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ICELAND

1902 imports were valued at £596,193 and exports at £511,083. Trade is almost entirely with Denmark, the United Kingdom, and Norway and Sweden, in this order according to value. The principal native products exported are live sheep, horses, salt meat, wool and hides, to which must be added the fish products—cod, train-oil, herring and salmon—eiderdown and woollen wares. The spinning, weaving and knitting of wool is a widespread industry, and the native tweed (vaðmal) is the principal material for the clothing of the inhabitants. The imports consist principally of cereals and flour, coffee, sugar, ale, wines and spirits, tobacco, manufactured wares, iron and metal wares, timber, salt, coal, &c. The money, weights and measures in use are the same as in Denmark. The Islands Bank in Reykjavik (1904) is authorized to issue bank-notes up to £133,900 in total value.

Communications.—All land journeys are made on horseback, and in the remoter parts all goods have to be transported by the same means. Throughout the greater part of the island there exist no proper roads even in the inhabited districts, but only bridle-paths, and in the uninhabited districts not even these. Nevertheless much has been done to improve such paths as there are, and several miles of driving roads have been made, more particularly in the south. Since 1888 many bridges have been built; previous to that year there was none. The larger rivers have been spanned by iron swing-bridges, and the Blanda is crossed by a fixed iron bridge. Postal connexion is maintained with Denmark by steamers, which sail from Copenhagen and call at Leith. Besides, steamers go round the island, touching at nearly every port.

Religion.—The Icelanders are Lutherans. For ecclesiastical purposes the island is divided into 20 deaneries and 142 parishes, and the affairs of each ecclesiastical parish are administered by a parish council, and in each deanery by a district (hjerað) council. When a living falls vacant, the governor-general of the island, after consultation with the bishop, selects three candidates, and from these the congregation chooses one, the election being subsequently confirmed by the governor-general. In the case of certain livings, however, the election requires confirmation by the crown. In 1847 a theological seminary was founded at Reykjavik, and there the majority of the Icelandic ministry are educated; some, however, are graduates of the university of Copenhagen.

Health.—The public health has greatly improved in modern times; the death-rate of young children has especially diminished. This improvement is due to greater cleanliness, better dwellings, better nourishment, and the increase in the number of doctors. There are now doctors in all parts of the country, whereas formerly there were hardly any in the island. There is a modern asylum for leprosy at Laugarnes near Reykjavik, and a medical school at Reykjavik, opened in 1876. The general sanitary affairs of the island are under the control of a chief surgeon (national physician) who lives in Reykjavik, and has superintendence over the doctors and the medical school.

Government.—According to the constitution granted to Iceland in 1874, the king of Denmark shares the legislative power with the Althing, an assembly of 36 members, 30 of whom are elected by household suffrage, and 6 nominated by the king. The Althing meets every second year, and sits in two divisions, the upper and the lower. The upper division consists of the 6 members nominated by the king and 6 elected by the representatives of the people out of their own body. The lower division consists of the remaining 24 representative members. The minister for Iceland, who resided in Copenhagen until 1903, when his office was transferred to Reykjavik, is responsible to the king and the Althing for the maintenance of the constitution, and he submits to the king for confirmation the legislative measures proposed by the Althing. The king appoints a governor-general (landshöfðingi) who is resident in the island and carries on the government on the responsibility of the minister. Formerly Iceland was divided into four quarters, the east, the south, the west and north. Now the north and the east are united under one governor, and the south and the west under another. The island is further divided into 18 sýslur (counties), and these again into 169 hreppur (rapes) or poor-law districts. Responsible to the governors are the sheriffs (sýslumenn), who act as tax gatherers, notaries public and judges of first instance; the sheriff has in every hreppur an assistant, called hreppstjóri. In every hreppur there is also a representative committee, who administer the poor laws, and look after the general concerns of the hreppur. These committees are controlled by the committees of the sýslur (county boards), and these again are under the control of the amtsráð (quarter board), consisting of three members. From the sheriff courts appeals lie to the superior court at Reykjavik, consisting of three judges. Appeals may be taken in all criminal cases and most civil cases to the supreme court at Copenhagen.

Iceland has her own budget, the Althing having, by the constitution of 1874, the right to vote its own supplies. As the Althing only meets every other year, the budget is passed for two years at once. The total income and expenditure are each about £70,000 per financial period. There is a national reserve fund of about £60,000, but no public debt; nor is there any contribution for either military or naval purposes. Iceland has her own customs service, but the only import duties levied are upon spirits, tobacco, coffee and sugar, and in each case the duties are fairly low.

Education.—Education is pretty widespread amongst the people. In the towns and fishing villages there are a few elementary schools, but often the children are instructed at home; in some places by peripatetic teachers. It is incumbent upon the clergy to see that all children are taught reading, writing and arithmetic. The people are great readers; considering the number of the inhabitants, books and periodicals have a very extensive circulation. Eighteen newspapers are issued (once and twice a week), besides several journals, and Iceland has always been distinguished for her native literature. At Reykjavik there are a Latin school, a medical school and a theological school; at Mödruvellir and Hafnarfjörðr, modern high schools (Realschulen); and in addition to these there are four agricultural schools, a school of navigation, and three girls’ schools. The national library at Reykjavik contains some 40,000 volumes and 3000 MSS. At the same place there is also a valuable archaeological collection. Amongst the learned societies are the Icelandic Literary Society (Bokmentafjelag), the society of the Friends of the People, and the Archaeological Society of Reykjavik.

Authorities.—Among numerous works of Dr Thorvald

Thoroddsen, see Geschichte der Islands Geographie (Leipzig, 1898); and the following articles in Geografisk Tidskrift (Copenhagen): “Om Islands geografiske og geologiske Undersögelse” (1893); “Islandske Fjorde og Bugter” (1901); “Geog. og geol. Unders. ved den sydlige Del af Faxaflói paa Island” (1903); “Lavaörkener og Vulkaner paa Islands Höjland” (1905). See also C. S. Forbes, Iceland (London, 1860); S. Baring-Gould, Iceland, its Scenes and Sagas (London, 1863); Sir R. F. Burton, Ultima Thule (Edinburgh, 1875); W. T. McCormick, A Ride across Iceland (London, 1892); J. Coles, Summer Travelling in Iceland (London, 1882); H. J. Johnston Lavis, “Notes on the Geography, Geology, Agriculture and Economics of Iceland,” Scott. Geog. Mag. xi. (1895); W. Bisiker, Across Iceland (London, 1902); J. Hann, “Die Anomalien der Witterung auf Island in dem Zeitraume 1851-1900, &c.,” Sitzungsberichte, Vienna Acad. Sci. (1904); P. Hermann, Island in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart (Leipzig, 1907). Also Geografisk Tidskrift, and

the Geographical Journal (London), passim.

 (Th. T.) 

History

Shortly after the discovery of Iceland by the Scandinavian, c. 850 (it had long been inhabited by a small colony of Irish Culdees), a stream of immigration set in towards it, which lasted for sixty years, and resulted in the establishment of some 4000 homesteads. In this immigration three distinct streams can be traced. (1) About 870-890 four great noblemen from Norway, Ingolf, Ketil Hæng, Skalla-Grim and Thorolf, settled with their dependants in the south-west of the new found land. (2) In 890-900 there came from the western Islands Queen Aud, widow of Olaf the White, king of Dublin, preceded and followed by a number of her kinsmen and relations (many like herself being