Skip to comments.New power elite emerged in medieval Iceland as the island became Norwegian
Posted on 05/16/2011 3:00:41 PM PDT by decimon
As Iceland became part of the Norwegian kingship 1262, a new power structure in the shape of an Icelandic aristocracy appointed by the king of Norway was established. This development is discussed in a doctoral thesis in History from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, that sheds light on a period in the Icelandic history that previously has not received its due attention.
'The 14th century has never received a great deal of attention in Icelandic history writing. This is surprising since this period is at least as important as the considerably more frequently discussed so-called Free State period (around 930�/64) when Iceland was autonomous, especially considering the country's state formation process,' says the author of the thesis Sigríður Beck.
Before becoming Norwegian, the country consisted of a number of territories ruled by chiefs who were constantly competing for power. Sigríður Beck has studied how the Icelandic power elite changed as the island became part of Norway and new offices and a new administration were introduced. Beck shows how an aristocracy was established as the king appointed officers who were to ensure that the country was administered according to Norwegian law.
'Prior to the involvement of the Norwegian king, the island was ruled by chiefs and authority was based on individuals and territories, but then the chiefs were replaced with a different type of elite ¬ an aristocracy.
Sigríður Beck's research shows that the aristocracy was made up of two different groups: wealthy farmers who became part of the new service-based aristocracy as a result of their financial strength, and parts of the former elite who managed to transfer to the new elite by adapting to the new situation. Thus, the Icelandic aristocracy comprised a mix of the old and the new.
Iceland's historical development has typically been viewed in a narrow Icelandic perspective. Yet Sigríður Beck concludes that the establishment of an Icelandic aristocracy is essentially identical to what happened in the rest of Europe. However, the Icelandic aristocracy remained a local aristocracy without any significant opportunities or willingness to make ties with its Norwegian counterpart.
Besides the establishment of a new political structure, a new economic structure was introduced as well. The new economic structure was more based on freehold properties and the possibility to lease out land and generate wealth through fishing.
'This development contributed to accelerated differentiation in society the wealthy became even wealthier at the expense of the rest of the population,' says Beck.
The thesis has been successfully defended.
Gyre and ice ping.
“...the wealthy became even wealthier at the expense of the rest of the population,’ says Beck, (yet another socialist from Sweden).
Hidden People’s fault.
Beck may well be socialist but the system described (like the rest of Europe, an aristocracy) was likely as described.
Medieval European history is probably among the most interesting.
Read later. Thanks for posting
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“Medieval European history is probably among the most interesting.”
There are some great online Western Civ videos at this link.
You might enjoy:
18. The Age of Charlemagne
Charlemagne revived hopes for a new empire in Western Europe.
VOD19. The Middle Ages
Amid invasion and civil disorder, a military aristocracy dominated the kingdoms of Europe.
VOD20. The Feudal Order
Bishop, knight, and peasant exemplified some of the social divisions of the year 1000 A.D.
VOD21. Common Life in the Middle Ages
Famine, disease, and short life expectancies were the conditions that shaped medieval beliefs.
VOD22. Cities and Cathedrals of the Middle Ages
The great churches embodied the material and spiritual ambitions of the age.
VOD23. The Late Middle Ages
Two hundred years of war and plague debilitated Europe.
I didn’t know they had a king.
I thought they were an autonomous collective.
You’re fooling yourself. We’re living in a dictatorship. A self-perpetuating autocracy in which the working classes—
Thanks! Opening that in a new tab.
Most welcome. My 82 year old dad turned me on to that last week.
How did the local hereditary “chiefs” system differ from an aristocracy since most of them wound up as the aristocracy.
Sounds to me that the Norwegians simply coopted what was there and regularized it as a Norwegian governmental system.
Ya gotta watch those doctoral candidates, always looking for a slight divergence they can claim is a new discovery.
In those days the king did take from the people.
DENNIS! There’s some lovely filth down here!
Maybe a little of this and a little of that. Some anarchocapitalists have said they were libertarian but that's always seemed wishful thinking to me.
Maybe it's a matter of scale. When northern Europe had tribes, it had chiefs and subordinates. When it coalesced into nations, it had kings and aristocracies.
I like some of the Teaching Company stuff, but some of it is piss-poor (I’ve checked some out of the local library in the past), and it’s pricey.
Twins? Alright! I just hope that IMF guy’s never been in Iceland.
They were an anarcho-syndicalist commune. They took it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week.But all the decisions of that officer had to be ratified at a special biweekly meeting by a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs—but by a two-thirds majority in the case of external matters.
In the Icelandic Free State, the aristocrats had to compete for the allegiance of the farmers. If a farmer felt that the baron was not offering adequate protection, or was charging too much taxes, he was free to find another baron.
You win the best double post of the day contest. ;)
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