Leina’ala Morse H English HPWL Dr. Puleloa Period

Leina’ala MorseH English HPWLDr. Puleloa Period 521 January 208                        Iceland: The ForwardThinkers  Iceland is a Nordic island country ofEurope located in the North Atlantic Ocean.

 With an area of 39,679 square miles and a population of 334,252, mostpeople live in the capitol, Reykjavik. Iceland is famous for its breathtaking natural beauty, filled with hotsprings, geysers, and active volcanoes. Although Iceland is geographically isolated, it is home to one of themore technologically and socially advanced nations in the world.  Iceland has a captivating history,interesting current events, and a rich literary history.  Iceland’s uniqueness can be traced back tothose who settled and first developed the island nation.  They were a progressive and adventurouspeople who tried new things and did things their own way, despite attempts byneighboring countries to impose their rules and traditions.Iceland’s history began in the 9th century,when it was first discovered and settled by progressive explorers looking for anew start.  According to Ingólfur Shahin;writer of the article The History of Iceland “Iceland was given its name by aScandinavian sailor, Flóki Vilgerðarson after he spotted some drift ice in thefjords during an especially brutal winter.

 Hrafna-Flóki (Flóki of the Ravens), as he iscalled, was the first Norseman to deliberately set sail to Iceland.”  Ingolfur Shanin also states that: Ingólfur Arnarson is credited as Iceland’s firstpermanent settler… As legend has it, Ingólfur threw overboard two carved pillars andpledged to settle wherever they landed. In time, the pillars were found in current-day Reykjavík where hesettled with his family in the year 874.

 Norwegian chieftains followedIngólfur en masse through the next few decades to escape the heavy-handed King Harald of Norway, and in about 60 years, Iceland wasfully settled.  By 930 A.D., it isthought that all arable land in the country had been settled. Ingolfur Shahin also states that “…thesettlement had grown so large that a new legislative body was in order; theruling chiefs, therefore, established the Althing, which is believed by many tobe the world’s oldest nation-wide parliament.”             ThoughIceland had a centuries-long head start on establishing a representativegovernment, its early rulers were as religious as their counterparts in otherparts of the world at the time.

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  IngolfurShahin outlines the early religious history driven by Iceland’s first rulers asthey transitioned from their Nordic beliefs to the more modern Christianbeliefs of their time:  For a time, the Icelanders held ontotheir belief in Norse mythology, following a lineage of oral tradition thatspanned back to the time of their ancestors in Scandinavia. However, when OlafTryggvason ascended the Norwegian throne in 995 AD, he decided to focus hisefforts on converting those under his rule…so Olaf sent across anumber of missionaries with only partial success.  In 999 A.D., after another unsuccessfulconversion attempt, Olaf shut off all trade routes to Iceland…To avoid civil war, the pagan law speaker Þorgeir Þorkelsson was electedto decide whether Iceland should or should not become a Christian country.  Thorgeir was chosen for his reputation as areasonable man who could act as a peaceful mediator between both sides of thedebate.  After deliberating…Thorgeirfinally concluded that Iceland should adopt a new faith.

The religious transition was atumultuous age for Iceland, accompanied by political strife and war.  Ingólfur Shahin states that “In the 13thcentury, a civil war known as the Age of the Sturlungs gripped Iceland…strifesaw powerful Icelandic chieftains (Goðar) battle it out over whether Icelandshould become a subject of Hákon the Old, King of Norway.”  The article “The History of Iceland” statesthat: The Norwegian king was nothing if notpersistent in stirring up trouble.

 GissurÞorvaldsson….was made a Jarl by the Norwegian king.  Gissur did much to push the King’s efforts,and finally, in 1262, the Gamli sáttmáli (“Old Covenant”) wassigned.

  This agreement ended theIcelandic Commonwealth and the island became a vassal of the Kingdom of Norway. One century later, Iceland would begranted to the Danish.  Denmark’sChristian III challenged the open religious practices of Icelanders and imposedLutheranism on the people, and to this day, most religious Icelanders remainLutheran.

            Aftermany years of Dutch rule, in the 19th century, the demand forIcelandic independence increased, and Iceland became a sovereign state in1918.  Though independent, it stillremained subject to some forms of rule by Denmark, with full separation only comingabout after World War II. According to Jonathon Wilcox and Zawiah Abdul Latif;authors of the book Cultures of the WorldIceland:  The Icelandic governmentdeclared its intentions to push for total independence, a move overwhelminglyapproved in a national referendum.

