Home Region:  Northern Europe (Europe)

Kingdom of Norway II

EQ 2020  no_norway_k_2 / NorKing

The Kingdom of Norway (also Norwegian Empire or Old Norse Noregsveldi) originally covered the west coast of Norway and was allied with an earldom in Þrándheimur (modern Trøndelag). It then expanded to eastern Norway in the middle of the 11th century CE, around Viken and modern-day Oslo, including Båhuslen in modern Sweden, and northwards to Hålogaland, Lofoten and Finnmark.
Orkney and Shetland became part of the kingdom as early as 875, according to legend, and became an earldom. The Faroe Islands became part of the kingdom of Norway in 1035 CE, and the Hebrides and Man in the 12th century. Iceland and Greenland were added to its territory in 1256-64 and 1262 respectively. In 1266, however, Man and the Hebrides became part of the Kingdom of Scotland. The ’peak’ of the kingdom was thus in the 1260s. Each part of the kingdom had its own assembly: four in Norway and a separate assembly for each of the islands or archipelagoes in the realm. Here the chieftains gathered yearly to discuss and decide on key matters for each assembly area. The Icelandic, Faroese and Man assemblies still exist.
Population and political organization
The kingdom of Norway was originally a composite of kingdoms or earldoms, with the king of Norway a king of kings. Its extent and composition relied in large part on the fortunes of the royal dynasty, with repeated periods of partition by inheritance and reunification. A fully stable dynasty was only established in about 1240, after a long period of civil war. Royal power was instrumental in introducing Christianity to Norway around 1000, and the church was an important prop to royal power thereafter, providing the bureaucratic framework. The orientation of the Norwegian kingdom shifted after 1314, from North Atlantic expansion to an eastern emphasis, participating in intra-Scandinavian power struggles. In 1397 it joined the Kalmar Union, the kingdom covering the whole of the Swedish, Danish and Norwegian realms. From 1523 to 1814 it was a part of the Danish-Norwegian kingdom, and the Danish king was also the Norwegian king. The population reached about 400,000-600,000 in 1350, before the Black Death, but by 1520 repeated epidemics had reduced the population to around 120,000.
This description was provided by Árni Daniel Júlíusson and edited by Jenny Reddish.

General Variables
Identity and Location
Utm Zone:
27 W  
Original Name:
Kingdom of Norway  
Capital:
Bergen  
Temporal Bounds
Duration:
[1,262 CE ➜ 1,380 CE]  
Political and Cultural Relations
Suprapolity Relations:
vassalage to [---]  
Supracultural Entity:
Latin Christendom  
Succeeding Entity:
Kalmar Union  
Scale of Supracultural Interaction:
5,600,000 km2  
Relationship to Preceding Entity:
continuity  
Preceding Entity:
Icelandic Commonwealth  
Degree of Centralization:
loose  
Language
Linguistic Family:
Germanic  
Language:
Icelandic  
Religion
Social Complexity Variables
Social Scale
Population of the Largest Settlement:
[200 to 300] people  
Polity Territory:
103,000 km2  
Polity Population:
[50,000 to 90,000] people  
Hierarchical Complexity
Settlement Hierarchy:
3  
Religious Level:
4  
Military Level:
3  
Administrative Level:
5  
Professions
Professional Soldier:
present  
Professional Priesthood:
present  
Professional Military Officer:
present  
Bureaucracy Characteristics
Specialized Government Building:
absent  
Merit Promotion:
absent  
Full Time Bureaucrat:
present  
Examination System:
absent  
Law
Professional Lawyer:
absent  
Judge:
present  
Formal Legal Code:
present  
Court:
inferred absent  
Specialized Buildings: polity owned
Market:
absent  
Irrigation System:
absent  
Food Storage Site:
inferred absent  
Drinking Water Supply System:
absent  
Transport Infrastructure
Road:
absent  
Port:
inferred absent  
Canal:
absent  
Bridge:
absent  
Special-purpose Sites
Mines or Quarry:
absent  
Information / Writing System
Written Record:
present  
Script:
present  
Phonetic Alphabetic Writing:
present  
Nonwritten Record:
present  
Mnemonic Device:
unknown  
Information / Kinds of Written Documents
Scientific Literature:
present  
Sacred Text:
present  
Religious Literature:
present  
Practical Literature:
inferred present  
Philosophy:
present  
Lists Tables and Classification:
present  
History:
present  
Fiction:
present  
Calendar:
present  
Information / Money
Token:
inferred absent  
Precious Metal:
present  
Paper Currency:
absent  
Indigenous Coin:
absent  
Foreign Coin:
present  
Article:
present  
Information / Postal System
Postal Station:
absent  
General Postal Service:
absent  
Courier:
absent  
Information / Measurement System
Warfare Variables (Military Technologies)
Fortifications
  Wooden Palisade:
inferred absent  
  Stone Walls Non Mortared:
present  
  Stone Walls Mortared:
absent  
  Settlements in a Defensive Position:
inferred present  
  Modern Fortification:
absent  
  Moat:
unknown  
  Fortified Camp:
absent  
  Earth Rampart:
inferred absent  
  Ditch:
unknown  
  Complex Fortification:
absent  
  Long Wall:
absent  
Military use of Metals
  Steel:
present  
  Iron:
present  
  Copper:
unknown  
  Bronze:
unknown  
Projectiles
  Tension Siege Engine:
absent  
  Sling Siege Engine:
absent  
  Sling:
inferred present  
  Self Bow:
present  
  Javelin:
present  
  Handheld Firearm:
absent  
  Gunpowder Siege Artillery:
absent  
  Crossbow:
present  
  Composite Bow:
inferred present  
  Atlatl:
inferred absent  
Handheld weapons
  War Club:
unknown  
  Sword:
present  
  Spear:
present  
  Polearm:
present  
  Dagger:
present  
  Battle Axe:
present  
Animals used in warfare
  Horse:
present  
  Elephant:
absent  
  Donkey:
absent  
  Dog:
unknown  
  Camel:
absent  
Armor
  Wood Bark Etc:
unknown  
  Shield:
present  
  Scaled Armor:
inferred present  
  Plate Armor:
inferred present  
  Limb Protection:
unknown  
  Leather Cloth:
present  
  Laminar Armor:
unknown  
  Helmet:
present  
  Chainmail:
present  
  Breastplate:
unknown  
Naval technology
  Specialized Military Vessel:
absent  
  Small Vessels Canoes Etc:
present  
  Merchant Ships Pressed Into Service:
inferred absent  
Religion Tolerance Nothing coded yet.
Human Sacrifice Nothing coded yet.
Crisis Consequences Nothing coded yet.
Power Transitions Nothing coded yet.

NGA Settlements:

Year Range Kingdom of Norway II (no_norway_k_2) was in:
 (1262 CE 1380 CE)   Iceland
Home NGA: Iceland

General Variables
Identity and Location


Capital:
Bergen

The Norwegian royal court resided in Bergen, but was later transferred to Oslo: ’The realm of the king of Norway, when Iceland became a part of it, was centred on the North Atlantic. It stretched from the west coast of Greenland to the Barents Sea in the north, and south to Göteborg and the Orkneys [...]. Purely in terms of distance, Iceland was not far from the middle of this domain; it was within a week’s travel of the main centres, the royal court at Bergen and the archiepiscoal sea at Trondheim. Just over two centuries later, the capital of the state was the city of Copenhagen on the Sound, and Iceland was at the westernmost point of the kingdom. It was King Haakon (1299-1319), son of Magnus, who turned the thrust of the state to the south and east. He moved his court from Bergen to Oslo, and arranged a marriage between his daughter Ingeborg and the brother of the Swedish king, when she was one year old. Their son, Magnus, inherited the thrones of Sweden and Norway in 1319, at the age of three. Norway as an autonomous kingdom had thus practically ceased to exist. The mid-14th century also saw the Black Death sweep through Scandinavia. The disease was especially virulent in Norway, where as many as two-third of the population may have died in successive epidemics. In the period 1376-80 the boy king Olaf, son of Hakon, inherited the crowns of Denmark and Norway. Thus Iceland became subject to the Danish throne, a relationship that was not finally broken off until 1944. Olaf was also of the Swedish royal house (which ruled Finland too). It is easy to imagne the idea of a unified Nordic realm forming in the mind of Queen Margarethe, mother of the child king. But in 1387 Olaf suddenly died, aged 17. But Margarethe did not give up her plans. She contrived to have herself elected regent in all the Nordic kingdoms, and to have her six-year-old foster-son nominaated heir to all the thrones. In 1397 an attempt was made in the Swesih city of Karlmar to establish a permanent union of the states.’ [1] The Icelandic population was not organized around a capital, and there was no provincial capital established on the island.

[1]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 22p


Temporal Bounds
Duration:
[1,262 CE ➜ 1,380 CE]

Icelanders began to pledge allegiance to the Norwegian crown in 1262ce: ’The thirteenth century was a period of escalating conflict (STURLUNGAÖLD) chieftains attempted to exert control beyond their local regions. The system of autonomous chieftains ended after 1262 A.D. when Iceland came under Norwegian rule.’ [1] The kingdom of Norway entered into a personal union with Denmark in 1380ce: ’To a large extent, Iceland was ruled separately from Norway. It had its own law code, and the Althing continued to be held at Thingvellir, though mainly as a court of justice. Most of the royal officials who succeeded the chieftains were Icelanders. In 1380 the Norwegian monarchy entered into a union with the Danish crown, but that change did not affect Iceland’s status within the realm as a personal skattland (“tax land”) of the crown.’ [2] The focus of Norwegian rule shifted during this time before the union with Denmark: ’The realm of the king of Norway, when Iceland became a part of it, was centred on the North Atlantic. It stretched from the west coast of Greenland to the Barents Sea in the north, and south to Göteborg and the Orkneys [...]. Purely in terms of distance, Iceland was not far from the middle of this domain; it was within a week’s travel of the main centres, the royal court at Bergen and the archiepiscoal sea at Trondheim. Just over two centuries later, the capital of the state was the city of Copenhagen on the Sound, and Iceland was at the westernmost point of the kingdom. It was King Haakon (1299-1319), son of Magnus, who turned the thrust of the state to the south and east. He moved his court from Bergen to Oslo, and arranged a marriage between his daughter Ingeborg and the brother of the Swedish king, when she was one year old. Their son, Magnus, inherited the thrones of Sweden and Norway in 1319, at the age of three. Norway as an autonomous kingdom had thus practically ceased to exist. The mid-14th century also saw the Balck Death sweep through Scandinavia. The disease was especially virulent in Norway, where as many as two-third of the population may have died in successive epidemics. In the period 1376-80 the boy king Olaf, son of Hakon, inherited the crowns of Denmark and Norway. Thus Iceland became subject to the Danish throne, a relationship that was not finally broken off until 1944. Olaf was also of the Swedish royal house (which ruled Finland too). It is easy to imagne the idea of a unified Nordic realm forming in the mind of Queen Margarethe, mother of the child king. But in 1387 Olaf suddenly died, aged 17. But Margarethe did not give up her plans. She contrived to have herself elected regent in all the Nordic kingdoms, and to have her six-year-old foster-son nominaated heir to all the thrones. In 1397 an attempt was made in the Swesih city of Karlmar to establish a permanent union of the states.’ [3]

[1]: Bolender, Douglas James and Beierle, John: eHRAF Cultural Summary for Early Icelanders

[2]: http://www.britannica.com/place/Iceland/Government-and-society#toc10093

[3]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 22p


Political and Cultural Relations
Suprapolity Relations:
vassalage to [---]

’Vassalage is the best fit out of the available options in the codebook, but this was not the typical feudal vassalage with an earl (except at the very beginning of the period), count or a similar vassal under a king. Iceland as a whole did not have a single figurehead except sometimes in the office of hirðstjóri, usually appointed by the king for three years at a time. But often there was not a single man in charge but many.’ [1] The first Icelandic communities pledged allegiance to the Norwegian crown in 1262ce: ’The agreement by which Iceland was formally brought under Norwegian rule created only a confederate union, adn did not materially change the status of the Icelandic chieftains. They were now to hold their rights from the king, and were forbidden to wage war on each other; but since the Icelandic laws were still in force, the union agreement really involved only an acknowledgment of the king’s sovereignty, and the payment of a small tribute to the crown. It appear from the Icelandic code, the "Jónsbók", adopted in 1280, that the taxes to be paid were very moderate, as the twenty alnar vaomál payable by each freeholder for himself and his household, and by unmarried persons who owned property to the value of ten hundred unincumbered by debts, included also the old tax of thingfararkaup. Only one-half of the whole sum was to be paid to the king. The other half was to be kept in Iceland for the payment of the usual taxes. To the common people the union with Norway brought the distinct advantage of the termination of the bloody conflicts in which they had been forced to take part. Peace was established, and the conviction that henceforth the government would safeguard life and property must have created a new sense of security and well-being. Freedom from lawless terror, established by the altered relation to the mother country, must have been welcomed by the people in general as a new freedom rather than as foreign oppression.’ [2] Although a degree of internal autonomy was maintained, the nature and practice of law changed considerably: ’These new codes wrought a fundamental change in the conception of positive law as well as in legal practice in Iceland. The old court procedures with its intricacies and formalities was replaced by the simpler Norwegian system. The king was ruler and lawgiver was regarded as the source of justice, and behind the laws now stood the royal authority, ready to execute the decrees of the courts even against the most powerful offenders. Violation of the law was no longer viewed as a private affair to be settled by the offender and the party injured, but as a crime for which the wrong-doer had to answer to the government. The fines to be paid and other punishments to be inflicted were still to be determined by twelve men according to ancient usage. The old punishment of banishment for serious offenses was retained, but fines payable to the king were instituted in numerous cases, and capital punishment was to be inflicted for grave crimes, like murder, robbery, rape, counterfeiting, forgery, and seduction. Other severe punishments were also established. [...] But care had been taken by the lawgiver to guard against hasty action and undue harshness in the treatment of wrong-doers. In a chapter about legal decisions he advises the judges to consider carefully truth, justice, patience and mercy, in order that their decisions not bear the marks of cruelty and hatred. [...] The first lawmen appointed under the new law were Stural Thordsson and Jon Einarsson. The first royal magistrates who received the title of sýslumadr were Hrafn Oddsson in western Iceland, and Thorvard Thorarinsson for the southern and eastern districts, and Asgrim Thorsteinsson in the south-western districts. Others may have been appointed, but their names are not known. In 1279 Hrafn Oddsson became royal merkismadr with authority over all Iceland, as already noted.’ [3] There were fundamental disagreements about the nature of the relationship between Iceland and Norway: ’The royal executive authority and the new efficiency of the courts of law created through the union with Norway terminated the bloody feuds which had hitherto raged between the Icelandic chieftains. An uneventful era of peace followed the turmoils of the Sturlung period. Even the struggle between church and state was now adjusted so that economic life and the pursuits of peace could receive the undivided attention of the people. But the few sources which deal with the political conditions in Iceland during the years following the death of Bishop Arni show that conditions created by the union were causing dissatisfaction and unrest. The chief cause of public discontent was the unsatisfactory arrangement with regard to commerce, the insufficient Norwegian exports to Iceland, together with the policy pursued by the Norwegian government of bringing Icelanders to Norway for trial, and of appointing Norwegians for sýslumenn and lawmen, contrary to the spirit of the union agreement. The chieftains undoubtedly had thought that their political and social organization would be left undisturbed under the union; that they would only be required to pledge their allegiance to the king, pay him taxes, and receive a jarl as his personal representative, as the union agreement expressly stated. But the most far-reaching changes had been wrought. The godors had been abolished, the Althing had been reorganized, Norwegian jurisprudence had been introduced, Norwegians had been appointed to the leading public offices, and Icelanders had been summoned abroad for trial. The Norwegian government had shown an unmistakable disposition to treat Iceland as a dependency.’ [4] The Norwegian crown sought to treat Iceland as a dependency, sometimes unsuccessfully so: ’This reminder had the result that in 1315 a full representation again met at the Althing from all parts of Iceland. In 1314 he issues a new supplement to the Icelandic code, in which he sought to right some of the wrongs complained of in the remonstrance submitted by the Althing. Regarding the bringing of Icelanders to Norway for trial, the law was made to conform to the remonstrance. A provision was inserted stating that such a step should be taken only if the sýslumenn and lawmen were unable to try the case. The demand for new taxes was definitely dropped. But nothing was said regarding the appointment of native Icelanders for office; nor was any assurance given that six ships would be sent to Iceland every year, though this matter was now of greater importance than ever, since the trade with Iceland had become a Norwegian monopoly. No guarantee existed that the king would respect the provisions in the union agreement. Hitherto he had shown a disposition to place Iceland on the level with the Norwegian dependencies. What the future relation between the two countries was to be seemed as much as ever an unsettled question.’ [5] But formally speaking, Iceland formed now part of the greater Norwegian polity and was accordingly affected by the discontinuation of the Norwegian dynasty’s male line and the personal union with Denmark: ’The realm of the king of Norway, when Iceland became a part of it, was centred on the North Atlantic. It stretched from the west coast of Greenland to the Barents Sea in the north, and south to Göteborg and the Orkneys [...]. Purely in terms of distance, Iceland was not far from the middle of this domain; it was within a week’s travel of the main centres, the royal court at Bergen and the archiepiscoal sea at Trondheim. Just over two centuries later, the capital of the state was the city of Copenhagen on the Sound, and Iceland was at the westernmost point of the kingdom. It was King Haakon (1299-1319), son of Magnus, who turned the thrust of the state to the south and east. He moved his court from Bergen to Oslo, and arranged a marriage between his daughter Ingeborg and the brother of the Swedish king, when she was one year old. Their son, Magnus, inherited the thrones of Sweden and Norway in 1319, at the age of three. Norway as an autonomous kingdom had thus practically ceased to exist. The mid-14th century also saw the Balck Death sweep through Scandinavia. The disease was especially virulent in Norway, where as many as two-third of the population may have died in successive epidemics. In the period 1376-80 the boy king Olaf, son of Hakon, inherited the crowns of Denmark and Norway. Thus Iceland became subject to the Danish throne, a relationship that was not finally broken off until 1944. Olaf was also of the Swedish royal house (which ruled Finland too). It is easy to imagne the idea of a unified Nordic realm forming in the mind of Queen Margarethe, mother of the child king. But in 1387 Olaf suddenly died, aged 17. But Margarethe did not give up her plans. She contrived to have herself elected regent in all the Nordic kingdoms, and to have her six-year-old foster-son nominaated heir to all the thrones. In 1397 an attempt was made in the Swesih city of Karlmar to establish a permanent union of the states.’ [6]

[1]: Árni Daniel Júlíusson and Axel Kristissen 2017, pers. comm. to E. Brandl and D. Mullins

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 208

[3]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 215pp

[4]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 227

[5]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 233

[6]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 22p


Supracultural Entity:
Latin Christendom

Icelandic cultural forms were derived from and now became politically part of the greater Scandinavian realm in the North Atlantic controlled by the Norwegian kings: ’The realm of the king of Norway, when Iceland became a part of it, was centred on the North Atlantic. It stretched from the west coast of Greenland to the Barents Sea in the north, and south to Göteborg and the Orkneys [...]. Purely in terms of distance, Iceland was not far from the middle of this domain; it was within a week’s travel of the main centres, the royal court at Bergen and the archiepiscoal sea at Trondheim. Just over two centuries later, the capital of the state was the city of Copenhagen on the Sound, and Iceland was at the westernmost point of the kingdom. It was King Haakon (1299-1319), son of Magnus, who turned the thrust of the state to the south and east. He moved his court from Bergen to Oslo, and arranged a marriage between his daughter Ingeborg and the brother of the Swedish king, when she was one year old. Their son, Magnus, inherited the thrones of Sweden and Norway in 1319, at the age of three. Norway as an autonomous kingdom had thus practically ceased to exist. The mid-14th century also saw the Balck Death sweep through Scandinavia. The disease was especially virulent in Norway, where as many as two-third of the population may have died in successive epidemics. In the period 1376-80 the boy king Olaf, son of Hakon, inherited the crowns of Denmark and Norway. Thus Iceland became subject to the Danish throne, a relationship that was not finally broken off until 1944. Olaf was also of the Swedish royal house (which ruled Finland too). It is easy to imagne the idea of a unified Nordic realm forming in the mind of Queen Margarethe, mother of the child king. But in 1387 Olaf suddenly died, aged 17. But Margarethe did not give up her plans. She contrived to have herself elected regent in all the Nordic kingdoms, and to have her six-year-old foster-son nominaated heir to all the thrones. In 1397 an attempt was made in the Swesih city of Karlmar to establish a permanent union of the states.’ [1] Norway monopolized trade with Iceland due to competition from the Hansa in other regions: ’During years of suffering resulting from these recurring calamities some aid was derived from Norwegian trade with Iceland which was plied quite energetically, especially during the first half of the fourteenth century, since the Hanseatic League had closed all other avenues to Norwegian merchants. It had already been noted that King Haakon Magnusson made trade with Iceland a Norwegian monopoly. [...] In 1302 King Haakon made the regulation that the Hansa merchants should not trade north of Bergen, or carry on commerce with Iceland or any of the Norwegian dependencies, a stipulation which was repeated in 1306. This trade was retained by the government for the benefit of the crown.’ [2] These cultural and commercial contacts suffered under the impact of the plague in mainland Scandinavia: ’This development of a new important line of export proved a valuable stimulus for commerce, and must have increased also the volume of Icelandic imports, as is shown by the lively intercourse between Norway and Iceland at that time. [...] But this very encouraging outlook in commercial affairs was suddenly destroyed by the Black Death, which in 1349 appeared in Norway and in a short time carried away one-third of the entire population of the kingdom. [...] the expeditions ot Greenland ceased almost completely, and the trade with Iceland and other dependencies was greatly reduced. [...] During the second half of the fourteenth century it appears from the annals fewer ships came to Iceland than formerly. Not till in 1387 is it again recorded that as many as eleven ships arrived in a single year. For Iceland, which was suffering from the effects of the great calamities which had lately befallen the country, this falling off of commerce was a serious misfortune.’ [3] But the adoption of Christianity in the Commonwealth period also made Iceland part of the greater cultural sphere of Latin Christendom. [4]

