Archive for June, 2012

Iceland – Independence movement 1814–1918

Einar Jónsson's statue of Jón Sigurðsson in Re...

Einar Jónsson’s statue of Jón Sigurðsson in Reykjavík. Another casting exists in Winnipeg, Manitoba (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1814, following the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark-Norway was broken up into two separate kingdoms via the Treaty of Kiel. Iceland, however, remained a Danish dependency. Throughout the 19th century, the country’s climate continued to worsen, resulting in mass emigration to the New World, particularly Manitoba in Canada. About 15,000 people out of a total population of 70,000 left.

However, a new national consciousness had arisen, inspired by romantic and nationalist ideas from mainland Europe. An Icelandic independence movement took shape in the 1850s under the leadership of Jón Sigurðsson, riding on the burgeoning Icelandic nationalism inspired by the Fjölnismenn and other Danish-educated Icelandic intellectuals. In 1874, Denmark granted Iceland a constitution and limited home rule, which was expanded in 1904.

Reformation and the Early Modern period

Michaelikirche Hamburg

Michaelikirche Hamburg (Photo credit: Matthew Black)

Around the middle of the 16th century, King Christian III of Denmark began to impose Lutheranism on all his subjects. Jón Arason, the last Catholic bishop of Hólar, was beheaded in 1550 along with two of his sons. The country subsequently became fully Lutheran. Lutheranism has since remained the dominant religion. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Denmark imposed harsh trade restrictions on Iceland, while pirates from several countries raided its coasts.[17][18] A great smallpox epidemic in the 18th century killed around a third of the population. In 1783 the Laki volcano erupted, with devastating effects. The years following the eruption, known as the Mist Hardships (Icelandic: Móðuharðindin), saw the death of over half of all livestock in the country, with ensuing famine in which around a quarter of the population died.

The Middle Ages

Iceland

Iceland (Photo credit: Raold Smeets)

The internal struggles and civil strife of the Sturlung Era led to the signing of the Old Covenant in 1262, which ended the Commonwealth and brought Iceland under the Norwegian crown. Possession of Iceland passed to Denmark-Norway around 1380, when the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark and Sweden 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 where subsistence depended almost entirely on agriculture. The Black Death swept Iceland twice, first in 1402–04 and again in 1494–95,[15]. The former outbreak killed 50% to 60% of the population, and the latter 30% to 50%.

Raold Smeets – Iceland – Settlement and Commonwealth 874–1262

Hypothetical (Skjaldarmerki) of the , the firs...

Hypothetical (Skjaldarmerki) of the , the first coat of arms of . {| cellspacing=”0″ style=”min-width:40em; color:#000; background:#ddd; border:1px solid #bbb; margin:.1em;” class=”layouttemplate” | style=”width:1.2em;height:1.2em;padding:.2em” | 20px |link=|center | style=”font-size:.85em; padding:.2em; vertical-align:middle” |This vector image was created with Inkscape. |} Coat of arms of the Icelandic Commonwealth.svg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to both Landnámabók and Íslendingabók, celtic monks known as the Papar lived in Iceland before the Norse settlers arrived, possibly members of a Hiberno-Scottish mission. Recent archaeological excavations have revealed the ruins of a cabin in Hafnir on the Reykjanes peninsula, and carbon dating indicates that it was abandoned somewhere between 770 and 880, suggesting that Iceland was populated well before 874. This archaeological find may also indicate that the monks left Iceland before the Norse arrived.

The first known permanent Norse settler was Ingólfr Arnarson, who built his homestead in Reykjavík in the year 874. Ingólfr was followed by many other emigrant settlers, largely Norsemen and their thralls, many of whom were Irish or Scottish. By 930, most arable land had been claimed and the Althing, a legislative and judiciary parliament, was initiated to regulate the Icelandic Commonwealth. Christianity was peacefully adopted around 999–1000, although Norse paganism persisted among some segments of the population for several years.

The Commonwealth lasted until the 13th century, when the political system devised by the original settlers proved unable to cope with the increasing power of Icelandic chieftains.

