In April of 1940, with WWII underway, Britain offered Iceland its security and support should war spread. Iceland considered Britain’s offer and, surprising many of the Allies, said no.

The news shouldn’t have come as much of a shock. While the art and culture of Iceland are heavily influenced by Nordic peoples and traditions, Icelanders refute Nordic lineage for the simple reason that they were conquerors - something that Icelanders detest.

Settled in 870 under Norwegian authority, for the next 1000 years the country stayed relatively unaffected by the colonial and expansionist movements, and avoided the fighting and bloodshed that ensued. Settled by groups of sailors, there was hardly any resistance on the island, and very early on the country’s isolationist and pacific demeanor became the order of the island that lasted into the next millennium.

During the Middle Ages, the country adopted Christianity as the religion (today the majority is Lutheran), though it was done rather quietly and without the fighting that had swept through Europe up until the 19th century.

In 1800, with the population of Iceland finally breaking the 100,000 plateau, the country began to establish the identity we know it for today. Finally joining the Industrial Age, Iceland expanded exponentially by the turn of the 20th century.

In the 20th century, Iceland has become a more technologically savvy nation than ever before, with the great building projects in Reykjavik and in the smaller towns throughout the country. Slick in its modern day look, Iceland is no longer a just a Nordic settlement anymore. The entire country has caught on to, and joined, the digital age.

Iceland, in 2003, is indeed plugged into to the rest of the world. And still, with influences coming from all over the world, Icelanders maintain that their heritage is all their own doing. A country that for centuries operated with many different philosophies and traditions still maintains one underlying message: To achieve victory and identity is to do so without force.

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  Copyright © 2003 Chris Coomey