On June, 1944, at the traditional site ofthe Althing, Sveinn Bjornsson… declared Iceland independent.  Iceland had finally regained independenceafter 700 years. In the post-world war boom, Icelandthrived and grew economically. Production and culture developed along with the rest of Europe.  Since that time, Iceland has lived up to itshistoric reputation as an innovator.  Modernday Iceland is thriving!  According to thewebsite Promote Iceland, in the article Peopleand Society, “Iceland is a progressive, modern society that continuouslyranks at the top of measurements for quality of life.” A huge part of Iceland’s socialprogression has to do with equality for women. According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2017, published by the WorldEconomic Forum, “Iceland has long been deemed the best place in the world to bea woman, for the past nine years…”  A fewweeks ago, Iceland became the first country ever to have companies prove that theyare paying men and women equally for the same work.

  According to Sif Sigmarsdottir; author of thearticle Once More, Iceland has Shown itis the Best Place in the World to be a Female: This week Iceland became the first country in the worldto make companies prove they arenot paying women less than men for the same work.  Employers arerushing to comply with the new rules to avoid fines.  Companies and government agencies with morethan 25 staff must obtain government certification of their equal pay policies.Egalitarianism, or the equality of all people, is animportant value for Icelanders and it shows in their economy.  According to Jonathon Wilcox and Zawiah AbdulLatif; authors of the book Cultures of theWorld Iceland:There is less social andeconomic stratification in Iceland than in most countries.  The difference in wages between differentprofessions is also smaller.

 Egalitarianism, the equality of all people, is widely recognized as animportant ideal by all Icelanders.  Thisspirit is encouraged, like so much else, by the number, by the small size ofpopulation.  (60)            Iceland’scommitment to equality and progressive social policy is also evident in theirstructure of the education system.  They believethat every student should have equal opportunities to acquire and education,regardless of religion, economic status, handicap, or cultural/socialbackground.  Shannon Elder, author of What Does Education in Iceland Look Like,states that:Preschool is the first levelof education, which children attend between one and six years of age.  There are fees for preschool, but they arelargely subsidized.  Compulsory educationfollows preschool education.

  Compulsoryeducation is free and mandatory for children between the ages of six and 16…Upper secondary education is the third level. It is available to anyone who has completed compulsory education, and ismostly compromised of students 16 to 20 years of age.  The upper secondary level is essentially theequivalent of high school in the United States and is free… The fourth tier iseducation at a university…To apply for university, a student must first havecompleted upper secondary education.

  Forthe most part, universities in Iceland are required to accept all students withan upper secondary degree.  Publicuniversities in Iceland are tuition-free…A strong focus on education makessense given Iceland’s long history of literature and reading.   Iceland has astrong literary tradition dating back centuries and their love of literaturestill thrives today.  According to thearticle The Most Influential ContemporaryIcelandic Novelists, “Iceland is notorious for being a book-loving nation,with over 1300 titles published each year. In a language spoken by only 340,000 people, that is a remarkablenumber.” The country’s love for written language and literaturetraces back to its origins.

 The Icelandic language has stayed steady overits many generations.  According toEncyclopedia Britannica, in the article IcelandicLiterature, “the relative stability of the Icelandic language means thatIcelanders today can without difficulty still read old Icelandic sagas.”For most of its history, poetry was Iceland’s main formof literature.  Poets were a significantfactor in driving Iceland’s move towards independence.

  According to Jonathon Wilcox andZawiah Abdul Latif; authors of the book Culturesof the World Iceland:Jonas Hallgrimsson…Is one ofthe most admired poets of modern Iceland. He pioneered a new movement in poetry and literature, which reshaped thelanguage of poetry and prose, opened the Icelanders’ eyes to the beauty oftheir land, and accelerated their determination to achieve politicalindependence.  (102)It was through the written word that the political willand imagination for the value of sovereign independence was harnessed andchanneled to action.  Poetry was powerfulin that regard and Icelanders traditionally valued poetry above other forms ofliterature due to its power to unite public opinion and move people toaction.  It was only in the early 20th Century that Icelandicnovelists started to publish books. Halldór Laxness received the 1955 Nobel Prize in Literature for his “vividepic power which has renewed the great narrative art of Iceland.

”  His novel depicted his nation in an eye openingmanner for the rest of the world and was a best seller in the United States.From its founding, Iceland has made history, pushingthe boundaries on religious, political, and social fronts.  That progressive tradition was set by forwardthinkers who discovered, settled, and developed Iceland.  The people who came thereafter continued tomove progressively and helped drive modern reforms needed to make Iceland thecutting edge example of equality, progress, and innovation that it istoday.  The people of Iceland continue tolive up to their ancestors’ progressive legacy and now Iceland boasts some ofthe most successful forward thinking and progressive societies in theworld.