[1]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 22p

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 243

[3]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 244p

[4]: Árni Daniel Júlíusson and Axel Kristissen 2017, pers. comm. to E. Brandl and D. Mullins


Succeeding Entity:
Kalmar Union

Norway entered into a personal union with Denmark in 1380ce: ’To a large extent, Iceland was ruled separately from Norway. It had its own law code, and the Althing continued to be held at Thingvellir, though mainly as a court of justice. Most of the royal officials who succeeded the chieftains were Icelanders. In 1380 the Norwegian monarchy entered into a union with the Danish crown, but that change did not affect Iceland’s status within the realm as a personal skattland (“tax land”) of the crown.’ [1] Shortly after, all her dependencies entered into this greater Scandinavian union: ’In 1397 Iceland and all the Norwegian dependencies entered into the union between Norway, Sweden and Denmark established at Kalmar, but no change was made regarding Iceland’s relation to the central government. Only gradually did the effects of the union become noticeable in the choice of Danes as bishops and higher officials, and the extension of Danish commercial and administrative policy to the colony.’ [2] ’But technically Iceland remained as part of the Norwegian kingdom which remained (technically) a special kingdom although in a union with Denmark (and Sweden at times). Technically (again) Iceland only became a part of the Kingdom of Denmark in 1814.’ [3] This development had been enabled by the discontinuation of the male line in the Norwegian dynasty: ’With the death of the king in 1319 the Norwegian royal house became extinct in the male line. The crown went to foreign-born and incompetent rulers. Norway was united with Sweden, later both with Sweden and Denmark, and finally with Denmark alone, a union which lasted till 1814. During this period of national decadence Norway fell under Danish rule. The Hanseating League destroyed her naval power and commerce, and the galling royal monopoly established by the Danish kings almost destroyed the intercourse with the distant Norwegian colonies.’ [4]

[1]: http://www.britannica.com/place/Iceland/Government-and-society#toc10093

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 257

[3]: Árni Daniel Júlíusson and Axel Kristissen 2017, pers. comm. to E. Brandl and D. Mullins

[4]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 234


Scale of Supracultural Interaction:
5,600,000 km2

km squared. Icelandic cultural forms were derived from and now became politically part of the greater Scandinavian realm in the North Atlantic controlled by the Norwegian kings: ’The realm of the king of Norway, when Iceland became a part of it, was centred on the North Atlantic. It stretched from the west coast of Greenland to the Barents Sea in the north, and south to Göteborg and the Orkneys [...]. Purely in terms of distance, Iceland was not far from the middle of this domain; it was within a week’s travel of the main centres, the royal court at Bergen and the archiepiscoal sea at Trondheim. Just over two centuries later, the capital of the state was the city of Copenhagen on the Sound, and Iceland was at the westernmost point of the kingdom. It was King Haakon (1299-1319), son of Magnus, who turned the thrust of the state to the south and east. He moved his court from Bergen to Oslo, and arranged a marriage between his daughter Ingeborg and the brother of the Swedish king, when she was one year old. Their son, Magnus, inherited the thrones of Sweden and Norway in 1319, at the age of three. Norway as an autonomous kingdom had thus practically ceased to exist. The mid-14th century also saw the Balck Death sweep through Scandinavia. The disease was especially virulent in Norway, where as many as two-third of the population may have died in successive epidemics. In the period 1376-80 the boy king Olaf, son of Hakon, inherited the crowns of Denmark and Norway. Thus Iceland became subject to the Danish throne, a relationship that was not finally broken off until 1944. Olaf was also of the Swedish royal house (which ruled Finland too). It is easy to imagne the idea of a unified Nordic realm forming in the mind of Queen Margarethe, mother of the child king. But in 1387 Olaf suddenly died, aged 17. But Margarethe did not give up her plans. She contrived to have herself elected regent in all the Nordic kingdoms, and to have her six-year-old foster-son nominaated heir to all the thrones. In 1397 an attempt was made in the Swesih city of Karlmar to establish a permanent union of the states.’ [1] Norway monopolized trade with Iceland due to competition from the Hansa in other regions: ’During years of suffering resulting from these recurring calamities some aid was derived from Norwegian trade with Iceland which was plied quite energetically, especially during the first half of the fourteenth century, since the Hanseatic League had closed all other avenues to Norwegian merchants. It had already been noted that King Haakon Magnusson made trade with Iceland a Norwegian monopoly. [...] In 1302 King Haakon made the regulation that the Hansa merchants should not trade north of Bergen, or carry on commerce with Iceland or any of the Norwegian dependencies, a stipulation which was repeated in 1306. This trade was retained by the government for the benefit of the crown.’ [2] These cultural and commercial contacts suffered under the impact of the plague in mainland Scandinavia: ’This development of a new important line of export proved a valuable stimulus for commerce, and must have increased also the volume of Icelandic imports, as is shown by the lively intercourse between Norway and Iceland at that time. [...] But this very encouraging outlook in commercial affairs was suddenly destroyed by the Black Death, which in 1349 appeared in Norway and in a short time carried away one-third of the entire population of the kingdom. [...] the expeditions ot Greenland ceased almost completely, and the trade with Iceland and other dependencies was greatly reduced. [...] During the second half of the fourteenth century it appears from the annals fewer ships came to Iceland than formerly. Not till in 1387 is it again recorded that as many as eleven ships arrived in a single year. For Iceland, which was suffering from the effects of the great calamities which had lately befallen the country, this falling off of commerce was a serious misfortune.’ [3] But the adoption of Christianity in the Commonwealth period also made Iceland part of the greater cultural sphere of Latin Christendom. [4] We have estimated the geographical extent of Latin Christendom to be around 5,600,000 km squared, including Northern, Western, and Central Europe as well as parts of Southern Europe. This figure is only an approximation and therefore open to re-evaluation.

[1]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 22p

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 243

[3]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 244p

[4]: Árni Daniel Júlíusson and Axel Kristissen 2017, pers. comm. to E. Brandl and D. Mullins


Relationship to Preceding Entity:
continuity

The union with Norway displaced the system of autonomous chieftains that had characterized the Commonwealth: ’The thirteenth century was a period of escalating conflict (STURLUNGAÖLD) chieftains attempted to exert control beyond their local regions. The system of autonomous chieftains ended after 1262 A.D. when Iceland came under Norwegian rule.’ [1] Gjerset claims that allegiance to Norway was welcomed by Icelandic commoners: ’The opposition to the king’s designs in Iceland was gradually weakened by influences which created a new public opinion. According to medieval thought royal rule was a divine institution to which all Christians owed submission. The Icelandic state systems, which stood as a relic of a pagan past, could find no support in the prevailing ideas of the times. [...] The Norwegian kings, who had been the champions of Christianity and the unity of the realm, had become national heroes and the leaders of the people, not least in the opinions of the Icelanders, who glorified their achievements in great historical works. Royal rule could no longer be viewed even by the chieftains as an illegitimate encroachment on ancient liberties. To the common people, who had lost their freedom, and were subject ot the arbitrary will of the great lords, it could only bring new hope of peace and improved social conditions. The resistance to the growing influence of the king did not at this time spring from patriotic sentiment, or conscious national aspirations on the part of the people, but was wholly due to the intense individualism and love of power of the cieftains. But even they had maintained the closest relations with the king. They had never hesitated to bind themselves to him in personal service under oath as hiromenn, skutilsveinar, lendrmenn and other officials under the crown.’ [2] Iceland pledged allegiance to Norway at the general assembly of 1262ce: ’It was now felt that the fate of Iceland would be decided at the next Althing, and Gizur sought be secret intrigue to and diligent propaganda to gather support against Hallvard Gullsko and the leaders of the king’s party. His final appeal to the people’s love of independence was so successful that he appeared at the Althing with an army of 1440 men, while his opponents had only half that number. But armed conflict does not seem to have been his plan. He undoubtedly felt restrained by the situation of the country and the attitude of the chieftains. With the advice of his adherents he himself took the initiative, and submitted the king’s request to the Althing. He spoke earnestly in support of it, declaring that a refusal to accept it would be equivalent to his death warrant. To this appeal the people finally yielded. The lögrétta of the Althing, on behalf of the people, took the oath of allegiance and entered into the following agreement with King Haakon, known as the "Gamli sáttmáli", in 1262 [...]’ [3] But Icelanders attempted to maintain a degree of autonomy: ’To a large extent, Iceland was ruled separately from Norway. It had its own law code, and the Althing continued to be held at Thingvellir, though mainly as a court of justice. Most of the royal officials who succeeded the chieftains were Icelanders. In 1380 the Norwegian monarchy entered into a union with the Danish crown, but that change did not affect Iceland’s status within the realm as a personal skattland (“tax land”) of the crown.’ [4]

[1]: Bolender, Douglas James and Beierle, John: eHRAF Cultural Summary for Early Icelanders

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 203

[3]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 206

[4]: http://www.britannica.com/place/Iceland/Government-and-society#toc10093


Preceding Entity:
Icelandic Commonwealth

The union with Norway displaced the system of autonomous chieftains that had characterized the Commonwealth: ’The thirteenth century was a period of escalating conflict (STURLUNGAÖLD) chieftains attempted to exert control beyond their local regions. The system of autonomous chieftains ended after 1262 A.D. when Iceland came under Norwegian rule.’ [1] Gjerset claims that allegiance to Norway was welcomed by Icelandic commoners: ’The opposition to the king’s designs in Iceland was gradually weakened by influences which created a new public opinion. According to medieval thought royal rule was a divine institution to which all Christians owed submission. The Icelandic state systems, which stood as a relic of a pagan past, could find no support in the prevailing ideas of the times. [...] The Norwegian kings, who had been the champions of Christianity and the unity of the realm, had become national heroes and the leaders of the people, not least in the opinions of the Icelanders, who glorified their achievements in great historical works. Royal rule could no longer be viewed even by the chieftains as an illegitimate encroachment on ancient liberties. To the common people, who had lost their freedom, and were subject ot the arbitrary will of the great lords, it could only bring new hope of peace and improved social conditions. The resistance to the growing influence of the king did not at this time spring from patriotic sentiment, or conscious national aspirations on the part of the people, but was wholly due to the intense individualism and love of power of the cieftains. But even they had maintained the closest relations with the king. They had never hesitated to bind themselves to him in personal service under oath as hiromenn, skutilsveinar, lendrmenn and other officials under the crown.’ [2] Iceland pledged allegiance to Norway at the general assembly of 1262ce: ’It was now felt that the fate of Iceland would be decided at the next Althing, and Gizur sought be secret intrigue to and diligent propaganda to gather support against Hallvard Gullsko and the leaders of the king’s party. His final appeal to the people’s love of independence was so successful that he appeared at the Althing with an army of 1440 men, while his opponents had only half that number. But armed conflict does not seem to have been his plan. He undoubtedly felt restrained by the situation of the country and the attitude of the chieftains. With the advice of his adherents he himself took the initiative, and submitted the king’s request to the Althing. He spoke earnestly in support of it, declaring that a refusal to accept it would be equivalent to his death warrant. To this appeal the people finally yielded. The lögrétta of the Althing, on behalf of the people, took the oath of allegiance and entered into the following agreement with King Haakon, known as the "Gamli sáttmáli", in 1262 [...]’ [3] But Icelanders attempted to maintain a degree of autonomy: ’To a large extent, Iceland was ruled separately from Norway. It had its own law code, and the Althing continued to be held at Thingvellir, though mainly as a court of justice. Most of the royal officials who succeeded the chieftains were Icelanders. In 1380 the Norwegian monarchy entered into a union with the Danish crown, but that change did not affect Iceland’s status within the realm as a personal skattland (“tax land”) of the crown.’ [4]

[1]: Bolender, Douglas James and Beierle, John: eHRAF Cultural Summary for Early Icelanders

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 203

[3]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 206

[4]: http://www.britannica.com/place/Iceland/Government-and-society#toc10093


Degree of Centralization:
loose

With the acceptance of the union agreement, Icelanders formally pledged their allegiance to a higher political authority embodied by the Norwegian crown: ’The agreement by which Iceland was formally brought under Norwegian rule created only a confederate union, adn did not materially change the status of the Icelandic chieftains. They were now to hold their rights from the king, and were forbidden to wage war on each other; but since the Icelandic laws were still in force, the union agreement really involved only an acknowledgment of the king’s sovereignty, and the payment of a small tribute to the crown. It appear from the Icelandic code, the "Jónsbók", adopted in 1280, that the taxes to be paid were very moderate, as the twenty alnar vaomál payable by each freeholder for himself and his household, and by unmarried persons who owned property to the value of ten hundred unincumbered by debts, included also the old tax of thingfararkaup. Only one-half of the whole sum was to be paid to the king. The other half was to be kept in Iceland for the payment of the usual taxes. To the common people the union with Norway brought the distinct advantage of the termination of the bloody conflicts in which they had been forced to take part. Peace was established, and the conviction that henceforth the government would safeguard life and property must have created a new sense of security and well-being. Freedom from lawless terror, established by the altered relation to the mother country, must have been welcomed by the people in general as a new freedom rather than as foreign oppression.’ [1] But the first jarl, i.e. the personal representative of the Norwegian crown on the island, only had limited influence on the chieftains: ’During the first years following the establishment of the union conditions in Iceland remained quite unchanged. The godords were still in the hands of the leading chieftains. Gizur, who was to exercise the highest authority as jarl, was unpopular, and his power was very limited. Royal commissioners were sent to Iceland to exercise control with or without his consent, and and he had to share his nominal authority with the powerful Oddaverjar chieftains of southern Iceland, Hrafn Oddsson of the Borgarfjord district, and Orm Ormsson of eastern Iceland. The king regarded him with suspicion; the chieftains hated him because of his rank and title; opposition and difficulties confronted him everywhere. Even his own character and previous record rendered him unfit to maintain peace and order, which was his principal official duty. He was unable to see the need of any change in the general régime, and the last chapter of his stormy life formed a fitting close to the drama of bloody feuds in which he had played so conspicuous a part. Shortly after the meeting of the Althing of 1264, while visiting in southern Iceland, he was suddenly attacked by Thord Andrisson, the head of the Oddaverjar family. With great difficulty he escaped from his assailants, and after gathering an army of 750 men he cruelly ravged the Rangarvalla district, where the Oddaverjar chieftains were dwelling.’ [2] The crown established several offices for the purpose of governance: ’After Gizur’s death no new jarl was appointed, and for a time there was no real head of Icelandic affairs. In 1267 Orm Ormsson and Thorvard Thorarinsson went to Norway, Hrafn Oddsson following in 1268. Both Hrafn and Orm seem to have aspired to succeed Gizur, but the king found it advisable not to elevate another chieftain to the rank of jarl, as the title had been very unpopular. After some delay, and probably with the advice of Sturla Thordsson, he gave both ranks as hirdmenn and placed them in charge of Icelandic affairs with no other title than that of valdsmadr, or royal magistrate. Hrafs was to govern the western and Orm the eastern districts. Hrafn assumed the duties of his office, but Orm was drowned shortly after his appointment, probably on the homeward voyage.’ [3] After the changes introduced to the Icelandic legal structre, royal officials and representatives were to preside over the Icelandic general assembly: ’Some of the most important parts of the code were, nevertheless, sanctioned already in 1271, as the thingfararbölkr, or constitution of the thing, the thegngildi, or laws governing the payment of fines to the king in cases of murder of freemen, and a part of the arfabölkr, or laws about inheritance. The remaining portions of the code received sanction in 1272 ad 1273. The introduction of this code wrought a fundamental change in the Icelandic constitution and jurisprudence. Norwegian law had been substituted for the old Icelandic code, the "Grágás"; the godords were abolished, so also the characteristic features of the Althing: the fjordungsdómar, the fimtardómr, and the office of lögsögumadr. The thing system was reorganized according to Norwegian pattern. The valdsmadr should choose a certain number of men from each thing district, 140 in all, to constitute the thing, and from these the lawman should select three from each thing district, in all-thirty-six, to sit in the lögrétta. Instead of the lögsögumadr there should be a lawman, after 1277 two lawmen, as in Norway. Royal officials and representatives of the crown should preside over the Althing and take part in its decisions.’ [4] The law received more institutional backing: ’These new codes wrought a fundamental change in the conception of positive law as well as in legal practice in Iceland. The old court procedures with its intricacies and formalities was replaced by the simpler Norwegian system. The king was ruler and lawgiver was regarded as the source of justice, and behind the laws now stood the royal authority, ready to execute the decrees of the courts even against the most powerful offenders. Violation of the law was no longer viewed as a private affair to be settled by the offender and the party injured, but as a crime for which the wrong-doer had to answer to the government. The fines to be paid and other punishments to be inflicted were still to be determined by twelve men according to ancient usage. The old punishment of banishment for serious offenses was retained, but fines payable to the king were instituted in numerous cases, and capital punishment was to be inflicted for grave crimes, like murder, robbery, rape, counterfeiting, forgery, and seduction. Other severe punishments were also established. [...] But care had been taken by the lawgiver to guard against hasty action and undue harshness in the treatment of wrong-doers. In a chapter about legal decisions he advises the judges to consider carefully truth, justice, patience and mercy, in order that their decisions not bear the marks of cruelty and hatred. [...] The first lawmen appointed under the new law were Stural Thordsson and Jon Einarsson. The first royal magistrates who received the title of sýslumadr were Hrafn Oddsson in western Iceland, and Thorvard Thorarinsson for the southern and eastern districts, and Asgrim Thorsteinsson in the south-western districts. Others may have been appointed, but their names are not known. In 1279 Hrafn Oddsson became royal merkismadr with authority over all Iceland, as already noted.’ [5] The presence of the government in the day-to-day life of ’commoners’ might not have been considerable, though.

[1]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 208

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 211p

[3]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 213

[4]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 214

[5]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 215pp


Language

Language:
Icelandic

The Icelandic variant became increasingly distinct from Old Norse: ’The Icelandic language had now assumed its distinctive traits. Originally it was identical with the Old Norse found in southwestern Norway in the districts from which the greater number of Icelandic colonists emigrated. This language has been preserved in Iceland with but little change even to the present. But in the thirteenth century some peculiarities developed which distinguished it slightly from the original mother tongue. The Old Norse e and o in final position were changed to i and u, and the digraphs [...] were no longer kept distinct, but were both represented by [...]. This change was completed about 1300. In the fourteenth century the connecting vowel u also appears in Icelandic before final syllabic r, as vetur for vetr, dagur for dagr. After 1350 Norse underwent a new development similar to that of English and other Germanic tongues, while Icelandic, by preserving the old inflectional forms and other peculiarities, henceforth remained a distinct language.’ [1] The linguistic ’conservatism’ that enabled this development may have played a partial role in maintaining Icelandic autonomy: ’Another factor which was to be crucial for Iceland’s status in the long term was the development of the Nordic languages. During the period of the Old Commonwealth, the Icelanders regarded the dialects spoken in the Nordic countries as a single language, which they called Norse or Danish. But in the 14th and 15th centuries the other Nordic languages underwent considerable change, while the Icelanders’ language remained almost unaltered. Thus the Icelanders stopped calling their language Norse, and started to call it Icelandic. Their linguistic isolation in turn served to help the Icelanders keep foreign law and foreign officials out of the country. Iceland thus retained a remarkable degree of autonomy within the realm.’ [2]

[1]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 256

[2]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 19


Religion

Social Complexity Variables
Social Scale
Population of the Largest Settlement:
[200 to 300] people

Inhabitants. So far, no reliable estimates have been found in the reviewed sources. Some of the major trading centres may have grown demographically during the Norwegian period; but the population continued to reside on dispersed farmsteads. We have therefore chosen to import the range provided in the Commonwealth sheet. That figure was based on advice from experts: ’As there were no cities, this number is extremely low. An educated guess places the population of the villages where the two cathedrals were based between 200 and 300.’ [1] As there may have been population growth in some of the larger settlements, this figure might be in need of re-evaluation. ’Technically the bishops sees were not villages. However, some fishing villages may have reached similar size in this period.’ [1]

[1]: Árni Daniel Júlíusson and Axel Kristissen 2017, pers. comm. to E. Brandl and D. Mullins


Polity Territory:
103,000 km2

in squared kilometers. At the time, the Kingdom of Norway covered a large area in the North Atlantic: ’The realm of the king of Norway, when Iceland became a part of it, was centred on the North Atlantic. It stretched from the west coast of Greenland to the Barents Sea in the north, and south to Göteborg and the Orkneys [...]. Purely in terms of distance, Iceland was not far from the middle of this domain; it was within a week’s travel of the main centres, the royal court at Bergen and the archiepiscoal sea at Trondheim. Just over two centuries later, the capital of the state was the city of Copenhagen on the Sound, and Iceland was at the westernmost point of the kingdom. It was King Haakon (1299-1319), son of Magnus, who turned the thrust of the state to the south and east. He moved his court from Bergen to Oslo, and arranged a marriage between his daughter Ingeborg and the brother of the Swedish king, when she was one year old. Their son, Magnus, inherited the thrones of Sweden and Norway in 1319, at the age of three. Norway as an autonomous kingdom had thus practically ceased to exist. The mid-14th century also saw the Balck Death sweep through Scandinavia. The disease was especially virulent in Norway, where as many as two-third of the population may have died in successive epidemics. In the period 1376-80 the boy king Olaf, son of Hakon, inherited the crowns of Denmark and Norway. Thus Iceland became subject to the Danish throne, a relationship that was not finally broken off until 1944. Olaf was also of the Swedish royal house (which ruled Finland too). It is easy to imagne the idea of a unified Nordic realm forming in the mind of Queen Margarethe, mother of the child king. But in 1387 Olaf suddenly died, aged 17. But Margarethe did not give up her plans. She contrived to have herself elected regent in all the Nordic kingdoms, and to have her six-year-old foster-son nominaated heir to all the thrones. In 1397 an attempt was made in the Swedish city of Karlmar to establish a permanent union of the states.’ [1] Iceland as a whole was made part of the Norwegian dominion: ’Iceland is an island situated just to the south of the Polar Circle in the mid-North Atlantic Ocean. With a surface of 103,000 square kilometers (39,000 square miles), Iceland is similar in size to the state of Kentucky. It was formed around 20 million years ago through underwater volcanic eruptions at the place where the Midatlantic Ridge and a ridge extending from Scotland to Greenland cross. Compared to other parts of Europe, Iceland has a short geological history, and its formative process is still far from over. The eastern and western halves of the country are slowly drifting apart, with volcanic eruptions filling the fissures with fresh lava. Fire is not the only element that characterizes the Icelandic environment because, as the name of the country indicates, ice also is a dominant factor. There are four major glaciers in the country, including the largest glacier in Europe, Vatnajökull, which is around 8,300 square kilometers (3,200 square miles) in size.’ [2] We have therefore opted to treat the political borders of Iceland as co-extensive with its natural boundaries as an island.

