The Republic Iceland has developed a thriving tourism industry, especially in the 2000’s due to the growth in passengers using low cost airlines like Iceland Express, and attracted to the volcanoes, lakes, and geysers of the island.
Iceland was first settled by a Norwegian, Ingólfur Arnarson, who was followed by many others from the Norwegian mainland, who brought along their Irish slaves. The Icelandic language has taken its own course but can still be understood by some western Norwegian dialaects.
The middle ages were dark times for the people of Iceland. The infertile soil, volcanic activity and adverse weather made life harsh. Iceland also suffered from the Black Plague twice in the 15th century, killing up to 60% of its population each time.
In the 16th century the Danish King imposed Lutheranism on the community, the Catholic bishop was beheaded. The 17th century brought smallpox and a huge volcanic eruption from the Laki Volcano resulting in the death of half the livestock and consequently a great famine.
Home rule was only granted by the Danish King in 1904 but they remained in union right up to the WWII when both declared neutrality. Despite this the allies occupied Iceland in 1941, violating its neutrality. During this period the Act of Union with Denmark expired and the people of Iceland decided to become a republic. The American forces remained on Iceland throughout the Cold war only leaving in 2006.
Iceland came to blows with the UK in the 1970’s in the Cod Wars, but greater woes came recently with the Banking Crisis of 2008. Many travellers were held up by the recent volcanic eruptions in Iceland, resulting in the famous headline: “We want your cash, not your ash”.