Iceland in the Eighteenth Century: An Island Outpost of Europe?

Anna Agnarsdóttir

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7557/4.2619

Keywords

Icelandic history; Europe; travel literature; eighteenth century; Icelandic society; urbanisation; exploration; scientific expeditions; the Enlightenment

Abstract

The aim is to define Iceland’s relationship with Europe during the eighteenth century. Though Iceland, an island in the mid-Atlantic, was geographically isolated from the European continent, it was in most respects an integral part of Europe. Iceland was not much different from western Europe except for the notable lack of towns and a European-style nobility. However, there was a clearly – defined elite and by the end of the eighteenth century urbanisation had become government policy. Iceland was also remote in the sense that the state of knowledge among the Europeans was slight and unreliable. However, in the spirit of the Enlightenment, Danish and French expeditions were sent to Iceland while British scientists began exploring the island with the result that by the early nineteenth century an excellent choice of books was available in the major European languages giving up-to-date accounts of Iceland. On the other hand the Icelanders were growing ever closer to Europe, by the end of the century for instance adopting fashionable European dress. Iceland’s history always followed western trends, its history more or less mirroring that of western Europe.

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License URL: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/