[1]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 22p

[2]: Hálfdanarson, Guðmundur 2010. "The A to Z of Iceland", 28


Polity Population:
[50,000 to 90,000] people

People. So far, no reliable estimates of population size have been found in the reviewed sources for the Norwegian period. We have therefore chosen to import the last dated population estimate from the Commonwealth period sheet. That figure was based on advice provided by experts: ’Hard demographic data is extremely difficult to find. Most scholars estimate the population around 930 CE between 5.000 and 20.000, with 10.000 as the consensus figure. The population in 1262 CE is estimated to be between 50.000 and 60.000. Population estimates are usually based on data on tax paying farmers. These data allow us to establish a minimum population. Around 1100 CE there were approximately 4500 tax-paying farmers and this number is usually multiplied by seven (the number of persons per household) to arrive at the estimate for the overall population.’ [1] This is open to re-evaluation, as fluctuations in total population size of the island may have taken place after this date. ’Opinions differ on this. We tend to assume that the population gradually grew over the whole medieval period up to 1400 when the Black Death struck Iceland (1402). It seems possible (but far from certain) that the population had reached 100,000 by that time. Others tend to assume a relatively stable population around 40,000-60,000. A range between 50,000 and 90,000 should span most estimates.’ [1]

[1]: Árni Daniel Júlíusson and Axel Kristissen 2017, pers. comm. to E. Brandl and D. Mullins


Hierarchical Complexity
Settlement Hierarchy:
3

levels.
(3) Bishoprics and Elite Residences; (2) Manor Farms; (1) Homesteads of Farming Families
Icelanders continued to reside on dispersed farmsteads rather than concentrating in villages and towns: ’All Icelanders lived on farms. No towns developed in Iceland in the Middle Ages. Fishing was carried out from coastal farms, and also from seasonal fishing stations when fish, especially cod, came ashore. Cereal crops were grown in Iceland in the Middle Ages, mainly in the south, but animal husbandry (cattle and sheep) was the mainstay. Both provided meat, and milk for cheese and skyr (milk curd), and the sheep’s wool was woven into cloth which was Iceland’s principal export commodity until the 14th century [...]. The Icelandic way of life is well illustrated by the units of value used: alin vadmáls (an ell, about 50cm, of woollen cloth), kúgildi (the value of a cow), equivalent to 120 ells, and subsequently fiskur (fish), equivalent to half an ell.’ [1] In the Sturlung period, a small number of chieftains had managed to establish large manors, expropriating labour and resources from landless workers and larger landholdings: ’Because of the absence of the law of odel, and through the influence of the church as well as of the government and the chieftain class landed property had been gathered in the hands of a few. As the class of smaller freeholders was disappearing, the people were becoming a struggling and oppressed peasantry with a limited outlook, few political interests, and less of public spirit and individual self-assertion than formerly.’ [2] According to Karlsson, this pattern did not change significantly during the transition to a mixed agrarian/fishing economy, although some settlement shifts occurred: ’It was in the years after 1300 that seasonal fishing stations became esablished on the southwest coast, and the wealthiest sector of society began to congregate in this region. The most powerful chieftains had almost all been based inland. Now the prosperous élite began to settle along the coast between Selvogur in the southwest and Vatnsfjördur in the West Fjords. Hvalfjördur and Hafnarfjördur developed into Iceland’s most important trading centres. The royal administration in Iceland was located at Bessastadir [...] This period saw the development of the mixed agrarian/fishing society that typefied the Icelandic economy for centuries. In January and Feburary, people travelled from rural areas to the fishing stations, where they remained until spring, fishing from small boats. This was the most favourable fishing season, as fish stocks were plentiful, the weather was cool enough to permit fish to be dried before spoiling, and relatively few hands were required on the farm. People were thus domiciled in rural areas, on farms.’ [3] The wealthier elites attempted to inhibit the development of new occupational classes: ’Yet another distinction appears as early as in the laws of the Commonwealth, which was to persist through Icelandic history. The ruling class wanted to divide Iceland into two kinds of people: farmers and their wives, and landless workers who were contracted by the year to work for farmers, and lived in their homes. Untiring efforts were ade to prevent the development of two other social classes: casual workers who sold their labour to the highest bidder at any season, and householders who were resident by the sea, living by fishing, and had neither land nor livestock.’ [4] See also Commonwealth-period data sheet.

[1]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 12p

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 249

[3]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 24p

[4]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 13


Religious Level:
4

levels.
(4) Pope and leadership of the Latin church; (3) the Archbishop and Council of Bergen (Norwegian ecclesiastical system); (2) Bishops and Abbots; (1) Priests and Monks
’In the whole church hierarchy there would be 4 levels (pope, archbishop, bishop, priest), within the Norwegian state 3 levels but locally in Iceland only the last 2 would be present.’ [1] The bishoprics expanded their landholdings: ’In spite of the rise of a profitable export industry, it is generally believed that Iceland’s economy deteriorated in the late Middle Ages. The birchwood that had covered great parts of the country was gradually depleted, in part because it was excellent for making charcoal. The destruction of the woodland, together with heavy grazing, led to extensive soil erosion. The climate also became more severe, and grain growing was given up altogether. At the same time, more and more of the land was acquired by ecclesiastical institutions and wealthy individuals, to whom the farmers had to pay rent.’ [2] Monastic orders were present by the Norwegian period, occasionally providing refuge to chieftains and other leaders: ’At last the people’s hatred and opposition grew so intense that he resolved to retire and enter a monastery. He had already made an agreement with Bishop Jörund of Hólar to take the monastic vow of the order of St. Augustine, but he died January 12, 1268, beforer the final arrangements could be consummated. His estate Stad, at Reynines, he gave to the church with the understanding that a monastery should be erected there. This condition was finally fulfilled in 1296, when the cloister for nuns at Reynines and the monastery at Mödruvellir were founded by Bishop Jörund of Hólar.’ [3] The church structure was comprised of regular priests, Icelandic bishops, and Norwegian archbishops: ’At this time important changes also took place in the Icelandic church. For some time the bishops in Iceland had been Norwegian ecclesiastics, but in the latter part of Haakon Magnusson’s reign the Icelander Brand Jonsson became bishop of Hólar, and when he died a year later, his countryman Jörund Thorsteinsson succeeded him in 1267, after a long vacancy in the office. As the Norwegian born Bishop Sigurd of Skálholt was now so old and feeble that he could no longer perform his official duties, Bishop Jörund assumed supervision also over the Skálholt diocese, by placing the popular priest Arni Thorlaksson in charge of it. [...] When Bishop Sigurd died in 1268, the diocese petitioned Archbishop Jon of Nidaros to appoint Arni as his successor, but the archbishop ignored the request and chose instead a Norwegian priest, Thorleif, evidently because he wished to continue the practice of placing Norwegian ecclesiastics over the Icelandic dioceses. As Thorleif died shortly after his election, the archbishop was prevailed upon, probably by King Magnus himself, to elect Arni, who was consecrated bishop June 21, 1269.’ [4] The Norwegian period saw protracted conflicts between clergy and laity on the matter of church property: ’Upon his return to Iceland Bishop Arni, assisted by Bishop Jörund of Hólar, summoned the people of his diocese to a general council at Skálholt, where he proposed several measures of reform, among others that the churches should be made ecclesiastical property under the control of the bishops. As nearly all churches in Iceland were privately owned, this would involve a change in property rights to which the people would not readily consent. [...] the king’s assistance could be invoked. [...] With threats of ban and excommunication he so intimidated the lesser landowners that they suffered to let the smaller churches to pass under ecclesiastical control. But the chieftains who owned the larger churches resolutely resisted. This was especially the case with the churches of Oddi and Hitardal, two of the largest in Iceland. Their owners refused to surrender them; but the bishop caused a decree of transfer to be promulgated at the Althing, threatening the owners with the ban if they resisted. [...] In 1273 King Magnus summonsed a council to meet in Bergen to consider a new code of church laws to be proposed by Archbishop Jon of Nidaros, and to deal with other questions touching the relation between church and state. At this council, Bishop Arni, Hrafn Oddsson and the Icelandic chieftains also appeared. In the trial of their case the king as inclined to favor the chieftains, but the archbishop rendered a decision in Arni’s favor. His victory was so complete that upon his return home he began to prepare a new code of church laws for Iceland, based on principles suggested to him by Archbishop Jon. The code was adopted at the Althing in 1275 with the understanding that it was later to be ratified by the king and the archbishop.’ [5] Norwegian ecclesiastic and royal control did not prevent those conflicts: ’The Council of Bergen, which placed the churches of Iceland under ecclesiastic control, proved to be only another abortive attempt to settle the difficult question of the relation between church and state. In Norway a new controversy arose between the nobility and the clergy upon the death of King Magnus Lagaboter in 1280. [...] These events could not fail to encourage the Icelandic chieftains to in their opposition to the aggressive policy of Bishop Arni.[Gjerset then describes the adoption of the Jónsbók at the Althing against the wishes of Bishop Arni.] This was a severe defeat for Bishop Arni, as the chieftains saw that in Iceland as in Norway they could defeat the church party by cooperation and energetic action. Now that they felt sure of support from King Eirik and the Council of Regency, they were no longer afraid to join issue with the bishops regarding the question of ownership of churches and church property. [...] With him came also Erlend Olafsson, who had been appointed lawman. They brought royal letters addressed to the people of Iceland encouraging them to resist the bishops. All church property which had been unjustly seized was to be returned to the laity, and the church laws as they had been in King Haakon Haakonsson’s time were to be in force.’ [6] Ultimately, some privately owned churches were handed over to ecclesiastic authorities: ’The church estates which still remained in the hands of the laity were surrendered to the bishops shortly after Arni’s return to Iceland. But this attempt to forestall a final settlement proved to be of little value. In 1292 royal commissioners were sent to Iceland with instructions from the king stating that with regard to churches and church property the conditions existing prior to the union should be restored, that church estates should be returned to their lay owners. Both bishops resented the royal orders, but the people, led by Thorvard Thorarinsson, seized many estates, and the controversy was renewed. In 1295 Thorvard went to Norway to plead the cause of the people. [...] the case was finally settled by a compromise embodied in a royal document of September 13, 1297. It was agreed that all the churches in which the lay people owned a share amounting to at least one-half should belong to them without any curtailment of property rights. All other churches should be surrendered to the bishops. [...] In the bishopric of Hólar the struggle between church and laity was less intense but of a similar character. Bishop Jörund died in 1313, and was succeeded by Audun Raudi, a member of the cathedral chapter at Nidaros. [...] He was consecrated bishop November 25, 1313, but did not arrive in Iceland till 1315. He was already advanced in years, but he ruled his diocese with great energy and authority, maintained a fine household and practiced the greatest hospitality. the cathedral church was improved, new buildings were erected at the bishop’s seat, and the cathedral school was kept in a high state of efficiency, as he took pains to secure able teachers. [He also faced opposition from the populace when introducing increased taxation.] The clergy had established an ascendency which no existing authority in Iceland could successfully control.’ [7] Some bishops became very powerful: ’Bishop Arni gradually assumed the rôle of ruler in Iceland. In many cases he opposed the sýslumadr Thorvard Thorarinsson, so that the people at the Althing appealed to the decision of the bishop in purely secular matters, contrary to all law. Of these complaints were made to the king. [...] In 1277 the king sent Eindride Böngull a second time to Iceland as his commissioner, accompanied by the Icelander Nicolas Oddsson. They brought letters addressed to both the sýslumadr and and the bishop forbidding any appeal to the bishop in cases brought before the Althing. The kind had already written to the people warning them that not to accept any law before he and the archbishop had considered the measure, as the right to alter the laws of the church or any other statute belong to them alone. The church code given by Bishop Arni was accordingly rejected, and [...] the people felt that the royal government was henceforth the supreme authority in the land.’ [8] The crown consulted with Icelandic clergy: ’In 1303 many prominent Icelanders were summoned to Norway, among others Bishop Jörund of Hólar, and Abbot Runolf, who had served as vicar in the diocese of Skálholt after the death of Bishop Arni. The king’s purpose seems to have been to obtain their advice regarding changes in the Icelandic code of laws which had been demanded, possibly also to secure their consent to new taxes to be levied in Iceland. The Icelandic annals for the year 1304 state that in that year the king collected Peter’s pence (Roma skattr) in Iceland. The supplement to the code resulting from this conference is dated June 23, 1305. It contains provisions dealing with Iceland, but it does not touch the issues bearing on the relations between the two countries. These issues do not even seem to have been considered, but the Icelandic leaders probably consented to the levying of new taxes.’ [9] Ecclesiastic conventions, such as celibacy, were more strictly enforced among the rank and file: ’The rule respecting celibacy of the clergy was so rigorously enforced that even dubdeacons who had been married for many years and had several children were compelled to separate from their wives.’ [10] According to Gjerset, bishops frequently acted as regional overlords, although this may be due to his strong nationalist bias against foreign-born clergy: ’In the church the patriarchal relation which had once existed between the bishops and laity had wholly disappeared at the beginning of the fourteenth century. Many of the ecclesiastics who at this time were elevated to the highest position in the Icelandic church were of foreign birth. In the period 1236-1465 thirteen of the bishops of Skálholt were foreigners, while only five were native Icelanders. But whether foreigners or native-born, they had usually acquired the greed and love of power which everywhere characterized the Roman hierarchy. [...] Without regard for the welfare of the country they often resorted to extortionate practices to increase the income of their dioceses, while the people were sorely tried by great national calamities and and steadily growing poverty. [...] These oppressive practices of the leaders of the church gradually created among the people a hostile opposition to the selfish ecclesiastical officialdom which forms a distinct trait in Icelandic church life throughout the Middle Ages.’ [11]

[1]: Árni Daniel Júlíusson and Axel Kristissen 2017, pers. comm. to E. Brandl and D. Mullins

[2]: http://www.britannica.com/place/Iceland/Government-and-society#toc10093

[3]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 212

[4]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 217

[5]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 217p

[6]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 221p

[7]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 225p

[8]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 219p

[9]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 231

[10]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 218p

[11]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 237


Military Level:
3

levels.
(3) Former Chieftains, Bishops and Royal Officials; (2) Lieutenants; (1) Retainers
’For the late Commonwealth there should be 3 levels but it is uncertain whether this continued after the end of the Commonwealth. Warfare became much more constricted after about 1250 and the powerful men of the Late Middle Ages probably relied on relatively small bands of retainers (sveinar). However these bands may have been commanded by professional officers (other than the lords themselves) and this is virtually certain in the case of bishops’ retainers.’ [1] We have retined three levels for the time being, but this is open to review. The system of former chieftains and other prominent figures supported by a group of armed followers rather than military forces continued during the Norwegian period: ’During the first years following the establishment of the union conditions in Iceland remained quite unchanged. The godords were still in the hands of the leading chieftains. Gizur, who was to exercise the highest authority as jarl, was unpopular, and his power was very limited. Royal commissioners were sent to Iceland to exercise control with or without his consent, and and he had to share his nominal authority with the powerful Oddaverjar chieftains of southern Iceland, Hrafn Oddsson of the Borgarfjord district, and Orm Ormsson of eastern Iceland. The king regarded him with suspicion; the chieftains hated him because of his rank and title; opposition and difficulties confronted him everywhere. Even his own character and previous record rendered him unfit to maintain peace and order, which was his principal official duty. He was unable to see the need of any change in the general régime, and the last chapter of his stormy life formed a fitting close to the drama of bloody feuds in which he had played so conspicuous a part. Shortly after the meeting of the Althing of 1264, while visiting in southern Iceland, he was suddenly attacked by Thord Andrisson, the head of the Oddaverjar family. With great difficulty he escaped from his assailants, and after gathering an army of 750 men he cruelly ravged the Rangarvalla district, where the Oddaverjar chieftains were dwelling.’ [2] ’After Gizur’s death no new jarl was appointed, and for a time there was no real head of Icelandic affairs. In 1267 Orm Ormsson and Thorvard Thorarinsson went to Norway, Hrafn Oddsson following in 1268. Both Hrafn and Orm seem to have aspired to succeed Gizur, but the king found it advisable not to elevate another chieftain to the rank of jarl, as the title had been very unpopular. After some delay, and probably with the advice of Sturla Thordsson, he gave both ranks as hirdmenn and placed them in charge of Icelandic affairs with no other title than that of valdsmadr, or royal magistrate. Hrafs was to govern the western and Orm the eastern districts. Hrafn assumed the duties of his office, but Orm was drowned shortly after his appointment, probably on the homeward voyage.’ [3] ’The leading writer in Iceland at this time was Sturla Thordsson, second only to Snorri himself as a historian. Hrafn Oddsson’s appointment as governor of the Borgarfjord district had made him so dissatisfied that against his better judgment he was presuaded by his son Snorri, a violent youth, to join him in an expedition against Hrafn. This proved a failure, as he had predicted. Snorri was captured, and Sturla himself was forced to leave Iceland, 1263.’ [4] ’He invited Thord and his brothers to a peace conference, but when they came, he pursued his usual tactics and made them prisoners. They were disarmed and condemned to death, but the pleadings of his own men finally moved him to spare the lives of all except Thord, who was executed.’ [5] Despite of occasional armed conflict between prominent leaders, the practice of feuding was largely discontinued under Norwegian rule: ’The royal executive authority and the new efficiency of the courts of law created through the union with Norway terminated the bloody feuds which had hitherto raged between the Icelandic chieftains. An uneventful era of peace followed the turmoils of the Sturlung period. Even the struggle between church and state was now adjusted so that economic life and the pursuits of peace could receive the undivided attention of the people. But the few sources which deal with the political conditions in Iceland during the years following the death of Bishop Arni show that conditions created by the union were causing dissatisfaction and unrest. The chief cause of public discontent was the unsatisfactory arrangement with regard to commerce, the insufficient Norwegian exports to Iceland, together with the policy pursued by the Norwegian government of bringing Icelanders to Norway for trial, and of appointing Norwegians for sýslumenn and lawmen, contrary to the spirit of the union agreement. The chieftains undoubtedly had thought that their political and social organization would be left undisturbed under the union; that they would only be required to pledge their allegiance to the king, pay him taxes, and receive a jarl as his personal representative, as the union agreement expressly stated. But the most far-reaching changes had been wrought. The godors had been abolished, the Althing had been reorganized, Norwegian jurisprudence had been introduced, Norwegians had been appointed to the leading public offices, and Icelanders had been summoned abroad for trial. The Norwegian government had shown an unmistakable disposition to treat Iceland as a dependency.’ [6] Royal officials employed coercive measures for the purpose of the maintenance of law and order: ’The willingness of the king to grant privileges to the church hitherto denied reveals a growing indifference of the Norwegian government to the real welfare of Iceland. An administration by royal officials had been established as a result of the union. Two lawmen were appointed by the king, one for the southern and eastern, and one for the western and northern quarters; sýslumenn were appointed as administrative officials for larger districts, as in Norway, and hirdstjórar were placed as royal governors over the island. But Iceland was now treated so much like other dependencies that the chief interest of the government was to secure from its inhabitants revenues for the royal purse. Víseyrir, or taxes payable to the king, were levied upon the whole country, and became a definite income payable to the king’s purse, like the taxes from the Norwegian colonies. This system of taxation gave rise to a royal monopoly on trade with the colonies which proved disastrous to their economic well-being, and hindered their progress. The royal officials usually asserted the authority of the government with stern harshness, and severe punishments for crimes were introduced. In some cases criminals were even buried alive; but law and order were but imperfectly maintained. Even the higher officials themselves would engage in quarrels which sometimes resembled the bloody feuds of earlier periods.’ [7] But no standing armies were stationed on the island, and royal efforts to secure armed support from Icelanders were unsuccessful: ’Nor did Iceland become a part of Norway’s system of national defence. No measures for defence of the country were taken, and it was only on rare occasions that the king attempted to induce the Icelanders to contribute forces or money for the defence of the kingdom, generally with little success.’ [8] ’Strained relations with Denmark and the Hanseatic cities also gave cause for uneasiness and inclined them to favor an adjustment of domestic difficulties. Jarl Alf Erlingsson of Thornberg, who was now the most influential member of the Council, even turned to Iceland to secure military aid for the realm. It was decided that for the defense of the kingdom 240 men should be sent from Iceland, together with those who were otherwise bound to the king’s service. [...] The plan was soon abandoned by the Council, but Arni had earned the king’s good-will by his loyal attitude.’ [9]

