Iceland is a growing island as a result of volcanic activity which has made it a precarious place to live. The first known settlers are thought to have been Irish monks in the 9th Century, but they were short lived.
The first permanent settlers were Norwegian who established, what is probably the oldest parliament in the world, the Althing, in 930 A.D.
The 11th and 12th centuries saw civil wars known as the ‘Age of the Sturlings’ and in 1380 the death of the Norwegian King, Olav IV, saw Iceland become Danish under the Kalmar Union.
When Denmark and Norway separated in the 1814 Treaty of Kiel, Denmark kept Iceland as a dependency. By 1845 an independence movement was growing and a new Althing was formed.
In 1874 Denmark granted Iceland home rule and in 1918 the ‘Act of Union’ recognised Iceland as a sovereign state but joined to Denmark through the Danish King.
In World War Two Denmark was invaded by the Germans and Iceland assumed control of its own affairs. In May 1940 the British invaded Iceland, despite its neutrality, because of its strategic importance in the Atlantic. The British and subsequently Americans remained until the end of the war.
On 17th June 1944, following a referendum, Iceland declared itself an independent republic. The island nation was the first to have an all-women’s party, called the Women’s List in 1983.
Since 1931 Iceland’s politics has been dominated by the Independence Party (IP), although it has never ruled alone and has shared power with the Progressive Party (PP) and latterly the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
In 1999 a number of left leaning parties united to form the Social Democratic Alliance, they included the Social Democratic Party, People’s Alliance, Women’s List and National Movement. They continued to grow in strength and in 2009 became the largest party with 20 of the 63 seats in the Althing. For the first time the Independence Party was forced into opposition.
The Parliament or Great Diet (Althing) is a unicameral body with 63 members elected for four years by proportional representation from 6 constituencies.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Iceland at 14th out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 78 (where 100 is least corrupt).