History of Iceland: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

Have you ever thought about what it must have been like to live in Iceland at different points in history? Come and learn about Iceland's journey through time, starting with its earliest moments up until modern day.

Early Beginnings

A statue of Viking Leif Erikson

Did you know that even though Iceland is about 20 million years old, it is actually considered to be a new island? This is because there are many islands that are much older. However, in its 20 million years, Iceland has changed a lot. The first people to arrive to Iceland were Celtic monks, which are religious men from Ireland and Scotland, followed by the Vikings, who arrived in the 800s. The Vikings were a group of explorers, traders and warriors. While the Vikings have gotten the reputation of being destructive and associated with pirates, the Vikings were actually responsible for discovering new places. In fact, famous Viking Leif Erikson discovered North America around the year 1000 - WAY before Christopher Columbus showed up! The Vikings did not arrive to Iceland alone, as they brought Irish slaves along with them.

Strokes of Bad Luck

Have you ever heard of the saying 'When it rains, it pours'? This means that when one bad thing happens, other bad things tend to happen, as well. This was definitely the case for Iceland, as well. One of the most devastating events to occur was the Black Plague in the 1400s. A plague is a massive outbreak of contagious disease that makes many people sick at one time. Sadly, plagues also result in a high number of deaths. The Black Plague ended up killing about half of the total population in Iceland. Fast forward to the 1700s when Iceland was hit by the Bubonic Plague that killed nearly one-third of the population.

Health was not the only issue in Iceland, as they were also dealing with pirates who raided the country, which ended up ruining the economy. Also, volcanic activity took place, which destroyed the farms and caused widespread starvation, as well as poisonous fumes in the air. If that wasn't enough, Norway took over the country after a series of bloody and deathly battles, and then Denmark ended up gaining control of Iceland later on. Iceland just couldn't catch a break!

The Road to Independence

Sveinn Bjornsson

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