[1]: Árni Daniel Júlíusson and Axel Kristissen 2017, pers. comm. to E. Brandl and D. Mullins

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 211p

[3]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 213

[4]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 210

[5]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 212

[6]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 227

[7]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 239p

[8]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 19

[9]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 222p


Administrative Level:
5

levels.
(5) King; (4) Governor/Hirðstjóri (but lawmen and Alþingi at the same level); (3) Sheriffs (a better term than commissioners or magistrates); (2) Communes and local gentry; (1) Farmers/Heads of Households
’I suggest 5 levels: 1) King; 2) Governor/Hirðstjóri (but lawmen and Alþingi at the same level): 3) Sheriffs (a better term than commissioners or magistrates); 4) Communes and local gentry; 5) Farmers. Perhaps the last level is questionable both here and in the preceding period. In the codebook example ‘village head’ is the lowest level.’ [1] With the union agreement, Iceland became part of the Kingdom of Norway. The office of jarl proved unpopular and was discontinued shortly after its initial establishment: ’During the first years following the establishment of the union conditions in Iceland remained quite unchanged. The godords were still in the hands of the leading chieftains. Gizur, who was to exercise the highest authority as jarl, was unpopular, and his power was very limited. Royal commissioners were sent to Iceland to exercise control with or without his consent, and and he had to share his nominal authority with the powerful Oddaverjar chieftains of southern Iceland, Hrafn Oddsson of the Borgarfjord district, and Orm Ormsson of eastern Iceland. The king regarded him with suspicion; the chieftains hated him because of his rank and title; opposition and difficulties confronted him everywhere. Even his own character and previous record rendered him unfit to maintain peace and order, which was his principal official duty. He was unable to see the need of any change in the general régime, and the last chapter of his stormy life formed a fitting close to the drama of bloody feuds in which he had played so conspicuous a part. Shortly after the meeting of the Althing of 1264, while visiting in southern Iceland, he was suddenly attacked by Thord Andrisson, the head of the Oddaverjar family. With great difficulty he escaped from his assailants, and after gathering an army of 750 men he cruelly ravged the Rangarvalla district, where the Oddaverjar chieftains were dwelling.’ [2] ’After Gizur’s death no new jarl was appointed, and for a time there was no real head of Icelandic affairs. In 1267 Orm Ormsson and Thorvard Thorarinsson went to Norway, Hrafn Oddsson following in 1268. Both Hrafn and Orm seem to have aspired to succeed Gizur, but the king found it advisable not to elevate another chieftain to the rank of jarl, as the title had been very unpopular. After some delay, and probably with the advice of Sturla Thordsson, he gave both ranks as hirdmenn and placed them in charge of Icelandic affairs with no other title than that of valdsmadr, or royal magistrate. Hrafs was to govern the western and Orm the eastern districts. Hrafn assumed the duties of his office, but Orm was drowned shortly after his appointment, probably on the homeward voyage.’ [3] Many Commonwealth offices and institutions were abolished. The new office of lawman was created, and royal officals were to preside over the general assembly: ’Some of the most important parts of the code were, nevertheless, sanctioned already in 1271, as the thingfararbölkr, or constitution of the thing, the thegngildi, or laws governing the payment of fines to the king in cases of murder of freemen, and a part of the arfabölkr, or laws about inheritance. The remaining portions of the code received sanction in 1272 ad 1273. The introduction of this code wrought a fundamental change in the Icelandic constitution and jurisprudence. Norwegian law had been substituted for the old Icelandic code, the "Grágás"; the godords were abolished, so also the characteristic features of the Althing: the fjordungsdómar, the fimtardómr, and the office of lögsögumadr. The thing system was reorganized according to Norwegian pattern. The valdsmadr should choose a certain number of men from each thing district, 140 in all, to constitute the thing, and from these the lawman should select three from each thing district, in all-thirty-six, to sit in the lögrétta. Instead of the lögsögumadr there should be a lawman, after 1277 two lawmen, as in Norway. Royal officials and representatives of the crown should preside over the Althing and take part in its decisions.’ [4] The Althing’s political importance declined: ’The judicial powers were lodged in the lögrétta; the legislative functions should be exercized by the Althing and the king conjointly. But the thing and the crown might take the initiative in legislation. As the king now acted as lawgiver, the legislative functions of the thing were greatly reduced, and it became principally a judicial tribunal like the Norwegian lagthings. The laws were no longer recited from the Mount of Laws, and as the Althing now consisted of chosen representatives, who were soon further reduced in number, it lost its popular character. As the general public ceased to attend its sessions, its significance as a center of national and social life disappeared.’ [5] The crown appointed royal magistrates for the administration of districts: ’It may have been the many faults of the "Jarnsída" which led King Magnus Lagaboter to prepare a new code for Iceland, the "Jónsbók", which was brought to Iceland in 1280 by the lawman Jon Einarsson and the royal commissioner Lodin Lepp. It is possible that Jon Einarsson, and possibly also Hrafn Oddsson and Thorvard Thorarinsson assisted the king in preparing this code, as they were in Norway in the year 1278-1279. Hrafn Oddsson, who received the title of royal merkismadr (standardbearer), was now to exercise authority over all Iceland. Some of the provisions in the new code met with opposition, but after much discussion it was adopted in 1281, the revision of the objectionable articles being left to the king’s own good will. The new law reduced the number of the members of the Althing to eighty-four, and established the title sýslumadr for the royal district magistrates in Iceland. It adhered as closely as possible to to the new Norwegian laws, the "Code of Magnus Lagaboter", prepared a few years previous. The work was greatly superior to the "Jarnsída". It proved very satisfactory, and remained in force ill in the nineteenth century.’ [6] Legal practice became more formalized in the Norwegian period: ’These new codes wrought a fundamental change in the conception of positive law as well as in legal practice in Iceland. The old court procedures with its intricacies and formalities was replaced by the simpler Norwegian system. The king was ruler and lawgiver was regarded as the source of justice, and behind the laws now stood the royal authority, ready to execute the decrees of the courts even against the most powerful offenders. Violation of the law was no longer viewed as a private affair to be settled by the offender and the party injured, but as a crime for which the wrong-doer had to answer to the government. The fines to be paid and other punishments to be inflicted were still to be determined by twelve men according to ancient usage. The old punishment of banishment for serious offenses was retained, but fines payable to the king were instituted in numerous cases, and capital punishment was to be inflicted for grave crimes, like murder, robbery, rape, counterfeiting, forgery, and seduction. Other severe punishments were also established. [...] But care had been taken by the lawgiver to guard against hasty action and undue harshness in the treatment of wrong-doers. In a chapter about legal decisions he advises the judges to consider carefully truth, justice, patience and mercy, in order that their decisions not bear the marks of cruelty and hatred. [...] The first lawmen appointed under the new law were Stural Thordsson and Jon Einarsson. The first royal magistrates who received the title of sýslumadr were Hrafn Oddsson in western Iceland, and Thorvard Thorarinsson for the southern and eastern districts, and Asgrim Thorsteinsson in the south-western districts. Others may have been appointed, but their names are not known. In 1279 Hrafn Oddsson became royal merkismadr with authority over all Iceland, as already noted.’ [7] Some bishops became very powerful: ’Bishop Arni gradually assumed the rôle of ruler in Iceland. In many cases he opposed the sýslumadr Thorvard Thorarinsson, so that the people at the Althing appealed to the decision of the bishop in purely secular matters, contrary to all law. Of these complaints were made to the king. [...] In 1277 the king sent Eindride Böngull a second time to Iceland as his commissioner, accompanied by the Icelander Nicolas Oddsson. They brought letters addressed to both the sýslumadr and and the bishop forbidding any appeal to the bishop in cases brought before the Althing. The kind had already written to the people warning them that not to accept any law before he and the archbishop had considered the measure, as the right to alter the laws of the church or any other statute belong to them alone. The church code given by Bishop Arni was accordingly rejected, and [...] the people felt that the royal government was henceforth the supreme authority in the land.’ [8] The imposition of royal rule may have enabled the decline in feuding experienced in the Norwegian period: ’The royal executive authority and the new efficiency of the courts of law created through the union with Norway terminated the bloody feuds which had hitherto raged between the Icelandic chieftains. An uneventful era of peace followed the turmoils of the Sturlung period. Even the struggle between church and state was now adjusted so that economic life and the pursuits of peace could receive the undivided attention of the people. But the few sources which deal with the political conditions in Iceland during the years following the death of Bishop Arni show that conditions created by the union were causing dissatisfaction and unrest. The chief cause of public discontent was the unsatisfactory arrangement with regard to commerce, the insufficient Norwegian exports to Iceland, together with the policy pursued by the Norwegian government of bringing Icelanders to Norway for trial, and of appointing Norwegians for sýslumenn and lawmen, contrary to the spirit of the union agreement. The chieftains undoubtedly had thought that their political and social organization would be left undisturbed under the union; that they would only be required to pledge their allegiance to the king, pay him taxes, and receive a jarl as his personal representative, as the union agreement expressly stated. But the most far-reaching changes had been wrought. The godors had been abolished, the Althing had been reorganized, Norwegian jurisprudence had been introduced, Norwegians had been appointed to the leading public offices, and Icelanders had been summoned abroad for trial. The Norwegian government had shown an unmistakable disposition to treat Iceland as a dependency.’ [9] The royal court consulted with prominent Icelanders in matters relating to the island: ’In 1303 many prominent Icelanders were summoned to Norway, among others Bishop Jörund of Hólar, and Abbot Runolf, who had served as vicar in the diocese of Skálholt after the death of Bishop Arni. The king’s purpose seems to have been to obtain their advice regarding changes in the Icelandic code of laws which had been demanded, possibly also to secure their consent to new taxes to be levied in Iceland. The Icelandic annals for the year 1304 state that in that year the king collected Peter’s pence (Roma skattr) in Iceland. The supplement to the code resulting from this conference is dated June 23, 1305. It contains provisions dealing with Iceland, but it does not touch the issues bearing on the relations between the two countries. These issues do not even seem to have been considered, but the Icelandic leaders probably consented to the levying of new taxes.’ [10] The kings came to view Iceland as a dependency of the motherland: ’The willingness of the king to grant privileges to the church hitherto denied reveals a growing indifference of the Norwegian government to the real welfare of Iceland. An administration by royal officials had been established as a result of the union. Two lawmen were appointed by the king, one for the southern and eastern, and one for the western and northern quarters; sýslumenn were appointed as administrative officials for larger districts, as in Norway, and hirdstjórar were placed as royal governors over the island. But Iceland was now treated so much like other dependencies that the chief interest of the government was to secure from its inhabitants revenues for the royal purse. Víseyrir, or taxes payable to the king, were levied upon the whole country, and became a definite income payable to the king’s purse, like the taxes from the Norwegian colonies. This system of taxation gave rise to a royal monopoly on trade with the colonies which proved disastrous to their economic well-being, and hindered their progress. The royal officials usually asserted the authority of the government with stern harshness, and severe punishments for crimes were introduced. In some cases criminals were even buried alive; but law and order were but imperfectly maintained. Even the higher officials themselves would engage in quarrels which sometimes resembled the bloody feuds of earlier periods.’ [11] When met with Icelandic opposition, some compromise agreements were reached after protracted disagreement, as evidenced in the practice of summoning Icelanders to Norway for trial and its eventual abandonment: ’This reminder had the result that in 1315 a full representation again met at the Althing from all parts of Iceland. In 1314 he issues a new supplement to the Icelandic code, in which he sought to right some of the wrongs complained of in the remonstrance submitted by the Althing. Regarding the bringing of Icelanders to Norway for trial, the law was made to conform to the remonstrance. A provision was inserted stating that such a step should be taken only if the sýslumenn and lawmen were unable to try the case. The demand for new taxes was definitely dropped. But nothing was said regarding the appointment of native Icelanders for office; nor was any assurance given that six ships would be sent to Iceland every year, though this matter was now of greater importance than ever, since the trade with Iceland had become a Norwegian monopoly. No guarantee existed that the king would respect the provisions in the union agreement. Hitherto he had shown a disposition to place Iceland on the level with the Norwegian dependencies. What the future relation between the two countries was to be seemed as much as ever an unsettled question.’ [12] Karlsson’s description seems to bear out Gjerset’s, although he stresses the degree of internal autonomy that Iceland maintained: ’The Icelanders also received two new law codes during Magnus’ reign. In 1271 the king sent to Iceland a new legal code known as Járnsída (Ironside), followed by another book which bears the name of its main author, Jón Einarsson, Jónsbók (Jón’s Book). But, contrary to developments in Norway, this second revision led Iceland further from conformity with Norwegian law. Jónsbók was admittedly based largely on Norwegian law, but it was drawn up for Iceland alone, and it remained in force there for four to five centuries, while Norwegian law underwent many revisions. Jónsbók thus made Iceland a separate jurisdictional area under royal rule. Iceland’s system of government was radically altered by Járnsída and Jónsbók. Alpingi continued to meet, but the Law Council, which had been a legislative body, became primarily a court of law. The four regional courts, the Fifth court and the spring assemblies were abolished; new officials, lögmenn (lawmen) and sýslumenn (district commissioners) presided over regional court proceedings as required. Iceland was also assigned its own administrative officials. Around 1300 a demand was first put forward at Alpingi that Icelanders of the old chieftain clans should be apointed royal representatives in Iceland. For centuries after this, most administrative offices were held by Icelanders. Only the office of governor (hirdstjóri), the supreme royal official in Iceland, was held by foreigners as often as Icelanders.’ [13]

[1]: Árni Daniel Júlíusson and Axel Kristissen 2017, pers. comm. to E. Brandl and D. Mullins

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 211p

[3]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 213

[4]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 214

[5]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 214p

[6]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 215

[7]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 215pp

[8]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 219p

[9]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 227

[10]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 231

[11]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 239p

[12]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 233

[13]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 18p


Professions
Professional Soldier:
present

Full-time specialists ’Soldiers were present in the form of retainers (sveinar) of powerful men (bishops, governors, sheriffs).’ [1] In the Norwegian period, the system of chieftains and other prominent figures, such as royal officials, supported by groups of armed followers continued, despite of the general decline of feuding: ’During the first years following the establishment of the union conditions in Iceland remained quite unchanged. The godords were still in the hands of the leading chieftains. Gizur, who was to exercise the highest authority as jarl, was unpopular, and his power was very limited. Royal commissioners were sent to Iceland to exercise control with or without his consent, and and he had to share his nominal authority with the powerful Oddaverjar chieftains of southern Iceland, Hrafn Oddsson of the Borgarfjord district, and Orm Ormsson of eastern Iceland. The king regarded him with suspicion; the chieftains hated him because of his rank and title; opposition and difficulties confronted him everywhere. Even his own character and previous record rendered him unfit to maintain peace and order, which was his principal official duty. He was unable to see the need of any change in the general régime, and the last chapter of his stormy life formed a fitting close to the drama of bloody feuds in which he had played so conspicuous a part. Shortly after the meeting of the Althing of 1264, while visiting in southern Iceland, he was suddenly attacked by Thord Andrisson, the head of the Oddaverjar family. With great difficulty he escaped from his assailants, and after gathering an army of 750 men he cruelly ravged the Rangarvalla district, where the Oddaverjar chieftains were dwelling.’ [2] No standing armies were stationed on the island, and Norwegian efforts to raise armed support from Icelanders were generally unsuccessful: ’Nor did Iceland become a part of Norway’s system of national defence. No measures for defence of the country were taken, and it was only on rare occasions that the king attempted to induce the Icelanders to contribute forces or money for the defence of the kingdom, generally with little success.’ [3] ’Strained relations with Denmark and the Hanseatic cities also gave cause for uneasiness and inclined them to favor an adjustment of domestic difficulties. Jarl Alf Erlingsson of Thornberg, who was now the most influential member of the Council, even turned to Iceland to secure military aid for the realm. It was decided that for the defense of the kingdom 240 men should be sent from Iceland, together with those who were otherwise bound to the king’s service. [...] The plan was soon abandoned by the Council, but Arni had earned the king’s good-will by his loyal attitude.’ [4]

[1]: Árni Daniel Júlíusson and Axel Kristissen 2017, pers. comm. to E. Brandl and D. Mullins

