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A Struggle for Independence in the Nineteenth-Century

In the first part of the nineteenth-century, in the wake of the political movement to the south in Europe, national sentiment began to stir amongst Icelanders. The increased interest in Icelandic and in earlier Icelandic literature worked to stimulate this nationalism still more, and Icelanders began to push for the restoration of the Alþingi (Parliament) and for national independence.
    Poets took an active part in the struggle for independence, and many of the best-known of Iceland’s national poets come out of this period. The most notable is Jónas Hallgrímsson, one of Icelander’s most loved poets.
    An important step on the road to independence was made in 1874, when Iceland gained a Constitution of its own. The first national holiday in Iceland was given to mark this occasion. The celebration was held at Þingvellir in August that year: thousands of people came to join in the celebration of this significant turning point in the nation’s history.
    Following on from these constitutional rights, the influence of the Alþingi grew alongside the acquisition of legislative authority and control of the nation’s appropriation bills.
    The next step came in 1904, when Iceland gained home-rule. Home-rule meant that the nation got a Minister who was resident in Iceland. The first Icelandic Minister was Hannes Hafstein who, as well as being a politician, was a well-known poet.
    The year 1918 is important in the history of Iceland for the reason that the nation then obtained its sovereignty. With that Iceland became a sovereign nation, although it retained its allegiance to the Danish crown. The struggle was maintained, and in the year 1944 a referendum about the link to Denmark was held. 97.86% of eligible voters cast their vote on the issue, with 97.36% voting to end the laws maintaining the connection to Denmark.
    Following this, the Republic was established at Þingvellir, by the river Öxará, on 17th of June 1944. Icelanders chose this date in honour of their greatest nineteenth-century nationalist, Jón Sigurðsson (1811-1879), who was born on June 17th. Sveinn Björnsson (1881-1952) was the first president of the new republic.
    So the Icelandic people’s long and severe struggle came to a successful end.


Iceland by Jónas Hallgrímsson.