Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

Iceland is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean, located between Greenland and Norway, just south of the Arctic Circle. Its inhabitants, generally referred to as "Icelanders", speak a language called "Icelandic" which is a Germanic language (in the Indo-European language family) similar to Norwegian. Icelanders trace their origins to settlers who came from Norway in the ninth century. Modern Iceland has an industrial economy based on fishing, fish processing, and fish exporting. Prior to 1944 Iceland had been a colony of Denmark, but it is now an independent republic.


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Europe --Scandinavia



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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number.

The Icelanders collection consists of 22 English language documents. The major time focus of the collection ranges from about the middle of the nineteenth century to the late twentieth, with a particular focus on the period of the l940s to the 1980s. There are no comprehensive studies in this collection giving a general over-all view of Icelandic ethnography. Most of the works are widely diversified in subject coverage, although there is emphasis on the economy, especially in regard to the marine fisheries and whaling. This information will be found in the following documents: Gísli Pálsson, 1991, no. 1; Durrenberger and Gísli Pálsson, 1989, no. 2; Brydon, 1996, no. 12; Níels Einarsson, 1996, no. 13; and Gísli Pálsson and Agnar Helgason, 1996, no. 14. The status of women and women's movements in Iceland are also topics given some attention in this collection and will be found in: Sigríður Dúna Kristmundsdóttir, 1989, no. 6; :Unnur Dís Skakptadótt ir, 1996, no. 15; and Inga Dóra Björnsdóttir, 1989, 1996, nos. 7 and 16. In conjunction with the last topic is the study of domestic violence in Iceland in Gurdin, 1996, no. 17. Other topics of interest in this collection are: ethnolinguistics, in Gísli Pálsson, 1989, no. 8; zooarchaeology, in Amorosi, 1989, no. 10; kinship, in Rich, 1989, no. 5; literacy and literacy practice in Sizemore and Walker, 1996, no. 20; and an analysis of the Icelandic sagas as works of fiction or historical fact, in Byock, 1992, no. 22.

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

This culture summary, with a slightly revised format, is from the article "Icelanders" by E. Paul Durrenberger in the Encyclopedia Of World Cultures, Vol. 4, 1992. Linda A. Bennett, ed. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall & Co. The synopsis and indexing notes were written by John Beierle in February 2003. We also thank E. Paul Durrenberger for his bibliographic advice.

Ministry of Fisheries -- category 647

Mountain Woman (Fjallkonan) -- a national symbol in Iceland representing Icelandic nature and culture -- categories 186, 776

Red Stocking Movement -- a women's liberation movement -- category 668

surgeon general -- category 647

women's shelters -- categories 344, 747

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