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 211p

[3]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 19

[4]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 222p


Professional Priesthood:
present

Full-time specialists The bishoprics expanded their landholdings: ’In spite of the rise of a profitable export industry, it is generally believed that Iceland’s economy deteriorated in the late Middle Ages. The birchwood that had covered great parts of the country was gradually depleted, in part because it was excellent for making charcoal. The destruction of the woodland, together with heavy grazing, led to extensive soil erosion. The climate also became more severe, and grain growing was given up altogether. At the same time, more and more of the land was acquired by ecclesiastical institutions and wealthy individuals, to whom the farmers had to pay rent.’ [1] Monastic orders were present by the Norwegian period, occasionally providing refuge to chieftains and other leaders: ’At last the people’s hatred and opposition grew so intense that he resolved to retire and enter a monastery. He had already made an agreement with Bishop Jörund of Hólar to take the monastic vow of the order of St. Augustine, but he died January 12, 1268, beforer the final arrangements could be consummated. His estate Stad, at Reynines, he gave to the church with the understanding that a monastery should be erected there. This condition was finally fulfilled in 1296, when the cloister for nuns at Reynines and the monastery at Mödruvellir were founded by Bishop Jörund of Hólar.’ [2] The church structure was comprised of regular priests, Icelandic bishops, and Norwegian archbishops: ’At this time important changes also took place in the Icelandic church. For some time the bishops in Iceland had been Norwegian ecclesiastics, but in the latter part of Haakon Magnusson’s reign the Icelander Brand Jonsson became bishop of Hólar, and when he died a year later, his countryman Jörund Thorsteinsson succeeded him in 1267, after a long vacancy in the office. As the Norwegian born Bishop Sigurd of Skálholt was now so old and feeble that he could no longer perform his official duties, Bishop Jörund assumed supervision also over the Skálholt diocese, by placing the popular priest Arni Thorlaksson in charge of it. [...] When Bishop Sigurd died in 1268, the diocese petitioned Archbishop Jon of Nidaros to appoint Arni as his successor, but the archbishop ignored the request and chose instead a Norwegian priest, Thorleif, evidently because he wished to continue the practice of placing Norwegian ecclesiastics over the Icelandic dioceses. As Thorleif died shortly after his election, the archbishop was prevailed upon, probably by King Magnus himself, to elect Arni, who was consecrated bishop June 21, 1269.’ [3] The Norwegian period saw protracted conflicts between clergy and laity on the matter of church property: ’Upon his return to Iceland Bishop Arni, assisted by Bishop Jörund of Hólar, summoned the people of his diocese to a general council at Skálholt, where he proposed several measures of reform, among others that the churches should be made ecclesiastical property under the control of the bishops. As nearly all churches in Iceland were privately owned, this would involve a change in property rights to which the people would not readily consent. [...] the king’s assistance could be invoked. [...] With threats of ban and excommunication he so intimidated the lesser landowners that they suffered to let the smaller churches to pass under ecclesiastical control. But the chieftains who owned the larger churches resolutely resisted. This was especially the case with the churches of Oddi and Hitardal, two of the largest in Iceland. Their owners refused to surrender them; but the bishop caused a decree of transfer to be promulgated at the Althing, threatening the owners with the ban if they resisted. [...] In 1273 King Magnus summonsed a council to meet in Bergen to consider a new code of church laws to be proposed by Archbishop Jon of Nidaros, and to deal with other questions touching the relation between church and state. At this council, Bishop Arni, Hrafn Oddsson and the Icelandic chieftains also appeared. In the trial of their case the king as inclined to favor the chieftains, but the archbishop rendered a decision in Arni’s favor. His victory was so complete that upon his return home he began to prepare a new code of church laws for Iceland, based on principles suggested to him by Archbishop Jon. The code was adopted at the Althing in 1275 with the understanding that it was later to be ratified by the king and the archbishop.’ [4] Norwegian ecclesiastic and royal control did not prevent those conflicts: ’The Council of Bergen, which placed the churches of Iceland under ecclesiastic control, proved to be only another abortive attempt to settle the difficult question of the relation between church and state. In Norway a new controversy arose between the nobility and the clergy upon the death of King Magnus Lagaboter in 1280. [...] These events could not fail to encourage the Icelandic chieftains to in their opposition to the aggressive policy of Bishop Arni.[Gjerset then describes the adoption of the Jónsbók at the Althing against the wishes of Bishop Arni.] This was a severe defeat for Bishop Arni, as the chieftains saw that in Iceland as in Norway they could defeat the church party by cooperation and energetic action. Now that they felt sure of support from King Eirik and the Council of Regency, they were no longer afraid to join issue with the bishops regarding the question of ownership of churches and church property. [...] With him came also Erlend Olafsson, who had been appointed lawman. They brought royal letters addressed to the people of Iceland encouraging them to resist the bishops. All church property which had been unjustly seized was to be returned to the laity, and the church laws as they had been in King Haakon Haakonsson’s time were to be in force.’ [5] Ultimately, some privately owned churches were handed over to ecclesiastic authorities: ’The church estates which still remained in the hands of the laity were surrendered to the bishops shortly after Arni’s return to Iceland. But this attempt to forestall a final settlement proved to be of little value. In 1292 royal commissioners were sent to Iceland with instructions from the king stating that with regard to churches and church property the conditions existing prior to the union should be restored, that church estates should be returned to their lay owners. Both bishops resented the royal orders, but the people, led by Thorvard Thorarinsson, seized many estates, and the controversy was renewed. In 1295 Thorvard went to Norway to plead the cause of the people. [...] the case was finally settled by a compromise embodied in a royal document of September 13, 1297. It was agreed that all the churches in which the lay people owned a share amounting to at least one-half should belong to them without any curtailment of property rights. All other churches should be surrendered to the bishops. [...] In the bishopric of Hólar the struggle between church and laity was less intense but of a similar character. Bishop Jörund died in 1313, and was succeeded by Audun Raudi, a member of the cathedral chapter at Nidaros. [...] He was consecrated bishop November 25, 1313, but did not arrive in Iceland till 1315. He was already advanced in years, but he ruled his diocese with great energy and authority, maintained a fine household and practiced the greatest hospitality. the cathedral church was improved, new buildings were erected at the bishop’s seat, and the cathedral school was kept in a high state of efficiency, as he took pains to secure able teachers. [He also faced opposition from the populace when introducing increased taxation.] The clergy had established an ascendency which no existing authority in Iceland could successfully control.’ [6] Some bishops became very powerful: ’Bishop Arni gradually assumed the rôle of ruler in Iceland. In many cases he opposed the sýslumadr Thorvard Thorarinsson, so that the people at the Althing appealed to the decision of the bishop in purely secular matters, contrary to all law. Of these complaints were made to the king. [...] In 1277 the king sent Eindride Böngull a second time to Iceland as his commissioner, accompanied by the Icelander Nicolas Oddsson. They brought letters addressed to both the sýslumadr and and the bishop forbidding any appeal to the bishop in cases brought before the Althing. The kind had already written to the people warning them that not to accept any law before he and the archbishop had considered the measure, as the right to alter the laws of the church or any other statute belong to them alone. The church code given by Bishop Arni was accordingly rejected, and [...] the people felt that the royal government was henceforth the supreme authority in the land.’ [7] The crown consulted with Icelandic clergy: ’In 1303 many prominent Icelanders were summoned to Norway, among others Bishop Jörund of Hólar, and Abbot Runolf, who had served as vicar in the diocese of Skálholt after the death of Bishop Arni. The king’s purpose seems to have been to obtain their advice regarding changes in the Icelandic code of laws which had been demanded, possibly also to secure their consent to new taxes to be levied in Iceland. The Icelandic annals for the year 1304 state that in that year the king collected Peter’s pence (Roma skattr) in Iceland. The supplement to the code resulting from this conference is dated June 23, 1305. It contains provisions dealing with Iceland, but it does not touch the issues bearing on the relations between the two countries. These issues do not even seem to have been considered, but the Icelandic leaders probably consented to the levying of new taxes.’ [8] Ecclesiastic conventions, such as celibacy, were more strictly enforced among the rank and file: ’The rule respecting celibacy of the clergy was so rigorously enforced that even dubdeacons who had been married for many years and had several children were compelled to separate from their wives.’ [9] According to Gjerset, bishops frequently acted as regional overlords, but his writing is informed by nationalist bias against foreign-born clergy: ’In the church the patriarchal relation which had once existed between the bishops and laity had wholly disappeared at the beginning of the fourteenth century. Many of the ecclesiastics who at this time were elevated to the highest position in the Icelandic church were of foreign birth. In the period 1236-1465 thirteen of the bishops of Skálholt were foreigners, while only five were native Icelanders. But whether foreigners or native-born, they had usually acquired the greed and love of power which everywhere characterized the Roman hierarchy. [...] Without regard for the welfare of the country they often resorted to extortionate practices to increase the income of their dioceses, while the people were sorely tried by great national calamities and and steadily growing poverty. [...] These oppressive practices of the leaders of the church gradually created among the people a hostile opposition to the selfish ecclesiastical officialdom which forms a distinct trait in Icelandic church life throughout the Middle Ages.’ [10]

[1]: http://www.britannica.com/place/Iceland/Government-and-society#toc10093

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 212

[3]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 217

[4]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 217p

[5]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 221p

[6]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 225p

[7]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 219p

[8]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 231

[9]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 218p

[10]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 237


Professional Military Officer:
present

Full-time specialists ’Soldiers were present in the form of retainers (sveinar) of powerful men (bishops, governors, sheriffs).’ [1] In the Norwegian period, the system of chieftains and other prominent figures, such as royal officials, supported by groups of armed followers continued, despite of the general decline of feuding: ’During the first years following the establishment of the union conditions in Iceland remained quite unchanged. The godords were still in the hands of the leading chieftains. Gizur, who was to exercise the highest authority as jarl, was unpopular, and his power was very limited. Royal commissioners were sent to Iceland to exercise control with or without his consent, and and he had to share his nominal authority with the powerful Oddaverjar chieftains of southern Iceland, Hrafn Oddsson of the Borgarfjord district, and Orm Ormsson of eastern Iceland. The king regarded him with suspicion; the chieftains hated him because of his rank and title; opposition and difficulties confronted him everywhere. Even his own character and previous record rendered him unfit to maintain peace and order, which was his principal official duty. He was unable to see the need of any change in the general régime, and the last chapter of his stormy life formed a fitting close to the drama of bloody feuds in which he had played so conspicuous a part. Shortly after the meeting of the Althing of 1264, while visiting in southern Iceland, he was suddenly attacked by Thord Andrisson, the head of the Oddaverjar family. With great difficulty he escaped from his assailants, and after gathering an army of 750 men he cruelly ravged the Rangarvalla district, where the Oddaverjar chieftains were dwelling.’ [2] No standing armies were stationed on the island, and Norwegian efforts to raise armed support from Icelanders were generally unsuccessful: ’Nor did Iceland become a part of Norway’s system of national defence. No measures for defence of the country were taken, and it was only on rare occasions that the king attempted to induce the Icelanders to contribute forces or money for the defence of the kingdom, generally with little success.’ [3] ’Strained relations with Denmark and the Hanseatic cities also gave cause for uneasiness and inclined them to favor an adjustment of domestic difficulties. Jarl Alf Erlingsson of Thornberg, who was now the most influential member of the Council, even turned to Iceland to secure military aid for the realm. It was decided that for the defense of the kingdom 240 men should be sent from Iceland, together with those who were otherwise bound to the king’s service. [...] The plan was soon abandoned by the Council, but Arni had earned the king’s good-will by his loyal attitude.’ [4]

[1]: Árni Daniel Júlíusson and Axel Kristissen 2017, pers. comm. to E. Brandl and D. Mullins

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 211p

[3]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 19

[4]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 222p


Bureaucracy Characteristics
Specialized Government Building:
absent

Karlsson mentions the seat of the royal administration in Bessastadir: ’It was in the years after 1300 that seasonal fishing stations became esablished on the southwest coast, and the wealthiest sector of society began to congregate in this region. The most powerful chieftains had almost all been based inland. Now the prosperous élite began to settle along the coast between Selvogur in the southwest and Vatnsfjördur in the West Fjords. Hvalfjördur and Hafnarfjördur developed into Iceland’s most important trading centres. The royal administration in Iceland was located at Bessastadir [...] This period saw the development of the mixed agrarian/fishing society that typefied the Icelandic economy for centuries. In January and Feburary, people travelled from rural areas to the fishing stations, where they remained until spring, fishing from small boats. This was the most favourable fishing season, as fish stocks were plentiful, the weather was cool enough to permit fish to be dried before spoiling, and relatively few hands were required on the farm. People were thus domiciled in rural areas, on farms.’ [1] This was the residence of the royal governor rather than an administrative building in the strict sense of the term: ’Bessastaðir was the king’s property but was not used as a seat of government until the mid 14th century and then only when the governor was not Icelandic. Icelandic governors used their homes to conduct the business of government.’ [2]

[1]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 24p

[2]: Árni Daniel Júlíusson and Axel Kristissen 2017, pers. comm. to E. Brandl and D. Mullins


Merit Promotion:
absent

The behaviors described by Gjerset seem to suggest an absence of formal training and promotion among royal officials: ’Still more offensive than the restrictions on trade was the new method of collecting revenues, introduced by the government. The taxes were farmed out to the hirdstjórar, or governors of Iceland, for a certain sum to be paid by them to the royal treasury. Little did the kings care how the people might be oppressed by the tax gatherers, or what sums were collected, so long as they received the stipulated amount. This system was first established in 1354. [...] In 1357 the annals state that one hirdstjóri was placed over each quarter, and that these for officials had leased all Iceland for three years with taxes and incomes.’ [1] ’Church and state officials vied with each other to collect taxes and dues from the impoverished and suffering people. Goaded to the utmost, the boendur would sometimes offer so violent a resistance to their oppressors, that scenes of conflict between the tyrannical officials and the angry people became favorite themes with poets and annalists.’ [2] Due to his strong nationalist bias, his comments should be taken with a grain of salt; but they seem to fit in with the information provided above.

[1]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 247

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 248


Full Time Bureaucrat:
present

Full-time specialists ’There were several royal officials in the service of the crown and charged with the king’s business such as collecting taxes and administering justice. However, these were usually members of the local elite and at least equally concerned with their own business. This was quite common in the Middle Ages. The sheriffs could be considered full-time bureaucrats.’ [1] The establishment of the office of jarl proved unpopular, leading to its discontinuation: ’During the first years following the establishment of the union conditions in Iceland remained quite unchanged. The godords were still in the hands of the leading chieftains. Gizur, who was to exercise the highest authority as jarl, was unpopular, and his power was very limited. Royal commissioners were sent to Iceland to exercise control with or without his consent, and and he had to share his nominal authority with the powerful Oddaverjar chieftains of southern Iceland, Hrafn Oddsson of the Borgarfjord district, and Orm Ormsson of eastern Iceland. The king regarded him with suspicion; the chieftains hated him because of his rank and title; opposition and difficulties confronted him everywhere. Even his own character and previous record rendered him unfit to maintain peace and order, which was his principal official duty. He was unable to see the need of any change in the general régime, and the last chapter of his stormy life formed a fitting close to the drama of bloody feuds in which he had played so conspicuous a part. Shortly after the meeting of the Althing of 1264, while visiting in southern Iceland, he was suddenly attacked by Thord Andrisson, the head of the Oddaverjar family. With great difficulty he escaped from his assailants, and after gathering an army of 750 men he cruelly ravged the Rangarvalla district, where the Oddaverjar chieftains were dwelling.’ [2] The crown appointed royal magistrates (valdsmadr): ’After Gizur’s death no new jarl was appointed, and for a time there was no real head of Icelandic affairs. In 1267 Orm Ormsson and Thorvard Thorarinsson went to Norway, Hrafn Oddsson following in 1268. Both Hrafn and Orm seem to have aspired to succeed Gizur, but the king found it advisable not to elevate another chieftain to the rank of jarl, as the title had been very unpopular. After some delay, and probably with the advice of Sturla Thordsson, he gave both ranks as hirdmenn and placed them in charge of Icelandic affairs with no other title than that of valdsmadr, or royal magistrate. Hrafs was to govern the western and Orm the eastern districts. Hrafn assumed the duties of his office, but Orm was drowned shortly after his appointment, probably on the homeward voyage.’ [3] The institutional reform that followed the initial phase of transition involved the creation of other new offices, such as that of lawman. Royal officials were to preside over the general assembly: ’Some of the most important parts of the code were, nevertheless, sanctioned already in 1271, as the thingfararbölkr, or constitution of the thing, the thegngildi, or laws governing the payment of fines to the king in cases of murder of freemen, and a part of the arfabölkr, or laws about inheritance. The remaining portions of the code received sanction in 1272 ad 1273. The introduction of this code wrought a fundamental change in the Icelandic constitution and jurisprudence. Norwegian law had been substituted for the old Icelandic code, the "Grágás"; the godords were abolished, so also the characteristic features of the Althing: the fjordungsdómar, the fimtardómr, and the office of lögsögumadr. The thing system was reorganized according to Norwegian pattern. The valdsmadr should choose a certain number of men from each thing district, 140 in all, to constitute the thing, and from these the lawman should select three from each thing district, in all-thirty-six, to sit in the lögrétta. Instead of the lögsögumadr there should be a lawman, after 1277 two lawmen, as in Norway. Royal officials and representatives of the crown should preside over the Althing and take part in its decisions.’ [4] Sýslumenn were in charge of larger districts, and governors oversaw the political process on the island: ’The willingness of the king to grant privileges to the church hitherto denied reveals a growing indifference of the Norwegian government to the real welfare of Iceland. An administration by royal officials had been established as a result of the union. Two lawmen were appointed by the king, one for the southern and eastern, and one for the western and northern quarters; sýslumenn were appointed as administrative officials for larger districts, as in Norway, and hirdstjórar were placed as royal governors over the island. But Iceland was now treated so much like other dependencies that the chief interest of the government was to secure from its inhabitants revenues for the royal purse. Víseyrir, or taxes payable to the king, were levied upon the whole country, and became a definite income payable to the king’s purse, like the taxes from the Norwegian colonies. This system of taxation gave rise to a royal monopoly on trade with the colonies which proved disastrous to their economic well-being, and hindered their progress. The royal officials usually asserted the authority of the government with stern harshness, and severe punishments for crimes were introduced. In some cases criminals were even buried alive; but law and order were but imperfectly maintained. Even the higher officials themselves would engage in quarrels which sometimes resembled the bloody feuds of earlier periods.’ [5] Gjerset also mentions the office of merkismadr, although its relationship to that of governor remains unclear in his description: ’These new codes wrought a fundamental change in the conception of positive law as well as in legal practice in Iceland. The old court procedures with its intricacies and formalities was replaced by the simpler Norwegian system. The king was ruler and lawgiver was regarded as the source of justice, and behind the laws now stood the royal authority, ready to execute the decrees of the courts even against the most powerful offenders. Violation of the law was no longer viewed as a private affair to be settled by the offender and the party injured, but as a crime for which the wrong-doer had to answer to the government. The fines to be paid and other punishments to be inflicted were still to be determined by twelve men according to ancient usage. The old punishment of banishment for serious offenses was retained, but fines payable to the king were instituted in numerous cases, and capital punishment was to be inflicted for grave crimes, like murder, robbery, rape, counterfeiting, forgery, and seduction. Other severe punishments were also established. [...] But care had been taken by the lawgiver to guard against hasty action and undue harshness in the treatment of wrong-doers. In a chapter about legal decisions he advises the judges to consider carefully truth, justice, patience and mercy, in order that their decisions not bear the marks of cruelty and hatred. [...] The first lawmen appointed under the new law were Stural Thordsson and Jon Einarsson. The first royal magistrates who received the title of sýslumadr were Hrafn Oddsson in western Iceland, and Thorvard Thorarinsson for the southern and eastern districts, and Asgrim Thorsteinsson in the south-western districts. Others may have been appointed, but their names are not known. In 1279 Hrafn Oddsson became royal merkismadr with authority over all Iceland, as already noted.’ [6] Karlsson equally describes a system comprised of lawmen, district commissioners, and governors, with many Commonwealth institutions abolished or weakened: ’The Icelanders also received two new law codes during Magnus’ reign. In 1271 the king sent to Iceland a new legal code known as Járnsída (Ironside), followed by another book which bears the name of its main author, Jón Einarsson, Jónsbók (Jón’s Book). But, contrary to developments in Norway, this second revision led Iceland further from conformity with Norwegian law. Jónsbók was admittedly based largely on Norwegian law, but it was drawn up for Iceland alone, and it remained in force there for four to five centuries, while Norwegian law underwent many revisions. Jónsbók thus made Iceland a separate jurisdictional area under royal rule. Iceland’s system of government was radically altered by Járnsída and Jónsbók. Alpingi continued to meet, but the Law Council, which had been a legislative body, became primarily a court of law. The four regional courts, the Fifth court and the spring assemblies were abolished; new officials, lögmenn (lawmen) and sýslumenn (district commissioners) presided over regional court proceedings as required. Iceland was also assigned its own administrative officials. Around 1300 a demand was first put forward at Alpingi that Icelanders of the old chieftain clans should be apointed royal representatives in Iceland. For centuries after this, most administrative offices were held by Icelanders. Only the office of governor (hirdstjóri), the supreme royal official in Iceland, was held by foreigners as often as Icelanders.’ [7]

[1]: Árni Daniel Júlíusson and Axel Kristissen 2017, pers. comm. to E. Brandl and D. Mullins

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 211p

[3]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 213

[4]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 214

[5]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 239p

[6]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 215pp

[7]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 18p


Examination System:
absent

The behaviors described by Gjerset seem to suggest an absence of formal training and promotion among royal officials: ’Still more offensive than the restrictions on trade was the new method of collecting revenues, introduced by the government. The taxes were farmed out to the hirdstjórar, or governors of Iceland, for a certain sum to be paid by them to the royal treasury. Little did the kings care how the people might be oppressed by the tax gatherers, or what sums were collected, so long as they received the stipulated amount. This system was first established in 1354. [...] In 1357 the annals state that one hirdstjóri was placed over each quarter, and that these for officials had leased all Iceland for three years with taxes and incomes.’ [1] ’Church and state officials vied with each other to collect taxes and dues from the impoverished and suffering people. Goaded to the utmost, the boendur would sometimes offer so violent a resistance to their oppressors, that scenes of conflict between the tyrannical officials and the angry people became favorite themes with poets and annalists.’ [2] Due to his strong nationalist bias, his comments should be taken with a grain of salt; but they seem to fit in with the information provided above.

