Milestones in Icelandic History
Discovery and Settlement
330 BC: An island, Thule, or Ultima Thule, in the farthest north is mentioned in a geography by the Greek navigator Pytheas; located six days' sailing north of Britannia and one day and night from “the end of the world”.
~ 700: Evidence of Irish monks living in Iceland.
850: Naddoddur, a Norwegian Viking, lands in Reyðarfjörður, East Iceland. He calls the land Snæland - Snowland.
860s: Norsemen discover Iceland.
860s: The Swedish Viking Garðar Svavarsson spends one winter in Húsavík. He sails around the land and proves that it is an island. He names the land Garðarshólmur - Gardar’s Island, after himself.
860s: Flóki Vilgerðarson, the great Norwegian Viking known as Hrafna-Flóki (Ravens-Floki), spends two winters in Iceland. During the cold spring, Flóki sees a fjord full of sea ice northwards and names the land Ísland - Iceland. The summer after, he sails back to Norway.
874: Ingólfur Arnarson, a rich and influential Norwegian chieftain sails to Iceland and settles in Reykjavik.
870–930: The Settlement of Iceland. An estimated 30,000-40,000 people had settled in Iceland.
800-1050 The Viking Age
930: The first Althing (Parliament), a judiciary and legislative body of chieftains, and the establishment of the independent republic at Þingvellir (Thingvellir).
930-1262: The Commonwealth or Free State.
930–1030: The Saga Age
982: Eiríkur hinn rauði - Erik the Red, father of Leif Eriksson, discovers Greenland and settles there in 985.
999 or 1000: Christianity adopted in Iceland.
1000: Leifur Eiríksson (Leif Eriksson), Leif the Lucky, discovers North America and names it Vínland (Wineland).
1056: The first Icelandic bishop, Ísleifur Gissurarson, is consecrated and a bishopric established at Skálholt.
1096: Iceland is the first Nordic country to introduce payment of tithes to the church.
1106: A second bishopric established at Hólar. Jón Ögmundsson becomes the first bishop there and abolishes pagan customs and practices.
1117-1118: The laws of the Althing are written down (previously communicated orally). End of the Age of Peace.
1120s-1230s: The Great Age of Writing. Most of the Icelandic sagas are written. Great historical works: Íslendingabók (The Book of Icelanders, 1130) by Ari fróði Þorgilsson (Thorgilsson) - Ari the Wise ( “the Learned”), and Heimskringla (History of the Norwegian Kings, 1225-1235) by Snorri Sturluson.
1133: The first monastery established in Þingeyrar (Thingeyrar).
1179: Snorri Sturluson, poet, historian and chieftain, author of the Prose Edda and the Heimskringla, is born.
1220: Beginnings of "The Age of the Sturlungs” (Sturlungaöld).
1241: Snorri Sturluson is murdered by his enemies in Reykholt, at the instigation of King Haakon IV of Norway.
1244: Sea battle at Húnaflói.
1262: End of the Commonwealth period. End of "The Age of the Sturlungs".
Late Middle Ages
1262-1264: Chieftains in Iceland accept the sovereignty of the King of Norway.
1275: Adoption of Christian laws strengthens the power of the church in Iceland.
1300: Eruption of Hekla volcano (also in 1341 and 1389), earthquakes, cattle diseases, famines and epidemics.
1311: Katla volcanic eruption.
1380 -1397: Iceland and Norway come under the Danish crown. Icelandic chieftains replaced by Danish royal officials. Althing becomes a court of law; judges chosen by royal officers.
1402-1404: The Black Death ravages Iceland. More than 1/3 of the population dies. Only 30-40.000 survive.
1477: Christopher Columbus visits Iceland.
1490: English ships begin fishing in Icelandic waters while paying dues to the Danish crown.
1540-1550: The Reformation imposed on Iceland by the order of the Danish king. First Lutheran Bishop installed in Skálholt. The last Catholic bishop, Jón Arason, who opposed the introduction of the Reformation, is beheaded.
1550: Traditionally understood to mark the end of the Middle Ages in Iceland.
Growth of Danish Royal Power
1584: The Bible is translated into Icelandic.
1602: Denmark establishes a trade monopoly. The monopoly covered all trade with Iceland.
1618: Volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.
1627: Pirates from North Africa plunder Iceland's east fjords and Westman Islands, killing many.
1660: Katla volcano erupts.
1662: Danish King assumes hereditary power. Absolutism enforced; Althing’s power declines.
1693: Hekla volcano erupts.
1703: First census is conducted by Árni Magnússon and Páll Vídalín; population of Iceland is 50,366.
1707: Smallpox epidemic kills 18,000 people.
1727: Öræfajökull (Oraefajokull) volcano erupts.
1749: Skúli Magnússon becames the official in charge of administrative affairs (landfógeti).
1755: Katla volcano erupts.
1757: 9,000 people perish from disease and famine.
1783-1785: Laki eruption – Lakagígar: one of the most cataclysmic volcanic eruptions in modern history, followed by a devastating earthquake. Completely destroys the bishopric of Skálholt, causing huge damage, and loss of 10,000 persons. A great famine follows. Denmark seriously contemplates relocating the remaining population of Iceland in the moors of Jutland in Denmark.
