last Catholic bishop in Iceland was beheaded in 1550, along with two of his sons and the country subsequently became fully Lutheran. Lutheranism has since remained the dominant religion. In the 1600s and 1700s, Denmark imposed harsh trade restrictions on Iceland, while pirates from England, Spain and Algeria raided its coasts. A great smallpox epidemic in the 18th century killed around one-third of the population. In 1783 the Laki volcano erupted, with devastating effects. The years following the eruption, known as the Mist Hardships, saw the death of over half of all livestock in the country, with ensuing famine in which around a quarter of the population died.

Source: Wikipedia Encyclopedia

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