[1]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 247

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 248


Law
Professional Lawyer:
absent

[1]

[1]: Júlíusson and Kristissen, pers. comm. 2017


The crown appointed Icelandic lawmen or judges: ’These new codes wrought a fundamental change in the conception of positive law as well as in legal practice in Iceland. The old court procedures with its intricacies and formalities was replaced by the simpler Norwegian system. The king was ruler and lawgiver was regarded as the source of justice, and behind the laws now stood the royal authority, ready to execute the decrees of the courts even against the most powerful offenders. Violation of the law was no longer viewed as a private affair to be settled by the offender and the party injured, but as a crime for which the wrong-doer had to answer to the government. The fines to be paid and other punishments to be inflicted were still to be determined by twelve men according to ancient usage. The old punishment of banishment for serious offenses was retained, but fines payable to the king were instituted in numerous cases, and capital punishment was to be inflicted for grave crimes, like murder, robbery, rape, counterfeiting, forgery, and seduction. Other severe punishments were also established. [...] But care had been taken by the lawgiver to guard against hasty action and undue harshness in the treatment of wrong-doers. In a chapter about legal decisions he advises the judges to consider carefully truth, justice, patience and mercy, in order that their decisions not bear the marks of cruelty and hatred. [...] The first lawmen appointed under the new law were Stural Thordsson and Jon Einarsson. The first royal magistrates who received the title of sýslumadr were Hrafn Oddsson in western Iceland, and Thorvard Thorarinsson for the southern and eastern districts, and Asgrim Thorsteinsson in the south-western districts. Others may have been appointed, but their names are not known. In 1279 Hrafn Oddsson became royal merkismadr with authority over all Iceland, as already noted.’ [1] ’These lawmen (lögmenn) can be considered full-time judges.’ [2] The lögrétta assumed judicial duties: ’The judicial powers were lodged in the lögrétta; the legislative functions should be exercized by the Althing and the king conjointly. But the thing and the crown might take the initiative in legislation. As the king now acted as lawgiver, the legislative functions of the thing were greatly reduced, and it became principally a judicial tribunal like the Norwegian lagthings. The laws were no longer recited from the Mount of Laws, and as the Althing now consisted of chosen representatives, who were soon further reduced in number, it lost its popular character. As the general public ceased to attend its sessions, its significance as a center of national and social life disappeared.’ [3] ’This was made especially manifest by the new procedure introduced at this time of summoning people to Norway for trial. [...] The king’s officers also travelled about collecting the royal revenues with greater severity that had hitherto been customary. They reproved the people for appealing to the bishop, and in some cases forbade them to pay as large church dues as the bishop had demanded.’ [4] The practice of summoning Icelanders to Norway for trial met with opposition and was ultimately curtailed: ’This reminder had the result that in 1315 a full representation again met at the Althing from all parts of Iceland. In 1314 he issues a new supplement to the Icelandic code, in which he sought to right some of the wrongs complained of in the remonstrance submitted by the Althing. Regarding the bringing of Icelanders to Norway for trial, the law was made to conform to the remonstrance. A provision was inserted stating that such a step should be taken only if the sýslumenn and lawmen were unable to try the case. The demand for new taxes was definitely dropped. But nothing was said regarding the appointment of native Icelanders for office; nor was any assurance given that six ships would be sent to Iceland every year, though this matter was now of greater importance than ever, since the trade with Iceland had become a Norwegian monopoly. No guarantee existed that the king would respect the provisions in the union agreement. Hitherto he had shown a disposition to place Iceland on the level with the Norwegian dependencies. What the future relation between the two countries was to be seemed as much as ever an unsettled question.’ [5] The regional courts were abolished: ’The Icelanders also received two new law codes during Magnus’ reign. In 1271 the king sent to Iceland a new legal code known as Járnsída (Ironside), followed by another book which bears the name of its main author, Jón Einarsson, Jónsbók (Jón’s Book). But, contrary to developments in Norway, this second revision led Iceland further from conformity with Norwegian law. Jónsbók was admittedly based largely on Norwegian law, but it was drawn up for Iceland alone, and it remained in force there for four to five centuries, while Norwegian law underwent many revisions. Jónsbók thus made Iceland a separate jurisdictional area under royal rule. Iceland’s system of government was radically altered by Járnsída and Jónsbók. Alpingi continued to meet, but the Law Council, which had been a legislative body, became primarily a court of law. The four regional courts, the Fifth court and the spring assemblies were abolished; new officials, lögmenn (lawmen) and sýslumenn (district commissioners) presided over regional court proceedings as required. Iceland was also assigned its own administrative officials. Around 1300 a demand was first put forward at Alpingi that Icelanders of the old chieftain clans should be apointed royal representatives in Iceland. For centuries after this, most administrative offices were held by Icelanders. Only the office of governor (hirdstjóri), the supreme royal official in Iceland, was held by foreigners as often as Icelanders.’ [6]

[1]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 215pp

[2]: Árni Daniel Júlíusson and Axel Kristissen 2017, pers. comm. to E. Brandl and D. Mullins

[3]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 214p

[4]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 220

[5]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 233

[6]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 18p


Formal Legal Code:
present

The body of Icelandic laws was kept in force during the first few years of Norwegian rule, before being displaced by new legal codes introduced from Norway (the Jarnsída and the Jónsbók): ’The agreement by which Iceland was formally brought under Norwegian rule created only a confederate union, and did not materially change the status of the Icelandic chieftains. They were now to hold their rights from the king, and were forbidden to wage war on each other; but since the Icelandic laws were still in force, the union agreement really involved only an acknowledgment of the king’s sovereignty, and the payment of a small tribute to the crown. It appear from the Icelandic code, the "Jónsbók", adopted in 1280, that the taxes to be paid were very moderate, as the twenty alnar vaomál payable by each freeholder for himself and his household, and by unmarried persons who owned property to the value of ten hundred unincumbered by debts, included also the old tax of thingfararkaup. Only one-half of the whole sum was to be paid to the king. The other half was to be kept in Iceland for the payment of the usual taxes. To the common people the union with Norway brought the distinct advantage of the termination of the bloody conflicts in which they had been forced to take part. Peace was established, and the conviction that henceforth the government would safeguard life and property must have created a new sense of security and well-being. Freedom from lawless terror, established by the altered relation to the mother country, must have been welcomed by the people in general as a new freedom rather than as foreign oppression.’ [1] ’It was quite evident that peaceful conditions could not be maintained in Iceland without important changes in the framework of government and a careful revision of the antiquated system of jurisprudence. King Magnus Lagaboter, who was devoting special attention to the framing of a new code of laws for his kingdom, considered it necessary to bring the Icelandic administration into closer harmony with that of Norway. The stipulation in the "Gamli sáttmáli", or act of union, that the Icelanders should keep their own laws was wholly ignored, and Magnus overtook to frame a new code of laws for Iceland based on those of Norway, a work in which he was assisted by Sturla Thordsson. The new code, the "Jarnsida", erroneously called "Hákonsbók", was brought to Iceland in 1271 by Sturla, accompanied by the king’s hirdmadr Eindride Böngull. The code was a hasty compilation of Norwegian laws, containing many provisions wholly unsuited to conditions in Iceland, while important chapters of the Icelandic code seem to have been overlooked.’ [2] ’It may have been the many faults of the "Jarnsída" which led King Magnus Lagaboter to prepare a new code for Iceland, the "Jónsbók", which was brought to Iceland in 1280 by the lawman Jon Einarsson and the royal commissioner Lodin Lepp. It is possible that Jon Einarsson, and possibly also Hrafn Oddsson and Thorvard Thorarinsson assisted the king in preparing this code, as they were in Norway in the year 1278-1279. Hrafn Oddsson, who received the title of royal merkismadr (standardbearer), was now to exercise authority over all Iceland. Some of the provisions in the new code met with opposition, but after much discussion it was adopted in 1281, the revision of the objectionable articles being left to the king’s own good will. The new law reduced the number of the members of the Althingto eighty-four, and established the title sýslumadr for the royal district magistrates in Iceland. It adhered as closely as possible to to the new Norwegian laws, the "Code of Magnus Lagaboter", prepared a few years previous. The work was greatly superior to the "Jarnsída". It proved very satisfactory, and remained in force ill in the nineteenth century.’ [3] According to Karlsson, the Jónsbók contributed to the maintenance of a degree of jurisdictional autonomy on the island: ’The Icelanders also received two new law codes during Magnus’ reign. In 1271 the king sent to Iceland a new legal code known as Járnsída (Ironside), followed by another book which bears the name of its main author, Jón Einarsson, Jónsbók (Jón’s Book). But, contrary to developments in Norway, this second revision led Iceland further from conformity with Norwegian law. Jónsbók was admittedly based largely on Norwegian law, but it was drawn up for Iceland alone, and it remained in force there for four to five centuries, while Norwegian law underwent many revisions. Jónsbók thus made Iceland a separate jurisdictional area under royal rule. Iceland’s system of government was radically altered by Járnsída and Jónsbók. Alpingi continued to meet, but the Law Council, which had been a legislative body, became primarily a court of law. The four regional courts, the Fifth court and the spring assemblies were abolished; new officials, lögmenn (lawmen) and sýslumenn (district commissioners) presided over regional court proceedings as required. Iceland was also assigned its own administrative officials. Around 1300 a demand was first put forward at Alpingi that Icelanders of the old chieftain clans should be apointed royal representatives in Iceland. For centuries after this, most administrative offices were held by Icelanders. Only the office of governor (hirdstjóri), the supreme royal official in Iceland, was held by foreigners as often as Icelanders.’ [4] Legal practice became more formalized, and wrongdoers now had to answer to a third party, embodied by the Norwegian crown and its representatives: ’These new codes wrought a fundamental change in the conception of positive law as well as in legal practice in Iceland. The old court procedures with its intricacies and formalities was replaced by the simpler Norwegian system. The king was ruler and lawgiver was regarded as the source of justice, and behind the laws now stood the royal authority, ready to execute the decrees of the courts even against the most powerful offenders. Violation of the law was no longer viewed as a private affair to be settled by the offender and the party injured, but as a crime for which the wrong-doer had to answer to the government. The fines to be paid and other punishments to be inflicted were still to be determined by twelve men according to ancient usage. The old punishment of banishment for serious offenses was retained, but fines payable to the king were instituted in numerous cases, and capital punishment was to be inflicted for grave crimes, like murder, robbery, rape, counterfeiting, forgery, and seduction. Other severe punishments were also established. [...] But care had been taken by the lawgiver to guard against hasty action and undue harshness in the treatment of wrong-doers. In a chapter about legal decisions he advises the judges to consider carefully truth, justice, patience and mercy, in order that their decisions not bear the marks of cruelty and hatred. [...] The first lawmen appointed under the new law were Stural Thordsson and Jon Einarsson. The first royal magistrates who received the title of sýslumadr were Hrafn Oddsson in western Iceland, and Thorvard Thorarinsson for the southern and eastern districts, and Asgrim Thorsteinsson in the south-western districts. Others may have been appointed, but their names are not known. In 1279 Hrafn Oddsson became royal merkismadr with authority over all Iceland, as already noted.’ [5] With the new codes the legal and political institutions on the island were reformed: ’Some of the most important parts of the code were, nevertheless, sanctioned already in 1271, as the thingfararbölkr, or constitution of the thing, the thegngildi, or laws governing the payment of fines to the king in cases of murder of freemen, and a part of the arfabölkr, or laws about inheritance. The remaining portions of the code received sanction in 1272 ad 1273. The introduction of this code wrought a fundamental change in the Icelandic constitution and jurisprudence. Norwegian law had been substituted for the old Icelandic code, the "Grágás"; the godords were abolished, so also the characteristic features of the Althing: the fjordungsdómar, the fimtardómr, and the office of lögsögumadr. The thing system was reorganized according to Norwegian pattern. The valdsmadr should choose a certain number of men from each thing district, 140 in all, to constitute the thing, and from these the lawman should select three from each thing district, in all-thirty-six, to sit in the lögrétta. Instead of the lögsögumadr there should be a lawman, after 1277 two lawmen, as in Norway. Royal officials and representatives of the crown should preside over the Althing and take part in its decisions.’ [6] Lawmen were appointed by the king: ’The willingness of the king to grant privileges to the church hitherto denied reveals a growing indifference of the Norwegian government to the real welfare of Iceland. An administration by royal officials had been established as a result of the union. Two lawmen were appointed by the king, one for the southern and eastern, and one for the western and northern quarters; sýslumenn were appointed as administrative officials for larger districts, as in Norway, and hirdstjórar were placed as royal governors over the island. But Iceland was now treated so much like other dependencies that the chief interest of the government was to secure from its inhabitants revenues for the royal purse. Víseyrir, or taxes payable to the king, were levied upon the whole country, and became a definite income payable to the king’s purse, like the taxes from the Norwegian colonies. This system of taxation gave rise to a royal monopoly on trade with the colonies which proved disastrous to their economic well-being, and hindered their progress. The royal officials usually asserted the authority of the government with stern harshness, and severe punishments for crimes were introduced. In some cases criminals were even buried alive; but law and order were but imperfectly maintained. Even the higher officials themselves would engage in quarrels which sometimes resembled the bloody feuds of earlier periods.’ [7] Ecclesiastic authorities issued their own legal codes: ’His chief aim at this time was to obtain royal sanction for the enforcement of Archbishop John’s code of church laws, especially with regard to the payment of tithes and other church dues. This code was almost identical with that of Bishop Arni of Skálholt, which granted the church extensive privileges. The king’s consent was given in a royal letter issued October 19, 1354, commanding that the church laws in force in southern Iceland should also be in operation in the Hólar diocese. For the first time this code of church laws had now received the formal sanction of the king.’ [8]

[1]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 208

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 213p

[3]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 215

[4]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 18p

[5]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 215pp

[6]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 214

[7]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 239p

[8]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 238


’There were probably no specialized judicial buildings in this time period. However, the courts of law were fully functional even if they didn’t have specialized buildings.’ [1] The crown appointed Icelandic lawmen or judges: ’These new codes wrought a fundamental change in the conception of positive law as well as in legal practice in Iceland. The old court procedures with its intricacies and formalities was replaced by the simpler Norwegian system. The king was ruler and lawgiver was regarded as the source of justice, and behind the laws now stood the royal authority, ready to execute the decrees of the courts even against the most powerful offenders. Violation of the law was no longer viewed as a private affair to be settled by the offender and the party injured, but as a crime for which the wrong-doer had to answer to the government. The fines to be paid and other punishments to be inflicted were still to be determined by twelve men according to ancient usage. The old punishment of banishment for serious offenses was retained, but fines payable to the king were instituted in numerous cases, and capital punishment was to be inflicted for grave crimes, like murder, robbery, rape, counterfeiting, forgery, and seduction. Other severe punishments were also established. [...] But care had been taken by the lawgiver to guard against hasty action and undue harshness in the treatment of wrong-doers. In a chapter about legal decisions he advises the judges to consider carefully truth, justice, patience and mercy, in order that their decisions not bear the marks of cruelty and hatred. [...] The first lawmen appointed under the new law were Stural Thordsson and Jon Einarsson. The first royal magistrates who received the title of sýslumadr were Hrafn Oddsson in western Iceland, and Thorvard Thorarinsson for the southern and eastern districts, and Asgrim Thorsteinsson in the south-western districts. Others may have been appointed, but their names are not known. In 1279 Hrafn Oddsson became royal merkismadr with authority over all Iceland, as already noted.’ [2] The lögrétta assumed judicial duties: ’The judicial powers were lodged in the lögrétta; the legislative functions should be exercized by the Althing and the king conjointly. But the thing and the crown might take the initiative in legislation. As the king now acted as lawgiver, the legislative functions of the thing were greatly reduced, and it became principally a judicial tribunal like the Norwegian lagthings. The laws were no longer recited from the Mount of Laws, and as the Althing now consisted of chosen representatives, who were soon further reduced in number, it lost its popular character. As the general public ceased to attend its sessions, its significance as a center of national and social life disappeared.’ [3] ’This was made especially manifest by the new procedure introduced at this time of summoning people to Norway for trial. [...] The king’s officers also travelled about collecting the royal revenues with greater severity that had hitherto been customary. They reproved the people for appealing to the bishop, and in some cases forbade them to pay as large church dues as the bishop had demanded.’ [4] The practice of summoning Icelanders to Norway for trial met with opposition and was ultimately curtailed: ’This reminder had the result that in 1315 a full representation again met at the Althing from all parts of Iceland. In 1314 he issues a new supplement to the Icelandic code, in which he sought to right some of the wrongs complained of in the remonstrance submitted by the Althing. Regarding the bringing of Icelanders to Norway for trial, the law was made to conform to the remonstrance. A provision was inserted stating that such a step should be taken only if the sýslumenn and lawmen were unable to try the case. The demand for new taxes was definitely dropped. But nothing was said regarding the appointment of native Icelanders for office; nor was any assurance given that six ships would be sent to Iceland every year, though this matter was now of greater importance than ever, since the trade with Iceland had become a Norwegian monopoly. No guarantee existed that the king would respect the provisions in the union agreement. Hitherto he had shown a disposition to place Iceland on the level with the Norwegian dependencies. What the future relation between the two countries was to be seemed as much as ever an unsettled question.’ [5] The regional courts were abolished: ’The Icelanders also received two new law codes during Magnus’ reign. In 1271 the king sent to Iceland a new legal code known as Járnsída (Ironside), followed by another book which bears the name of its main author, Jón Einarsson, Jónsbók (Jón’s Book). But, contrary to developments in Norway, this second revision led Iceland further from conformity with Norwegian law. Jónsbók was admittedly based largely on Norwegian law, but it was drawn up for Iceland alone, and it remained in force there for four to five centuries, while Norwegian law underwent many revisions. Jónsbók thus made Iceland a separate jurisdictional area under royal rule. Iceland’s system of government was radically altered by Járnsída and Jónsbók. Alpingi continued to meet, but the Law Council, which had been a legislative body, became primarily a court of law. The four regional courts, the Fifth court and the spring assemblies were abolished; new officials, lögmenn (lawmen) and sýslumenn (district commissioners) presided over regional court proceedings as required. Iceland was also assigned its own administrative officials. Around 1300 a demand was first put forward at Alpingi that Icelanders of the old chieftain clans should be apointed royal representatives in Iceland. For centuries after this, most administrative offices were held by Icelanders. Only the office of governor (hirdstjóri), the supreme royal official in Iceland, was held by foreigners as often as Icelanders.’ [6]

[1]: Árni Daniel Júlíusson and Axel Kristissen 2017, pers. comm. to E. Brandl and D. Mullins

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 215pp

[3]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 214p

[4]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 220

[5]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 233

[6]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 18p


Specialized Buildings: polity owned

’There were no polity owned market buildings.’ [1] Norway attempted to monopolize the Icelandic trade, but the flow of goods was interrupted in times of crisis: ’Though few ships might at times arrive in Icelandic harbors, many Norwegian merchantmen usually visited Iceland every year. The Icelandic annals state that in 1340 eleven ships came to Iceland, in 1345 twevle ships, in 1357 eighteen ships besides two which foundered on the voyage. Seagoing vessels were also built in Iceland. Many Icelanders owned ships with which they undoubtedly carried on trade, as had always been their custom, though most of the commerce was now in the hands of Norwegian merchants. But the import trade, which had always been small, could not supply the growing needs of the people. The Icelandic annals show that at times there must have been great need of imports, since it happened that the mass could not be celebrated for want of wine. During years when no ships came to Iceland, or when only one or two arrived each year, the need of articles for which people were wholly dependent on imports must have been very great. Still more deplorable was the inadequacy of imports during periods of famine and other great calamities, when little aid could be given the stricken population. Under ordinary circumstances commerce was probably sufficient to supply the people with the necessary articles, but the meaning of the provision regarding commerce inserted in the "Gamil sáttmáli", and constantly repeated in the union agreement, seems to have been that the Norwegian government should not suffer commerce at any time to fall below the specified minimum amount.’ [2] ’Trade and economic conditions continued as before without any distinct manifestation either of progress or decline. The destructive civil wars of the Sturlung period had undoubtedly done much to weaken the people’s strength, but and had hampered somewhat their intercourse with foreign lands, but the more peaceful era inaugurated by the union with Norway brought no perceptible change in prevailing conditions. Some scholars have considered the provision in the union agreement that six ships should be sent to Iceland every year as evidence that the commerce with Iceland at this time was declining, but K. Maurer has shown that this conclusion is erroneous. For various reasons few ships would arrive in Iceland during some years, but the same happened also during the most vigorous period of Icelandic national life, as in 1187 and 1219, when the Icelandic annals record that no ship arrived in Iceland. [He proceeds to describe some famines during the Commonwealth Period.] The old spirit of maritime enterprise was dying out among the Icelanders, as among all the Scandinavian peoples. No progress was made in trade or ship-building, and the Hanseatic merchants had already made their appearance as competitors for the control of Scandinavian commerce.’ [3] Fish became an important resource for the export trade: ’It is not until around 1300 that fish exports are mentioned in reliable sources. Icelandic fish is first noted in English export records in 1307. In 1340 a court ruling was made in Norway that merchants were obliged to pay tithes on fish, fish oil and sulphur imported from Iceland, and not only on woollen cloth, as had been customary. The ruling states that this is because until recently little fish has been exported from Iceland, and a large quantity of woollen cloth, but that now fish and fish oil are exported from there in quantity.’ [4] Karlsson mentions trading centres, usually the result of private initiative: ’It was in the years after 1300 that seasonal fishing stations became esablished on the southwest coast, and the wealthiest sector of society began to congregate in this region. The most powerful chieftains had almost all been based inland. Now the prosperous élite began to settle along the coast between Selvogur in the southwest and Vatnsfjördur in the West Fjords. Hvalfjördur and Hafnarfjördur developed into Iceland’s most important trading centres. The royal administration in Iceland was located at Bessastadir [...] This period saw the development of the mixed agrarian/fishing society that typefied the Icelandic economy for centuries. In January and Feburary, people travelled from rural areas to the fishing stations, where they remained until spring, fishing from small boats. This was the most favourable fishing season, as fish stocks were plentiful, the weather was cool enough to permit fish to be dried before spoiling, and relatively few hands were required on the farm. People were thus domiciled in rural areas, on farms.’ [5]

[1]: Árni Daniel Júlíusson and Axel Kristissen 2017, pers. comm. to E. Brandl and D. Mullins

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 228p

[3]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 209

[4]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 24

[5]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 24p


Irrigation System:
absent

It is assumed here that relevant structures continued to be privately managed.


Food Storage Site:
absent

Iceland traded foodstuffs with Norway: ’Though few ships might at times arrive in Icelandic harbors, many Norwegian merchantmen usually visited Iceland every year. The Icelandic annals state that in 1340 eleven ships came to Iceland, in 1345 twevle ships, in 1357 eighteen ships besides two which foundered on the voyage. Seagoing vessels were also built in Iceland. Many Icelanders owned ships with which they undoubtedly carried on trade, as had always been their custom, though most of the commerce was now in the hands of Norwegian merchants. But the import trade, which had always been small, could not supply the growing needs of the people. The Icelandic annals show that at times there must have been great need of imports, since it happened that the mass could not be celebrated for want of wine. During years when no ships came to Iceland, or when only one or two arrived each year, the need of articles for which people were wholly dependent on imports must have been very great. Still more deplorable was the inadequacy of imports during periods of famine and other great calamities, when little aid could be given the stricken population. Under ordinary circumstances commerce was probably sufficient to supply the people with the necessary articles, but the meaning of the provision regarding commerce inserted in the "Gamil sáttmáli", and constantly repeated in the union agreement, seems to have been that the Norwegian government should not suffer commerce at any time to fall below the specified minimum amount.’ [1] It is unclear whether this involved some means of communal rather than private food storage on the island itself: ’It was in the years after 1300 that seasonal fishing stations became esablished on the southwest coast, and the wealthiest sector of society began to congregate in this region. The most powerful chieftains had almost all been based inland. Now the prosperous élite began to settle along the coast between Selvogur in the southwest and Vatnsfjördur in the West Fjords. Hvalfjördur and Hafnarfjördur developed into Iceland’s most important trading centres. The royal administration in Iceland was located at Bessastadir [...] This period saw the development of the mixed agrarian/fishing society that typefied the Icelandic economy for centuries. In January and Feburary, people travelled from rural areas to the fishing stations, where they remained until spring, fishing from small boats. This was the most favourable fishing season, as fish stocks were plentiful, the weather was cool enough to permit fish to be dried before spoiling, and relatively few hands were required on the farm. People were thus domiciled in rural areas, on farms.’ [2] We have assumed private initiatives.