1786: Reykjavík obtains town status. Population at the time is 200.
1787: Danish monopoly partially lifted.
1798: Althing is moved to Reykjavik from Thingvellir.
1800: The Althing is dissolved by royal decree. It is replaced by the Supreme Court.
Struggle for Independence
1811: Jón Sigurðsson, leader of the Icelandic independence movement, is born at Hrafnseyri, Westfjords.
1814: Norway leaves the union with Denmark.
1843: The Althing is re-established as a consultative body. Jón Sigurðsson (Jon Sigurdsson, 1811-1879) leads the continuing struggle for greater autonomy.
1848: Althing demands autonomy and Iceland’s first newspaper appears.
1854: Danish Trade monopoly lifted. Complete freedom of trade for Iceland.
1855: Freedom of press established.
1863: The National Museum of Iceland is founded.
1870s-1890s: Large-scale emigration to North America.
1874: Nationwide millennium celebrations of Iceland's settlement. King Christian IX of Denmark visits Iceland for the first time. New Icelandic constitution.
Home Rule and Sovereignty
1904: Constitution amended. Home rule under Denmark.
1906: Submarine telegraph cable from Scotland to Iceland.
1906-1908: National Library of Iceland built.
1911: University of Iceland founded.
1915: Parliamentary vote granted to women over 40 years of age.
1915: Iceland acquires its own flag; first hoisted as a state ensign in 1918.
1918: The sovereign Icelandic state, Kingdom of Iceland, established and policy of permanent neutrality adopted.
1919: The Icelandic Coast Guard begins operating around Iceland.
1920: The Supreme Court founded.
1930: Millennium of the Althing is celebrated at Thingvellir.
1940: Denmark occupied by Germany. Iceland occupied by British troops, due to its strategic value.
1941: U.S. forces take over defense of Iceland and policy of permanent neutrality abandoned.
Founding of the Republic of Iceland
1944: Iceland rescinds its union with Denmark and on June 17th The Republic of Iceland is founded at Þingvellir. Sveinn Björnsson elected as the first President.
1945: First International flight by Icelandic aircraft.
1946: Iceland joins the United Nations.
1947: Iceland is one of the founding members of OEEC (in 1961 changed to OECD).
1949: Iceland becomes a founding members of NATO.
1950: Iceland joins Council of Europe.
1951: Defence agreement between the United States and Iceland.
1952: Fishery limits extended to 4 mi. Iceland joins the Nordic Council. Sveinn Björnsson, the 1st President, dies.
1955: Halldór Kiljan Laxness receives the Nobel Prize for literature.
1958: Fishery limits extended to 12 miles. "Cod War" with Britain. The new limit accepted after 3 years of conflict.
1961: The Danish Parliament passes a law to return the Icelandic manuscripts to Iceland.
1962: Radio-telephone submarine cable from Scotland to Iceland.
1963: Radio-telephone submarine cable between Iceland and Canada.
1963: Birth of submarine island Surtsey off the coast of Iceland by an underwater volcanic eruption.
1965: Denmark agrees to return the Icelandic manuscripts. Icelandic national TV station goes on air.
1967: Disappearance of herring from Icelandic waters and the ensuing economic crisis.
1970: Iceland joins EFTA.
1971: Arrival of the first Icelandic manuscripts from Copenhagen: Konungsbók Eddukvæða and Flateyjarbók. An estimated 15, 000 people gather at Reykjavik harbour to celebrate the homecoming of the manuscripts.
1972: Iceland's fishery limits extended to 50 miles, causing the second "Cod War" with Britain, who accept the new limit after Iceland threatens to pull out of NATO and break all diplomatic relations.
Fischer and Spassky compete for the chess World Championship title in Reykjavik.
1973: Volcanic eruption on Heimaey, the only inhabited island of the Westman Islands.
Nixon - Pompidou summit in Reykjavik.
1974: 1100th anniversary of the Settlement. Last stretch of the 1406 km Ring Road around Iceland completed.
1975: Fishery limits extended to 200 miles - 3rd "Cod War". Iceland confirms its earlier stance and wins.
1980: Vigdís Finnbogadóttir becomes the first woman ever to be democratically elected President of a Republic.
1983: World's first ever Women’s party founded in Iceland; wins 5,5% of the total seats in the Althing.
1986: Reagan - Gorbachev summit meeting held in Höfði House, Reykjavik, on October 11-12 at very short notice.
1987: NATO ministerial meeting in Reykjavik. The new ultramodern Leifur Eiríksson Int. Air Terminal inaugurated.
1989: Pope John Paul II makes an official visit to Iceland. Sale of beer permitted after 81 years prohibition.
1994: Iceland joins the European Economic Area.
1995: Avalanches hit fishing villages in the Westfjords on two separate occasions, killing 34 people.
1998: Nobel Prize winner Halldór Kiljan Laxness dies.
2006: American troops leave Iceland.
2008: Financial crisis.
2009: Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir becomes the first woman Prime Minister of Iceland.
2013: 350th anniversary of Árni Magnússon (1663-1730), Icelandic scholar and collector of Icelandic manuscripts.