Record ID: 77

Site Name

Iceland

Type

Islands

Description

republic (area: 39,698 sq miles; 1993 pop. 264,919), the westernmost state of Europe, occupying an isl. in the Atlantic Ocean just S of the Arctic Circle, c.600 mi/970 km W of Norway, and c.180 mi/290 km SE of Greenland� Fishing is the most important industry, accounting for 20% of the GNP and 90% of exports� The 17th and 18th cent. were, in many ways, disastrous for Iceland. Eng., Span., and Algerian pirates raided the coasts and ruined trade� and the creation (1602) of a private trading company at Copenhagen, with exclusive rights to the Iceland trade, caused economic ruin. The private trade monopoly was at last revoked in 1771� The Ger. occupation (1940) of Denmark in World War II gave the Althing autonomy over the country�s affairs. Iceland was defended from Ger. attack by Great Britain (1940�1941), then by U.S. forces (1941�1945). Union with Denmark was terminated in 1944 by majority vote; the kingdom of Iceland was proclaimed an independent republic on June 17, 1944. . To protect its vital fishing industry, Iceland extended the limits of its territorial waters (1958) from 4 miles to 12 miles, resulting in a conflict with Great Britain, which at times led to exchanges of fire bet. Icel. coast guard vessels and Br. destroyers, until 1961 when Great Britain accepted the new limits.