[1]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 228p

[2]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 24p


Drinking Water Supply System:
absent

It is assumed here that relevant structures continued to be privately managed. ’However, note the water supply at Þingvellir (see 930-1262 coding).’ [1]

[1]: Árni Daniel Júlíusson and Axel Kristissen 2017, pers. comm. to E. Brandl and D. Mullins


Transport Infrastructure

Icelanders continued to use trails rather than roads: ’The horse was mainly used for transport. (After the exemption that permitted eating of horsemeat, mentioned in the last chapter, was abolished in the 11th century, horses were no longer a source of food.) Carts were almost unknown, however, and Iceland had no roads, except for tracks gradually trodden by the hooves of horses, cattle and sheep. Horses were necessary, both to carry riders and as beasts of burden, and a good horse was always a master’s pride and joy.’ [1]

[1]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. ’A Brief History of Iceland", 13


Icelanders continued to trade with Norway by sea, although the flow of goods was interrupted at times: ’Trade and economic conditions continued as before without any distinct manifestation either of progress or decline. The destructive civil wars of the Sturlung period had undoubtedly done much to weaken the people’s strength, but and had hampered somewhat their intercourse with foreign lands, but the more peaceful era inaugurated by the union with Norway brought no perceptible change in prevailing conditions. Some scholars have considered the provision in the union agreement that six ships should be sent to Iceland every year as evidence that the commerce with Iceland at this time was declining, but K. Maurer has shown that this conclusion is erroneous. For various reasons few ships would arrive in Iceland during some years, but the same happened also during the most vigorous period of Icelandic national life, as in 1187 and 1219, when the Icelandic annals record that no ship arrived in Iceland. [He proceeds to describe some famines during the Commonwealth Period.] The old spirit of maritime enterprise was dying out among the Icelanders, as among all the Scandinavian peoples. No progress was made in trade or ship-building, and the Hanseatic merchants had already made their appearance as competitors for the control of Scandinavian commerce.’ [1] ’Though few ships might at times arrive in Icelandic harbors, many Norwegian merchantmen usually visited Iceland every year. The Icelandic annals state that in 1340 eleven ships came to Iceland, in 1345 twevle ships, in 1357 eighteen ships besides two which foundered on the voyage. Seagoing vessels were also built in Iceland. Many Icelanders owned ships with which they undoubtedly carried on trade, as had always been their custom, though most of the commerce was now in the hands of Norwegian merchants. But the import trade, which had always been small, could not supply the growing needs of the people. The Icelandic annals show that at times there must have been great need of imports, since it happened that the mass could not be celebrated for want of wine. During years when no ships came to Iceland, or when only one or two arrived each year, the need of articles for which people were wholly dependent on imports must have been very great. Still more deplorable was the inadequacy of imports during periods of famine and other great calamities, when little aid could be given the stricken population. Under ordinary circumstances commerce was probably sufficient to supply the people with the necessary articles, but the meaning of the provision regarding commerce inserted in the "Gamil sáttmáli", and constantly repeated in the union agreement, seems to have been that the Norwegian government should not suffer commerce at any time to fall below the specified minimum amount.’ [2] Fish became an important resource for export: ’It is not until around 1300 that fish exports are mentioned in reliable sources. Icelandic fish is first noted in English export records in 1307. In 1340 a court ruling was made in Norway that merchants were obliged to pay tithes on fish, fish oil and sulphur imported from Iceland, and not only on woollen cloth, as had been customary. The ruling states that this is because until recently little fish has been exported from Iceland, and a large quantity of woollen cloth, but that now fish and fish oil are exported from there in quantity.’ [3] Karlsson mentions fishing stations and trading centres: ’It was in the years after 1300 that seasonal fishing stations became esablished on the southwest coast, and the wealthiest sector of society began to congregate in this region. The most powerful chieftains had almost all been based inland. Now the prosperous élite began to settle along the coast between Selvogur in the southwest and Vatnsfjördur in the West Fjords. Hvalfjördur and Hafnarfjördur developed into Iceland’s most important trading centres. The royal administration in Iceland was located at Bessastadir [...] This period saw the development of the mixed agrarian/fishing society that typefied the Icelandic economy for centuries. In January and Feburary, people travelled from rural areas to the fishing stations, where they remained until spring, fishing from small boats. This was the most favourable fishing season, as fish stocks were plentiful, the weather was cool enough to permit fish to be dried before spoiling, and relatively few hands were required on the farm. People were thus domiciled in rural areas, on farms.’ [4] It is unclear whether these were communally or privately owned. We have assumed private initiative for the time being.

[1]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 209

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 228p

[3]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 24

[4]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 24p


[1]

[1]: Júlíusson and Kristissen, pers. comm. 2017


There were a few bridges, but these were not polity owned. [1]

[1]: Árni Daniel Júlíusson and Axel Kristissen 2017, pers. comm. to E. Brandl and D. Mullins


Special-purpose Sites
Mines or Quarry:
absent

So far, no mention of publicly organized mining has been made in the sources reviewed.


Information / Writing System
Written Record:
present

Icelandic scholars copied and translated manuscripts, but fictional literature was present as well: ’But whatever advantages the union with Norway might bring, it produced no new era of development. Intellectual life continuted to flourish, and numerous literary works were written, but but a distinct decline in the quality of literary production becomes noticeable, especially towards the close of the thirteenth century. The old vigor and originality was dwindling, as the growing Christian medieval-time spirit, which was only strengthened throught a closer relation with Norway, was fostering a love for legends and chivalric romances which encouraged copying and translation rather than creative production and original scholarship.’ [1] Legal codes and royal letters also became an important tool in the exercise of government, as evidenced in the conflicts between laity and clergy and the associated involvement of the Norwegian crown: ’Upon his return to Iceland Bishop Arni, assisted by Bishop Jörund of Hólar, summoned the people of his diocese to a general council at Skálholt, where he proposed several measures of reform, among others that the churches should be made ecclesiastical property under the control of the bishops. As nearly all churches in Iceland were privately owned, this would involve a change in property rights to which the people would not readily consent. [...] the king’s assistance could be invoked. [...] With threats of ban and excommunication he so intimidated the lesser landowners that they suffered to let the smaller churches to pass under ecclesiastical control. But the chieftains who owned the larger churches resolutely resisted. This was especially the case with the churches of Oddi and Hitardal, two of the largest in Iceland. Their owners refused to surrender them; but the bishop caused a decree of transfer to be promulgated at the Althing, threatening the owners with the ban if they resisted. [...] In 1273 King Magnus summoned a council to meet in Bergen to consider a new code of church laws to be proposed by Archbishop Jon of Nidaros, and to deal with other questions touching the relation between church and state. At this council, Bishop Arni, Hrafn Oddsson and the Icelandic chieftains also appeared. In the trial of their case the king as inclined to favor the chieftains, but the archbishop rendered a decision in Arni’s favor. His victory was so complete that upon his return home he began to prepare a new code of church laws for Iceland, based on principles suggested to him by Archbishop Jon. The code was adopted at the Althing in 1275 with the understanding that it was later to be ratified by the king and the archbishop.’ [2]

[1]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 208p

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 217p


Script:
present

Icelandic scholars copied and translated manuscripts, but fictional literature was present as well: ’But whatever advantages the union with Norway might bring, it produced no new era of development. Intellectual life continuted to flourish, and numerous literary works were written, but but a distinct decline in the quality of literary production becomes noticeable, especially towards the close of the thirteenth century. The old vigor and originality was dwindling, as the growing Christian medieval-time spirit, which was only strengthened throught a closer relation with Norway, was fostering a love for legends and chivalric romances which encouraged copying and translation rather than creative production and original scholarship.’ [1] Legal codes and royal letters also became an important tool in the exercise of government, as evidenced in the conflicts between laity and clergy and the associated involvement of the Norwegian crown: ’Upon his return to Iceland Bishop Arni, assisted by Bishop Jörund of Hólar, summoned the people of his diocese to a general council at Skálholt, where he proposed several measures of reform, among others that the churches should be made ecclesiastical property under the control of the bishops. As nearly all churches in Iceland were privately owned, this would involve a change in property rights to which the people would not readily consent. [...] the king’s assistance could be invoked. [...] With threats of ban and excommunication he so intimidated the lesser landowners that they suffered to let the smaller churches to pass under ecclesiastical control. But the chieftains who owned the larger churches resolutely resisted. This was especially the case with the churches of Oddi and Hitardal, two of the largest in Iceland. Their owners refused to surrender them; but the bishop caused a decree of transfer to be promulgated at the Althing, threatening the owners with the ban if they resisted. [...] In 1273 King Magnus summoned a council to meet in Bergen to consider a new code of church laws to be proposed by Archbishop Jon of Nidaros, and to deal with other questions touching the relation between church and state. At this council, Bishop Arni, Hrafn Oddsson and the Icelandic chieftains also appeared. In the trial of their case the king as inclined to favor the chieftains, but the archbishop rendered a decision in Arni’s favor. His victory was so complete that upon his return home he began to prepare a new code of church laws for Iceland, based on principles suggested to him by Archbishop Jon. The code was adopted at the Althing in 1275 with the understanding that it was later to be ratified by the king and the archbishop.’ [2]

[1]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 208p

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 217p


Phonetic Alphabetic Writing:
present

Medieval Icelanders wrote in Latin and Old Norse, but the latter was more common: ’Like other Christian nations of Europe in the Middle Ages, the Icelanders learned to read Latin script and used it to write books on vellum. But the Icelandic church was more worldly than other European churches; ecclesiastical culture was closer to the people’s culture. Many chieftains became Christian priests, and more was written in the vernacular, Old Norse, and less in Latin than was the rule in Europe. [...] Icelanders also wrote sagas of other kinds, which are regarded as less remarkable. Sagas of Bishops were written in some cases in order to supprt an application to the Holy See to acknowledge the sanctity of certain Icelandic bishops; yet these sagas survive almost exclusively in Old Norse, not in Latin.’ [1]

[1]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 14p


Nonwritten Record:
present

Medieval Icelanders composed narrative poetry: ’After the disappearance of the scaldic drápur about 1300 a new kind of narrative poems, the rímur, began to appear in the fourteenth century. Alliteration and scaldic figures of speech were still used; but the rímur were written in rhymed verse, clearly an imitation of Latin hymns and religious songs. These poems are really ballads, based for the most part on mythological sagas and romantic foreign traditions, though a few also deal with persons from Norwegian and Icelandic history. The rímur were recited for the entertainment of the people in the home; but they were also sung, and were then usually accompanied by dance. As a form of entertainment the rímur became very popular and continued to flourish even into modern times.’ [1]

[1]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 256


Mnemonic Device:
unknown

’There were two kinds of writing systems. Until the introduction of Christianity around 1000 CE runes were used. Very few runes are preserved and these are mostly labels or scratches that cannot be interpreted. They were probably used for the exchange of notes between people and also had some ritualistic function. The evidence is extremely patchy. From 1000 CE onward the Latin Alphabet was used. Mnemonic devices might be unknown for the whole period.’ [1]

[1]: Árni Daniel Júlíusson and Axel Kristissen 2017, pers. comm. to E. Brandl and D. Mullins


Information / Kinds of Written Documents
Scientific Literature:
present

’In “Alfræði íslenzk” there are some texts that may be called of a scientific nature. Some were from this period.’ [1] Durrenberger notes the presence of legal and grammatical literature: ’According to most authors writing was introduced to Iceland when the country was Christianized in the year 1000. In the two centuries that followed, writing was used for many purposes: religious works, a grammar, a law book and a short history. Most of the family sagas were written in the thirteenth century. The saga with which I am concerned, Eyrbyggja saga (ÍF 4), is commonly believed to have been written between 1230-1250 (Schach & Hollander 1959:xx). I shall deal only with a part of this saga, which I have called the Þórgunna story (ÍF 4, ch. 49-55). I consider the Þórgunna story a myth. Anthropologists believe that myths contain hidden messages in symbolic forms. According to Malinowski (1926) myths are social charters. Lévi-Strauss (1963) argues that myths have a binary structure and that their oppositions explore contradictions in social and other relations.’ [2] The Grágás legal code is one example: ’It is impossible to say how much of this book is represented in Grágás. Grágás has been preserved in two manuscripts which date to about 1260 and 1280. It is not possible to assign dates to individual provisions within it. The provenance of the manuscripts is unknown and neither is an official compilation (Miller 1990: 42).’ [3]

[1]: Árni Daniel Júlíusson and Axel Kristissen 2017, pers. comm. to E. Brandl and D. Mullins

[2]: Odner, Knut 1992. “Þógunna’S Testament: A Myth For Moral Contemplation And Social Apathy”, 125

[3]: Durrenberger, E. Paul 1992. “Dynamics Of Medieval Iceland: Political Economy And Literature”, 80


Sacred Text:
present

Scholars copied and translated manuscripts, presumably Biblical ones in addition to narrative literature: ’But whatever advantages the union with Norway might bring, it produced no new era of development. Intellectual life continuted to flourish, and numerous literary works were written, but but a distinct decline in the quality of literary production becomes noticeable, especially towards the close of the thirteenth century. The old vigor and originality was dwindling, as the growing Christian medieval-time spirit, which was only strengthened throught a closer relation with Norway, was fostering a love for legends and chivalric romances which encouraged copying and translation rather than creative production and original scholarship.’ [1]

[1]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 208p


Religious Literature:
present

Scholars copied and translated manuscripts, presumably religious ones in addition to narrative literature: ’But whatever advantages the union with Norway might bring, it produced no new era of development. Intellectual life continuted to flourish, and numerous literary works were written, but but a distinct decline in the quality of literary production becomes noticeable, especially towards the close of the thirteenth century. The old vigor and originality was dwindling, as the growing Christian medieval-time spirit, which was only strengthened throught a closer relation with Norway, was fostering a love for legends and chivalric romances which encouraged copying and translation rather than creative production and original scholarship.’ [1] Bishops also drew up legal codes for the clergy: ’Upon his return to Iceland Bishop Arni, assisted by Bishop Jörund of Hólar, summoned the people of his diocese to a general council at Skálholt, where he proposed several measures of reform, among others that the churches should be made ecclesiastical property under the control of the bishops. As nearly all churches in Iceland were privately owned, this would involve a change in property rights to which the people would not readily consent. [...] the king’s assistance could be invoked. [...] With threats of ban and excommunication he so intimidated the lesser landowners that they suffered to let the smaller churches to pass under ecclesiastical control. But the chieftains who owned the larger churches resolutely resisted. This was especially the case with the churches of Oddi and Hitardal, two of the largest in Iceland. Their owners refused to surrender them; but the bishop caused a decree of transfer to be promulgated at the Althing, threatening the owners with the ban if they resisted. [...] In 1273 King Magnus summonsed a council to meet in Bergen to consider a new code of church laws to be proposed by Archbishop Jon of Nidaros, and to deal with other questions touching the relation between church and state. At this council, Bishop Arni, Hrafn Oddsson and the Icelandic chieftains also appeared. In the trial of their case the king as inclined to favor the chieftains, but the archbishop rendered a decision in Arni’s favor. His victory was so complete that upon his return home he began to prepare a new code of church laws for Iceland, based on principles suggested to him by Archbishop Jon. The code was adopted at the Althing in 1275 with the understanding that it was later to be ratified by the king and the archbishop.’ [2] Gjerset also mentions legends about saints and religious poetry: ’To the literary production of the fourteenth century belong especially a number of romantic tales, the "Lygisögur", based on heroic German tradition and on epic romances of continental Europe. According to their contents they fall into two groups, the "Fornsögur Nordrlanda", dealing with traditions of the North, and the "Fornsögur Sudrlanda", based on the rhymed romances of the continent. Stories about saints, and religious rhymes and poems, were also written. This literary work was done chiefly by clerics whose names are not known. But now and then also a known writer appears. One of the most prominent among these is Hauk Erlendsson, the author of the "Hauksbók", a great collection which contains, besides Hauks own version of the "Landnámabók", the "Kristnisaga", the "Saga of Eirik the Red", the "Völsungasaga", and many other works. [...] Another great collection produced by diligent copyists is the "Flateyjarbók", compiled in 1387-1395 by the priests Jon Thordsson and Magnus Thorhallsson from older sources now partly lost.’ [3]

[1]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 208p

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 217p

[3]: Gjerset, Knut [1925]. "History of Iceland", 255p


Practical Literature:
present

’There were essays on how to write in Icelandic. There are many little known texts, some collected in ‘Alfræði íslenzk’. These include instructions in medicine and how to make religious statues (líkneski).’ [1]

[1]: Árni Daniel Júlíusson and Axel Kristissen 2017, pers. comm. to E. Brandl and D. Mullins


Philosophy:
present

The presence of cathedral schools and monasteries suggests theological and philosophical writing. ’Educated Icelanders were well acquainted with European literature, including religious philosophy. Passages of a philosophical nature can be found in many sagas (e.g. Fóstbræðra saga, although this may be post 1262).’ [1]

[1]: Árni Daniel Júlíusson and Axel Kristissen 2017, pers. comm. to E. Brandl and D. Mullins


Lists Tables and Classification:
present

Secular and clerical authorities collected taxes from commoners: ’With like energy he preached the crusade to the Holy Land which had been urged at the Council of Bergen. People were prevailed upon to pay an extra tax of one öln vadmál year for the period of six years to defray the expenses of the undertaking. Bishop Jörund of Hólar was also encouraged by Arni’s example to collect all sorts of dues for the church, and to enforce the provision of the church laws.’ [1] ’This was made especially manifest by the new procedure introduced at this time of summoning people to Norway for trial. [...] The king’s officers also travelled about collecting the royal revenues with greater severity that had hitherto been customary. They reproved the people for appealing to the bishop, and in some cases forbade them to pay as large church dues as the bishop had demanded.’ [2] This suggests the presence of registers.

