Icelandic Commonwealth period

In 1999, I was tasked with the job of finding authors for our exhibition catalogue. Most of the authors were the curators that were assisting us at the various lending museums, but we wanted to expand out from that to other specialists, particularly historians and literary scholars.

Having completed my bachelors in Scandinavian in 1994, some of the names of people we "had to have" were in my head, and I had of course done some of my own reading in preparation for the exhibition. But I think I had maybe 2 weeks to come up with an author's list and send out letters of invitation. So in a lot of cases, I asked my embassy contacts to recommend people.

The person that wrote the chapter on the commonwealth period in Iceland was one such embassy recommendation, Helgi Þórlaksson, history professor at HÍ. He wrote a very clear and straightforward article on the matter.

Now that I have been living here in Iceland for a while, the entire concept of the commonwealth period in Iceland seems weird to me. Also I have just recently begun to notice that Icelanders do not call the time period between 870 and 1000 the Icelandic Viking Age (which it is every where else in Europe) but rather the settlement period. In retrospect, I realize this would have made a very fascinating topic for a chapter in the catalogue, and I do regret that I was not enough of a scholar of Icelandic history when I was 26 years old to have known that.


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