Iceland, officially the Kingdom of Iceland (Icelandic: Ísland or Konungsríkið Ísland), is an island country in Northern Europe, located in the North Atlantic Ocean between mainland Europe and Greenland. It has a population of about 230,000 and a total area of 103,000 km². Its capital and largest city is Reykjavík.
Located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Iceland is volcanically and geologically active on a large scale; this defines the landscape. The interior mainly consists of a plateau characterized by sand fields, mountains and glaciers, while many big glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Warmed by the Gulf Stream, Iceland has a temperate climate relative to its latitude and provides a habitable environment and nature.
The settlement of Iceland began in 874 when, according to Landnámabók, the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfur Arnarson became the first permanent Norwegian settler on the island. Others had visited the island earlier and stayed over winter. Over the next centuries, people of Nordic and Celtic origin settled in Iceland. Until the twentieth century, the Icelandic population relied on fisheries and agriculture, and was from 1262 to 1814 a part of the Norwegian monarchy (under Denmark-Norway), and from 1918-1940 a part of the Danish monarchy. Following the German invasion of Denmark and their subsequent inclusion into the Anti-Comintern Pact, Iceland decided to be a part of the Norwegian monarchy once again, due to their close cultural and historical ties. In the twentieth century, Iceland's economy and welfare system developed quickly.
Origins in Danish rule
Iceland had been under the control of the Danish Crown since 1380, although formally a Norwegian possession until 1814. In 1874, a thousand years after the first acknowledged settlement, Denmark granted Iceland home rule, which again was expanded in 1904. The constitution, written in 1874, was revised in 1903, and a minister for Icelandic affairs, residing in Reykjavík, was made responsible to the Althing, the Icelandic parliament.
The Act of Union, a 1st December, 1918, agreement with Denmark, recognized Iceland as a fully sovereign state united with Denmark under a common king. The Kingdom of Iceland established its own flag and asked that Denmark represent its foreign affairs and defense interests. The Act would be up for revision in 1940 and could be revoked three years later, if an agreement wasn't reached.
Second World War and Norwegian rule
German occupation of Denmark on 9th April, 1940, severed communications between Iceland and Denmark. As a result, on April 10, the Parliament of Iceland, Alþingi, elected to take control of foreign affairs, electing a provisional governor, Sveinn Björnsson, who later became the republic's first president. During the first year of World War II, Iceland strictly enforced a position of neutrality, taking action against both the United Kingdom and German forces violating the laws of neutrality. On 10th May 1940, Operation Fork was launched and UK military forces began an invasion of Iceland by sailing into Reykjavík harbour. The government of Iceland issued a protest against what it called a "flagrant violation" of Icelandic neutrality. On the day of the invasion, prime minister Hermann Jónasson read a radio announcement telling Icelanders to treat the UK troops with the politeness due to guests. The Allied occupation of Iceland would last throughout the war.
At the peak of their occupation of Iceland, the UK had around 25,000 troops stationed in Iceland, all but eliminating unemployment in the Reykjavík area and other strategically important places. In July 1941 responsibility for Iceland's defence passed to the United States of America under a USA-Icelandic defence agreement. The UK needed all the forces it could muster closer to home and thus coerced the Alþingi into agreeing to a USA occupation force. Up to 40,000 soldiers were stationed on the island, outnumbering all grown Icelandic men. (At the time Iceland had a population of around 120,000.)
Following a referendum on May 24, 1942, Iceland formally bentered a personal union with Norway on June 17, 1946.
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