[1]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 219

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 220


History:
present

The eminent historians of medieval Iceland were Sturla Thordsson and Snorri Sturluson: ’In the 12th century, Icelanders alo began to write sagas of kings, especially kings of Norway, but also of Denmark. This literary form reached its zenith in the 13th century with Snorri Sturluson’s Heimskringla (Orb of the World), a history of the kings of Norway.’ [1] ’The leading writer in Iceland at this time was Sturla Thordsson, second only to Snorri himself as historian.’ [2] Annals provide information on trade and government: ’Trade and economic conditions continued as before without any distinct manifestation either of progress or decline. The destructive civil wars of the Sturlung period had undoubtedly done much to weaken the people’s strength, but and had hampered somewhat their intercourse with foreign lands, but the more peaceful era inaugurated by the union with Norway brought no perceptible change in prevailing conditions. Some scholars have considered the provision in the union agreement that six ships should be sent to Iceland every year as evidence that the commerce with Iceland at this time was declining, but K. Maurer has shown that this conclusion is erroneous. For various reasons few ships would arrive in Iceland during some years, but the same happened also during the most vigorous period of Icelandic national life, as in 1187 and 1219, when the Icelandic annals record that no ship arrived in Iceland. [He proceeds to describe some famines during the Commonwealth Period.] The old spirit of maritime enterprise was dying out among the Icelanders, as among all the Scandinavian peoples. No progress was made in trade or ship-building, and the Hanseatic merchants had already made their appearance as competitors for the control of Scandinavian commerce.’ [3] ’Though few ships might at times arrive in Icelandic harbors, many Norwegian merchantmen usually visited Iceland every year. The Icelandic annals state that in 1340 eleven ships came to Iceland, in 1345 twevle ships, in 1357 eighteen ships besides two which foundered on the voyage. Seagoing vessels were also built in Iceland. Many Icelanders owned ships with which they undoubtedly carried on trade, as had always been their custom, though most of the commerce was now in the hands of Norwegian merchants. But the import trade, which had always been small, could not supply the growing needs of the people. The Icelandic annals show that at times there must have been great need of imports, since it happened that the mass could not be celebrated for want of wine. During years when no ships came to Iceland, or when only one or two arrived each year, the need of articles for which people were wholly dependent on imports must have been very great. Still more deplorable was the inadequacy of imports during periods of famine and other great calamities, when little aid could be given the stricken population. Under ordinary circumstances commerce was probably sufficient to supply the people with the necessary articles, but the meaning of the provision regarding commerce inserted in the "Gamil sáttmáli", and constantly repeated in the union agreement, seems to have been that the Norwegian government should not suffer commerce at any time to fall below the specified minimum amount.’ [4] ’In 1303 many prominent Icelanders were summoned to Norway, among others Bishop Jörund of Hólar, and Abbot Runolf, who had served as vicar in the diocese of Skálholt after the death of Bishop Arni. The king’s purpose seems to have been to obtain their advice regarding changes in the Icelandic code of laws which had been demanded, possibly also to secure their consent to new taxes to be levied in Iceland. The Icelandic annals for the year 1304 state that in that year the king collected Peter’s pence (Roma skattr) in Iceland. The supplement to the code resulting from this conference is dated June 23, 1305. It contains provisions dealing with Iceland, but it does not touch the issues bearing on the relations between the two countries. These issues do not even seem to have been considered, but the Icelandic leaders probably consented to the levying of new taxes.’ [5] ’But their demands must have been granted, since the "Laurentiussaga" as well as the Icelandic annals state that in 1320 Ketill Thorlaksson came to Iceland with letters under royal seal, and that the people took the oath of allegiance to the king.’ [6] Sagas were written about bishops and other prominent figures: ’Of the "Biskupasögur", or stories about the Icelandic bishops, the most important source of the church history of Iceland, some continued to appear also in the fourteenth century. The "Arnasage Thorlákssonar", a story about Bishop Arni Thorlaksson of Skálholt, was written shortly after 1300, probably by his nephew Bishop Arni Helgason. The "Laurentiussaga" about Bishop Laurentius Kalfsson, written by Einar Haflidason, appeared about 1350, and the "Gudmundarsaga", which Abbot Arngrim of Thingeyrar wrote about Bishop Gudmund Arason of Hólar, was produced about 1375.’ [7] ’Upon the death of Bishop Audun of Hólar, 1321, a native Icelander, Laurentius Kalfsson, was chosen as his successor in 1323. [...] He had served as teacher in the monasteries of Thverá and Thingeyrar, and as bishop he devoted special attention to the schools and the education of the priests. Because of his popularity the "Laurentiussaga", one of the last historical works in the old Icelandic literature, was written about him about 1350, probably by his friend Einar Haflidason.’ [8] Annals as a genre were abandoned after the plague: ’The period of the plague is the least documented of Icelandic history. No sagas were written about events in Iceland after a biography of a bishop who died in 1331. Only one contemporary annal, the New Annal, covers the period from 1393 to 1430. At this point it was abandoned, and no more annals were written until the 16th century.’ [9] The Sturlunga Saga provides material about chieftains: ’Secular contemporary sagas deal largely with events among Icelandic chieftains in 12th and 13th centuries; most of there are preserved in the Sturlunga Saga compilation, which was put together in the early 14th century. Sagas of Ancient Times tell of kings and heroes in prehistoric Scandinavia, before the advent of the Norse kingdoms of the Viking Age.’ [10]

[1]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 14

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 210

[3]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 209

[4]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 228p

[5]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 231

[6]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 236

[7]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 255

[8]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 237p

[9]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 26

[10]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 15


Fiction:
present

Fictional literature comprised legends and romances: ’But whatever advantages the union with Norway might bring, it produced no new era of development. Intellectual life continuted to flourish, and numerous literary works were written, but but a distinct decline in the quality of literary production becomes noticeable, especially towards the close of the thirteenth century. The old vigor and originality was dwindling, as the growing Christian medieval-time spirit, which was only strengthened throught a closer relation with Norway, was fostering a love for legends and chivalric romances which encouraged copying and translation rather than creative production and original scholarship.’ [1] ’[...] a turning from history writing and more serious prose literature to romantic tales and religious productions of various sorts, occurred already in the thirteenth century. With the beginning of the fourteenth much of the earlier originality and creative imagination had faded out of literary production. [...] The writers devoted their chief attention to translation and copying, or to the compilation of large collections of earlier productions. But love of reading and diligence in literary pursuits were probably never greater than at this time. Iceland continued to be the center of literary life in the North.’ [2] Medieval Icelanders composed narrative poetry in oral and written form: ’After the disappearance of the scaldic drápur about 1300 a new kind of narrative poems, the rímur, began to appear in the fourteenth century. Alliteration and scaldic figures of speech were still used; but the rímur were written in rhymed verse, clearly an imitation of Latin hymns and religious songs. These poems are really ballads, based for the most part on mythological sagas and romantic foreign traditions, though a few also deal with persons from Norwegian and Icelandic history. The rímur were recited for the entertainment of the people in the home; but they were also sung, and were then usually accompanied by dance. As a form of entertainment the rímur became very popular and continued to flourish even into modern times.’ [3] The distinction between historiography and fictional literature may not always be clear-cut: ’To the literary production of the fourteenth century belong especially a number of romantic tales, the "Lygisögur", based on heroic German tradition and on epic romances of continental Europe. According to their contents they fall into two groups, the "Fornsögur Nordrlanda", dealing with traditions of the North, and the "Fornsögur Sudrlanda", based on the rhymed romances of the continent. Stories about saints, and religious rhymes and poems, were also written. This literary work was done chiefly by clerics whose names are not known. But now and then also a known writer appears. One of the most prominent among these is Hauk Erlendsson, the author of the "Hauksbók", a great collection which contains, besides Hauks own version of the "Landnámabók", the "Kristnisaga", the "Saga of Eirik the Red", the "Völsungasaga", and many other works. [...] Another great collection produced by diligent copyists is the "Flateyjarbók", compiled in 1387-1395 by the priests Jon Thordsson and Magnus Thorhallsson from older sources now partly lost.’ [4]

[1]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 208p

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 254p

[3]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 256

[4]: Gjerset, Knut [1925]. "History of Iceland", 255p


Calendar:
present

Given the institutionalization of Church authority and ecclesiastical learning, we have assumed written calendars present.


Information / Money

We have found no information on this.


Precious Metal:
present

The following was imported from the Commonwealth-era sheet: ’During the Icelandic Commonwealth people used foreign coins but only in the sense as a piece of precious metal. The nominal value of the coins was irrelevant. Often coins were cut up to match the price of a purchase. We should also specify: gold, silver, copper/bronze.’ [1] ’There were no formal markets and most exchanges and payments, such as rents, were made in kind. Regular assemblies provided a venue for traders and specialized producers who also traveled among farmsteads. Despite the rarity of monetary exchanges, the Icelanders maintained a complex system of value equivalencies based on a silver ounce standard that encompassed most exchangeable goods.’ [2]

[1]: Árni Daniel Júlíusson and Axel Kristissen 2017, pers. comm. to E. Brandl and D. Mullins

[2]: Bolender, Douglas James and Beierle, John: eHRAF Cultural Summary for Early Icelanders


Paper Currency:
absent

[1]

[1]: Júlíusson and Kristissen, pers. comm. 2017


Indigenous Coin:
absent

We have coded for Norwegian currency under ’foreign coins’ (see above).


Foreign Coin:
present

’Norwegian coins were present.’ [1] Given the prior circulation of foreign coins on the island, we have assumed that some monetization occurred during the Norwegian period, but without displacing barter entirely. Both ecclesiastical and secular authorities collected taxes from commoners: ’With like energy he preached the crusade to the Holy Land which had been urged at the Council of Bergen. People were prevailed upon to pay an extra tax of one öln vadmál year for the period of six years to defray the expenses of the undertaking. Bishop Jörund of Hólar was also encouraged by Arni’s example to collect all sorts of dues for the church, and to enforce the provision of the church laws.’ [2] ’This was made especially manifest by the new procedure introduced at this time of summoning people to Norway for trial. [...] The king’s officers also travelled about collecting the royal revenues with greater severity that had hitherto been customary. They reproved the people for appealing to the bishop, and in some cases forbade them to pay as large church dues as the bishop had demanded.’ [3] Trade with Norway continued, the latter attempting to monopolize the Icelandic exchange with being able to factually guarantee for an uninterrupted flow of goods: ’Trade and economic conditions continued as before without any distinct manifestation either of progress or decline. The destructive civil wars of the Sturlung period had undoubtedly done much to weaken the people’s strength, but and had hampered somewhat their intercourse with foreign lands, but the more peaceful era inaugurated by the union with Norway brought no perceptible change in prevailing conditions. Some scholars have considered the provision in the union agreement that six ships should be sent to Iceland every year as evidence that the commerce with Iceland at this time was declining, but K. Maurer has shown that this conclusion is erroneous. For various reasons few ships would arrive in Iceland during some years, but the same happened also during the most vigorous period of Icelandic national life, as in 1187 and 1219, when the Icelandic annals record that no ship arrived in Iceland. [He proceeds to describe some famines during the Commonwealth Period.] The old spirit of maritime enterprise was dying out among the Icelanders, as among all the Scandinavian peoples. No progress was made in trade or ship-building, and the Hanseatic merchants had already made their appearance as competitors for the control of Scandinavian commerce.’ [4] ’Though few ships might at times arrive in Icelandic harbors, many Norwegian merchantmen usually visited Iceland every year. The Icelandic annals state that in 1340 eleven ships came to Iceland, in 1345 twevle ships, in 1357 eighteen ships besides two which foundered on the voyage. Seagoing vessels were also built in Iceland. Many Icelanders owned ships with which they undoubtedly carried on trade, as had always been their custom, though most of the commerce was now in the hands of Norwegian merchants. But the import trade, which had always been small, could not supply the growing needs of the people. The Icelandic annals show that at times there must have been great need of imports, since it happened that the mass could not be celebrated for want of wine. During years when no ships came to Iceland, or when only one or two arrived each year, the need of articles for which people were wholly dependent on imports must have been very great. Still more deplorable was the inadequacy of imports during periods of famine and other great calamities, when little aid could be given the stricken population. Under ordinary circumstances commerce was probably sufficient to supply the people with the necessary articles, but the meaning of the provision regarding commerce inserted in the "Gamil sáttmáli", and constantly repeated in the union agreement, seems to have been that the Norwegian government should not suffer commerce at any time to fall below the specified minimum amount.’ [5]

[1]: Árni Daniel Júlíusson and Axel Kristissen 2017, pers. comm. to E. Brandl and D. Mullins

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 219

[3]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 220

[4]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 209

[5]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 228p


Article:
present

Karlsson’s description suggests that barter continued to be a relevant form of exchange: ’All Icelanders lived on farms. No towns developed in Iceland in the Middle Ages. Fishing was carried out from coastal farms, and also from seasonal fishing stations when fish, especially cod, came ashore. Cereal crops were grown in Iceland in the Middle Ages, mainly in the south, but animal husbandry (cattle and sheep) was the mainstay. Both provided meat, and milk for cheese and skyr (milk curd), and the sheep’s wool was woven into cloth which was Iceland’s principal export commodity until the 14th century [...]. The Icelandic way of life is well illustrated by the units of value used: alin vadmáls (an ell, about 50cm, of woollen cloth), kúgildi (the value of a cow), equivalent to 120 ells, and subsequently fiskur (fish), equivalent to half an ell.’ [1] Both ecclesiastical and secular authorities collected taxes from commoners, but the relevant units (articles versus currency) is unclear from the descriptions: ’With like energy he preached the crusade to the Holy Land which had been urged at the Council of Bergen. People were prevailed upon to pay an extra tax of one öln vadmál year for the period of six years to defray the expenses of the undertaking. Bishop Jörund of Hólar was also encouraged by Arni’s example to collect all sorts of dues for the church, and to enforce the provision of the church laws.’ [2] ’This was made especially manifest by the new procedure introduced at this time of summoning people to Norway for trial. [...] The king’s officers also travelled about collecting the royal revenues with greater severity that had hitherto been customary. They reproved the people for appealing to the bishop, and in some cases forbade them to pay as large church dues as the bishop had demanded.’ [3]

[1]: Karlsson, Gunnar 2000. "A Brief History of Iceland", 12p

[2]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 219

[3]: Gjerset, Knut [1924]. "History of Iceland", 220


Information / Postal System
Postal Station:
absent

[1]

[1]: Júlíusson and Kristissen, pers. comm. 2017


General Postal Service:
absent

[1]

[1]: Júlíusson and Kristissen, pers. comm. 2017


Courier:
absent

We have found no evidence of full-time couriers.


Information / Measurement System

Warfare Variables (Military Technologies)
Fortifications
Wooden Palisade:
absent

[In this case, the building material was stone but the wall was glued together with sot, soil, earth. Most evidence comes from the late 12th century onward. However, it is probable that the data is valid from 930 CE onward. There is evidence of several fortresses and fortified manors. But most or all forts seem to be dry-stone walled (sod probably used between stones). Timber for palisades would have to be imported and thus very expensive and probably less functional than dry-stone walls.]


Stone Walls Non Mortared:
present

[The walls were non-mortared.] [1]

[1]: Júlíusson and Kristissen, pers. comm. 2017


Stone Walls Mortared:
absent

[1]

[1]: Júlíusson and Kristissen, pers. comm. 2017


Settlements in a Defensive Position:
present

Amory describes fortifications and strongholds, but says little about the possible strategic location of larger manors: ’Larger groups (sixteen to eighteen members and on up) readily developed a ‘siege mentality’, and would sometimes entrench themselves, not in caves, but in fortified earthworks or strongholds, thrown up against the inroads of their enemies. Both Óspakr and Hörðr had such fortifications built for themselves, their wives and families, and their men, Hörðr’s island retreat of wood and turf being virtually impregnable. Though Óspakr’s earthworks enclosed a farm with two cows, where his wife and son lived, these fortifications were not internally self-sustaining but were chiefly designed for receiving stolen goods, viz., the produce of the surrounding countryside, and for staging last-ditch defenses. It is remarkable but not unintelligible that the sizeable outlaw colony on the tiny island of Geirshólmr, under the leadership of Hörðr Grímkelsson and his foster-brother Geirr Grímsson, seems never to have engaged in animal husbandry of any sort on the island, or gone fishing in the surrounding waters, but instead preferred to launch expedition after expedition to the mainland in order to rustle from the rich coastal farms the cattle and sheep that it lacked; these would be slaughtered at once for its consumption. One may well think that cattle- and sheep-rustling was a perfectly suitable occupation for outlaws, but they were undercutting themselves by their total dependence on the mainland, and finally allowed themselves to be lured to shore by promises of freedom and were put to death in batches by a coalition of farmers who were lying in wait to dispatch them. So, at any rate, the story of the ‘Hólmverjar’ goes in Harðar saga Grímkelssonar (chs 34ff.). The colony was eradicated in three years’ time without the mainland farmers’ even having to assault the impregnable hall of Hörðr on one cliffside of the island.’ [1] But it seems likely that the location of manors attached to powerful chieftains and their retainers was chosen with potential attacks in mind. [As far as I know, there are no examples of lords’ residences being deliberately located in defensive positions. They could be located in strategic positions, however, and were often fortified.]

[1]: (Amory 1992, 196) Amory, Frederic. 1992. The Medieval Icelandic Outlaw: Lifestyle, Saga, and Legend. Middlesex: Hisarlik Press. Seshat URL: https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/items/collectionKey/8FGVBVMM/itemKey/BH4V87MW


Modern Fortification:
absent

[1]

[1]: Júlíusson and Kristissen, pers. comm. 2017



Fortified Camp:
absent

[According to the codebook this refers to fortified camps of armies on the move. It is highly unlikely that the small warbands of late medieval Iceland would make fortified camps when moving around. In most cases they would overnight at farmsteads.]


Earth Rampart:
absent

Amory describes fortifications and ’earthworks’: ’Larger groups (sixteen to eighteen members and on up) readily developed a ‘siege mentality’, and would sometimes entrench themselves, not in caves, but in fortified earthworks or strongholds, thrown up against the inroads of their enemies. Both Óspakr and Hörðr had such fortifications built for themselves, their wives and families, and their men, Hörðr’s island retreat of wood and turf being virtually impregnable. Though Óspakr’s earthworks enclosed a farm with two cows, where his wife and son lived, these fortifications were not internally self-sustaining but were chiefly designed for receiving stolen goods, viz., the produce of the surrounding countryside, and for staging last-ditch defenses. It is remarkable but not unintelligible that the sizeable outlaw colony on the tiny island of Geirshólmr, under the leadership of Hörðr Grímkelsson and his foster-brother Geirr Grímsson, seems never to have engaged in animal husbandry of any sort on the island, or gone fishing in the surrounding waters, but instead preferred to launch expedition after expedition to the mainland in order to rustle from the rich coastal farms the cattle and sheep that it lacked; these would be slaughtered at once for its consumption. One may well think that cattle- and sheep-rustling was a perfectly suitable occupation for outlaws, but they were undercutting themselves by their total dependence on the mainland, and finally allowed themselves to be lured to shore by promises of freedom and were put to death in batches by a coalition of farmers who were lying in wait to dispatch them. So, at any rate, the story of the ‘Hólmverjar’ goes in Harðar saga Grímkelssonar (chs 34ff.). The colony was eradicated in three years’ time without the mainland farmers’ even having to assault the impregnable hall of Hörðr on one cliffside of the island.’ [1] [Fortifications usually seem to be made of stone (and sod) with vertical sides rather than sloping sides as in earth ramparts. It is a theoretical possibility that some such fortifications were made exclusively of sod (this was sometimes done in house-walls) but these would still have vertical sides and seems unlikely as stone is stronger.] We have accordingly chosen to code this as ’inferred absent’.

[1]: (Amory 1992, 196) Amory, Frederic. 1992. The Medieval Icelandic Outlaw: Lifestyle, Saga, and Legend. Middlesex: Hisarlik Press. Seshat URL: https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/items/collectionKey/8FGVBVMM/itemKey/BH4V87MW



Complex Fortification:
absent

[1]

[1]: Júlíusson and Kristissen, pers. comm. 2017



Military use of Metals

[1]

[1]: Júlíusson and Kristissen, pers. comm. 2017


[1]

[1]: Júlíusson and Kristissen, pers. comm. 2017




Projectiles
Tension Siege Engine:
absent

[1]

[1]: Júlíusson and Kristissen, pers. comm. 2017


Sling Siege Engine:
absent

[1]

[1]: Júlíusson and Kristissen, pers. comm. 2017


Sling:
present

[The evidence here is problematic. The only evidence is from a later recorded saga and it seems to suggest that slings were in use for the whole period. There is no archaeological evidence as they were made from leather.]


Self Bow:
present

[This link (EXTERNAL_INLINE_LINK: http://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/manufacturing/text/viking_bow.htm ) claims that self bow (longbows) were common among Vikings but composite bows may also have been present. Sources usually do not make clear whether bows were self or composite bows. We think the self bow was present and the composite bow probably also although neither was common.]



Handheld Firearm:
absent

[1]

[1]: Júlíusson and Kristissen, pers. comm. 2017


Gunpowder Siege Artillery:
absent

[1]

[1]: Júlíusson and Kristissen, pers. comm. 2017


Crossbow:
present

The first mentioning of a crossbow is from the late 12th century.


Composite Bow:
present

[This link (EXTERNAL_INLINE_LINK: http://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/manufacturing/text/viking_bow.htm ) claims that self bow (longbows) were common among Vikings but composite bows may also have been present. Sources usually do not make clear whether bows were self or composite bows. We think the self bow was present and the composite bow probably also although neither was common.]


Atlatl:
absent

No evidence could be found that Norse warriors used the atlatl, or spear-thrower. Most of the scholarly literature on the subject appears to focus on world regions outside of Europe.


Handheld weapons

Gjerset alludes to swords, but it is unclear whether he refers to real weapons or an idiomatic expression only: ’Often the priests themselves would join, sword in hand, in the bloody feuds, like Odd, Lufina and others, only to give the otherwise dark picture of social and political life a still more forbidding aspect.’ [1] [Swords were present.]

[1]: (Gjerset 1924, 155) Gjerset, Knut. 1924. History of Iceland. New York: Macmillan. Seshat URL: https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/items/collectionKey/8FGVBVMM/itemKey/GJDJ6MTB


[1]

[1]: Júlíusson and Kristissen, pers. comm. 2017


Polearm:
present

[1]

[1]: Júlíusson and Kristissen, pers. comm. 2017


Dagger:
present

[1]

[1]: Júlíusson and Kristissen, pers. comm. 2017


Battle Axe:
present

[1]

[1]: Júlíusson and Kristissen, pers. comm. 2017


Animals used in warfare

[Most armies consisted of mounted infantry. Furthermore, horses were used for transport purposes. Although the hard evidence is from the 13th century, it is very probable horses were used from 930 CE onward.]


Elephant:
absent

[1]

[1]: Júlíusson and Kristissen, pers. comm. 2017



[Cannot recall any examples of dogs being used in warfare in Iceland. Should probably be ‘inferred present’ at most.] We have coded ’unknown’ for the time being.


[1]

[1]: Júlíusson and Kristissen, pers. comm. 2017


Armor
Wood Bark Etc:
unknown

[It feels like the list is at the same time too detailed and not detailed enough.]


Shield:
present

[1]

[1]: Júlíusson and Kristissen, pers. comm. 2017


Scaled Armor:
present

[Mentioned in some family sagas so it was obviously known in the 13th century and assumed to be old.]


Plate Armor:
present

[There is evidence of the use of quilted garment (gambeson) which is made of linen and stuffed with wool from the 13th century onward.]



Leather Cloth:
present

[The gambeson/panzari (made of cloth) was undoubtedly present in the late Commonwealth.]



Helmet:
present

[There is no hard evidence that helmets were already in use by 930 CE, but is very probable.]


Chainmail:
present

[Chainmail was well known in Viking Age Scandinavia although expensive and rare. Should be at least ‘inferred present’ even before 1200.]



Naval technology
Specialized Military Vessel:
absent

[The only recorded naval battle took place in 1244 CE.]


Small Vessels Canoes Etc:
present

[Small vessels (fishing boats) certainly were used in military operations.]


Merchant Ships Pressed Into Service:
absent

[The only recorded naval battle took place in 1244 CE.]



Human Sacrifice Data
Human Sacrifice is the deliberate and ritualized killing of a person to please or placate supernatural entities (including gods, spirits, and ancestors) or gain other supernatural benefits.
- Nothing coded yet.