A History of Iceland
by Knut Gjerset,
Macmillan, New York, 1924
I found this book at a local antique store, that's the dust jacket of my copy pictured above- not bad for an 88 year-old! I was intrigued by its subject of course, but was pleasantly surprised in reading this well-written and comprehensive reference. Knut Gjerset was a professor of History and Norwegian at Luther College in Decorah Iowa from 1902 until 1936. He was the Original curator of the Norwegian-American Historical Museum (Now the Vesterheim Museum) which I visited last year.
A big problem in trying to grasp the history of Iceland is the blur of names, places and events over the last 1140+ years. This book helped me understand how Iceland changed over that time, in particular the power struggles between the goðar(chieftains) and the saga-heroes of the early years. The Icelandic people were then challenged by the Church and the royalty of Norway and Denmark, made chattel to monopolistic traders and even besieged by pirates! Obviously, the book ends right after World War I, with a chapter devoted to Icelandic emigration.
I may have finally read enough Icelandic history for it to finally "stick" in my brain. I wouldn't want to take a test on what I've read, but in reading this book most of the events were familiar and the flow of Iceland's history, particularly from 1300 to 1700, made for compelling reading. This is a somewhat rare book, but a diligent researcher can find a copy in WorldCat.