A Short History of Iceland: Background information when reading Burial Rites

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Burial Rites

by Hannah Kent

Burial Rites
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2013, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2014, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Suzanne Reeder

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About this Book

Beyond the Book:
A Short History of Iceland

The Republic of Iceland, the setting for Hannah Kent's debut novel Burial Rites, has a deep and intriguing history.

  • Located west of Scandinavia and just south of the Arctic Circle, the first confirmed settlement of Iceland was in the 9th and 10th centuries by Norsemen from Scandinavia and Scotland. Though questions remain about the actual events leading up to the settlement, Icelandic tradition suggests Norsemen were fleeing the tyranny of the Norwegian King Harald I Haarfagri. According to early Icelandic records, Celts from the British Isles were among the early emigrants, having been taken as slaves and wives by the Norsemen.

  • In 930 a legislative assembly known as the Althing was established (literally all-thing, general assembly). It is one of the oldest legislative assemblies in the world.

  • Althing Parliament BuildingKing Olaf I of Norway commissioned missionaries to introduce Christianity to Iceland in 1000. Around this time the religion was adopted by the Althing.

  • Iceland was independent until ...

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