The paper gives an overview of the early history of Iceland and its early development towards Democracy.

Written in februari 2009. Paper assignment for the course Theories of Democracy, when I was studying political science in The Hague.

Download or read the paper as PDF: Icelandic_Democracy.pdf

From the introduction

Photographers love Iceland for its beautiful colours and diverse landscape. Living in Iceland is not too bad: it scored as the most developed country in the world by the United Nations’ Human Development Index. Some say that Iceland is one of the oldest democracies1. The Althing, the precursor to the modern national parliament, was founded in 930. In 930, no main European countries were democratic, and the classic theories of democracy were unknown to the Icelanders. Most colonists originated from Scandinavia, a highly stratified society where the old pagan religion still flourished and where the influence of the Romans was very limited. This early development towards proto-democratic structures makes Iceland interesting for political scientists. Was there a real democratic development or was Iceland just another destratified colonist culture? Was the assumed democratic development influenced from outside, or was it a unique home-grown Icelandic product? So the classic examples of democracy - the Greek poleis such as Athens and the partly democratic Roman Republic - were unknown to the founders of the Althing. This was well before the European Enlightenment and the French and American models of democracy. This raises the question of uniqueness. Would the Icelandic model divert from the later French and American models of democracy? And how did the history of Iceland influence contemporary democracy in Iceland? Continue reading...