Iceland

Coat of arms of Iceland Íslenska : Skjaldarmer...

Coat of arms of Iceland Íslenska : Skjaldarmerki Íslands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Iceland is a Nordic European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The country has a population of about 320,000 and a total area of 103,000 km2 (40,000 sq mi), which makes it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. The capital and largest city is Reykjavík, with the surrounding areas in the southwestern region of the country being home to two-thirds of the country’s population. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior mainly consists of a plateau characterised by sand and lava fields, mountains and glaciers, while many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle.

According to Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in AD 874 when the chieftain Ingólfur Arnarson became the first permanent Norse settler on the island. Others had visited the island earlier and stayed over winter. Over the following centuries, Norsemen settled Iceland, bringing with them thralls (slaves) of Gaelic origin. From 1262 to 1918 Iceland was part of the Norwegian and later the Danish monarchies. Until the 20th century, the Icelandic population relied largely on fisheries and agriculture, and the country was one of the poorest and least developed in the world. Industrialisation of the fisheries and aid from the Marshall Plan brought prosperity in the years after World War II, and by the 1990s it was one of the world’s wealthiest countries. In 1994, Iceland became party to the European Economic Area, which made it possible for the economy to diversify into economic and financial services.

Iceland has a free market economy with relatively low taxes compared to other OECD countries, while maintaining a Nordic welfare system that provides universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens. In recent years, Iceland has been one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world. In 2011, it was ranked as the 14th most developed country in the world by the United Nations’ Human Development Index, and the fourth most productive country per capita. In 2008, the nation’s entire banking system systemically failed, resulting in substantial political unrest. Although it remains highly ranked in economic and political stability, Iceland’s recovery remains ongoing.

Icelandic culture is founded upon the nation’s Norse heritage. Most Icelanders are descendants of Norse and Gaelic settlers. Icelandic, a North Germanic language, is descended from Old Norse and is closely related to Faroese and some West Norwegian dialects. The country’s cultural heritage includes traditional Icelandic cuisine, poetry, and the medieval Icelanders’ sagas. Among NATO members, Iceland has the smallest population and is the only one with no standing army.

Aussie Slang – X – Y – Z

A pet crayfish named Clippy II and an apple sn...

A pet crayfish named Clippy II and an apple snail in a freshwater home aquarium (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

X

XXXX : pronounced Four X, brand of beer made in Queensland

Y

Yabber : talk (a lot)
Yabby : inland freshwater crayfish found in Australia (Cherax destructor)
Yakka : work (noun)
Yewy : u-turn in traffic (“chuck a yewy at the next traffic lights”)
Yobbo : an uncouth person

Z

Zack : sixpence (5 cents) – “it isn’t worth a zack”, “he hasn’t got a zack”

Aussie Slang – W –

Cover of the Soundtrack to 'Welcome to Woop Woop'.

Raold Smeets

WACA (pron. whacker) : Western Australian Cricket Association and the Perth cricket ground
Waggin’ school : playing truant
Walkabout : a walk in the Outback by Aborigines that lasts for an indefinite amount of time
Walkabout, it’s gone : it’s lost, can’t be found
Weekend warrior : army reservist
Whacker, whacka : Idiot; somebody who talks drivel; somebody with whom you have little patience; a dickhead
Whinge : complain
White pointers : topless (female) sunbathers
Whiteant (verb) : to criticise something to deter somebody from buying it. A car dealer might whiteant another dealer’s cars or a real estate salesman might whiteant another agent’s property
Wobbly : excitable behaviour (“I complained about the food and the waiter threw a wobbly”)
Wobbly boot on, he’s got the : drunk
Wog : flu or trivial illness
Wog : person of Mediterranean origin. A milder insult than the same word in the UK and perhaps elsewhere.
Wombat : somebody who eats, roots and leaves (see also root)
Woop Woop : invented name for any small unimportant town – “he lives in Woop Woop”
Wowser : straight-laced person, prude, puritan, spoilsport
Wuss : coward; nervous person or animal