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The History of Iceland Paperback – April 15, 2000

8 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press; 1 edition (April 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816635897
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816635894
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #393,445 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 40 people found the following review helpful By James Paris on July 21, 2001
Format: Paperback
Icelandic history is divided into three epochs: (1) the Saga Period, from the beginnings of settlement to the surrender of sovereignty in 1262; (2) the Colonial Period, under the thumb of first Norway and then Denmark, during which Iceland almost disappears from the world stage; and (3) the Period of Independence, from approximately 1809 to the present. In his HISTORY, Gunnar Karlsson adds a fourth epoch: the 20th century.
Thanks to the great Icelandic sagas of the 13th Century, we know a great deal about the first period. (Some of the excitement comes across in Magnus Magnusson's little gem of a book entitled ICELAND SAGA.) Then, once Iceland lost her sovereignty in hopes of putting an end to strife between conflicting factions, she seemingly disappeared from history. Except, unfortunately, as a victim of catacylsmic volcanic eruptions, smallpox, plague, and an uncaring Danish administration.
The 19th Century saw a simultaneous enlightenment in Denmark's stewardship of Iceland and a growingly successful independence movement among Icelanders. Between the two World Wars, Iceland became an independent state of some promise and no longer the Albania of the North Atlantic.
There are several approaches to chronicling such an unusual history. Karlsson takes a heavily economically and statistically oriented approach, such that one cringes at the profusion of percent signs and dates and neat little tables. Suddenly, the author will abruptly switch gears and drop into a personal mode: "Most important of these wield yielders was the Iceland moss ... a lichen that grows on inland heaths. It looks extremely unappetizing -- brownish and dry, like a shrivelled piece of skin.... I personally salivate when I think about it cooked in milk.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
Gunnar Karlsson's book is a great introduction to Icelandic history. It is wonderful for the curious reader. However, as a scholarly work, it is lacking in precise details. In comparison to Knut Gjerset's History of Iceland, it is an easier read but with less information. While Karlsson touches upon a vareity of topics, he does not delve into them at great depth. However, this book would be great to find a topic that the reader would like to research or learn more about just because the nature of the book gives such a broad overview.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By M. North on April 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
A very readable history of Iceland, though it might have a few too many details and numbers for some people (not me). He does not over-romanticize Iceland and actually challenges a lot of myths that Icelanders have about their own history. I read the book just before I went to Iceland, and it made my experience a lot more enjoyable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By W Boudville HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
Nothing much happened! Yes. In this comprehensive review of the history of Iceland, spanning some 1200 years, one is struck by the few numbers of people and the languid pace of events. More broadly, the book can be seen as a history of Scandinavia, with a focus on Iceland.

There is the so-called North Atlantic Empire. Which I suggest that many readers, including myself, had never heard of, before this book. It was the Empire of Norway, and which included Iceland and Greenland. A minor but fascinating chapter in European history.

We see the rise of Icelandic as a separate language, distinct from Norwegian, Swedish or Danish. And above all, there are the fish. To good approximation, Iceland would not exist without the vast fishing grounds so close by.

Then there is the Icelandic parliament, the Althing, which is considered to be perhaps the oldest representative parliament in the world. Predating the House of Common, where the latter likes to call itself the Mother of Parliaments. Sadly, while the book may be correct about the Althing, it has had little influence on world affairs.
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