1st Edition

Medieval Iceland: Politics, Patronage and Power

By Sverrir Jakobsson Copyright 2025
    232 Pages 43 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    At the beginning of this history, in the ninth century, Iceland was uninhabited save for fowl and smaller arctic animals. At its end, in the middle of the sixteenth century, it had embarked on a course that led to the creation of a small country on the outskirts of Europe. The history of medieval Iceland is to some degree a microcosm of European history, but in other respects it has a trajectory of its own. As in Medieval Europe, the evolution of the Church, episodic warfare, and the strengthening of the bonds of government had an important role.

    Unlike the rest of Europe, however, Iceland was not settled by humans until during the Middle Ages and it was without towns and any type of executive government until the late medieval period. This is a review of Icelandic history from the settlement until the advent of the Reformation, with an emphasis on social and political change, but also on cultural developments such as the creation of a particular kind of literature, known throughout the world as the sagas.

    A view of medieval Icelandic history as it has never been told before from one of its leading historians. It will be of interest to students and scholars alike interested in Icelandic and medieval history.

    Introduction: Long-term economic and social trends

    Part 1. Early Medieval Iceland

    1.     Land-taking

    2.     The Foundation of Society

    3.     Christianisation

    4.     The Settlement in Cultural Memory

    Part 2. High Medieval Iceland

    5.     Church and Society in the Twelfth Century

    6.     The Creation of Domains

    7.     Civil Strife

    8.     Enter the Kingdom

    Part 3. Late Medieval Iceland

    9.     Pacification and Growth

    10. Towards a New Era

    11. Trade Wars and Social Anxiety

    12. The Reformation

    Conclusion: The Course of Icelandic Medieval History



    Sverrir Jakobsson is Professor of Medieval History at the University of Iceland. He is the author of numerous works, including Historical Dictionary of Iceland, 3rd Edition (2016) and The Varangians. In God´s Holy Fire (2020), The Routledge Research Companion to the Medieval Icelandic Sagas (2017), Sturla Þórðarson. Skald, Chieftain and Lawman (2017) and The Making of the Eastern Vikings. Rus’ and Varangians in the Middle Ages (2024).