Ask A Historian: Has Iceland Ever Been Involved In Any Wars Or Conflicts - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Ask A Historian: Has Iceland Ever Been Involved In Any Wars Or Conflicts

Ask A Historian: Has Iceland Ever Been Involved In Any Wars Or Conflicts

Published July 14, 2017

Photos by
The Official CTBTO Photostream/Wikimedia Commons

Stefán Pálsson, Icelandic historian, explains:

“As a NATO member Iceland have participated in wars and conflicts that NATO has engaged in. For example in Iraq and the NATO programme in Afghanistan there’s been Icelandic personnel, but none of them have been soldiers, but working in public relations for example. So there’s been some indirect activities lately as part of the NATO membership, but when it comes to something closer to full-scale war we’ve luckily not been involved. Many Icelanders like to talk about the Cod Wars, and brag about being the only nation in the world that has defeated the British navy in warfare. That’s really stretching it because that was a series of fishing disputes, and even though there were some minor clashes between the Icelandic Coastal Guard and British ships, they were mostly solved through negotiation. I would almost say that calling it a war would be insulting towards people who really have suffered from wars.

“In the Middle Ages, Icelanders were more unruly and there were civil wars between families and chieftains who had large armies which resulted in big battles, and eventually led to Iceland falling under the Norwegian throne, and being demilitarised.

“Our best survival strategy in dangerous wars has been to be neutral and try keep good contact with our neighbours. We’ve always taken pride in that we’re a country without an army and that there’s no intention to form one.


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