Iceland Collapse

By Mike Pelli


Iceland was settled by the Vikings in 870 A.D. These Vikings migrated from Norway and were looking for farmland. The main religion in Iceland was Christianity which was brought over by a Norwegian King. Iceland, throughout the centuries faced many conflicts. Iceland faced internal conflict, and during a period from 1262-1400, the commonwealth among Iceland ended. Iceland dealt with many issues and in 1376 they fell under Danish Rule for a while. Iceland faced many conflicts that affected their collapse.


The collapse of Iceland is very controversial. Some historians believe that Iceland survived and others think that they collapsed a long time ago. Iceland did collapse though, due to climate change from around the early 1500s through the late 1600s. Over fishing and disease were two additional contributing factors to the collapse.

Climate Change

The first and most important reason why Iceland collapsed was due to the climate change. This affected the way of life for the people among Iceland. From the early 1500s to the late 1600s the climate of Iceland decreased and it turned into a small ice age period. The small ice age impacted Iceland in a negative way. The climate change caused the crops to stop growing and it destroyed the agriculture in Iceland for about 200 years. In addition, harvest years were so cold that there was little hay to feed the livestock so thousands of sheep died. During this small ice age there was an increase in glacier growth and flooding from bursts due to volcanic activity under the ice. In addition, the ice age also shut down trading routes which hurt the economy. It caused a decrease in population and many left the country which hurt Iceland. During this time period people left because of the bad climate change. "As the warmer climate brought the Vikings in increasing numbers to Iceland, the cooler climate was equal to the task of decreasing those numbers"(Article 3). Many people of Iceland struggled to stay alive without farming so they switched to fishing. This created an additional factor to the collapse of Iceland. To conclude, the climate change destroyed food and changed the lifestyle of the economy making it the biggest reason for its collapse.

Over Fishing

The result of the ice age caused farming to stop; therefore, the Icelanders turned to fishing. By the late 1500s all attempts at growing grain were abandoned and the Icelanders turned to the sea for fishing. Off the coast of Iceland there were was a surplus of cod fish. In the late 1500s there was plenty of fish for the Icelanders to live off and survive. In addition the Icelanders also traded the fish and sold it to make money. At this time there was a big fish market. The majority of the population relied on these fish so they could survive. This resulted in over fishing off the coast of Iceland. The over fishing left very little cod fish and the remainder swam too far off the coast for Iceland boats to reach. This led to the collapse of the fishing industry. In conclusion, over fishing was not the biggest factor, but still a contributing factor that eventually led to the collapse of Iceland.


The third contributing factor to the collapse of Iceland was disease. Disease impacted population reduction directly. The biggest disease in Iceland was plague. In Iceland there were two big outbreaks of plague. Each outbreak killed a high number of people. The first plague was between 1400-1402. It was estimated to kill more than half of the population. After Iceland recovered from the first plague another one started. The second plague occurred from 1494-1495. This time it killed 40% of the population. This disease started and spread because the climate started to change. The decrease in population didn't stop until around 1700. The decrease in population hurt Iceland in every way. This deadly disease killed many people. It also affected Iceland's economy for years to come. All in all, disease in Iceland was another contributing factor to the collapse of Iceland.


Works Cited

Colgan, Alex. "Iceland: Overviews Country Snapshot." AtoZ the World Home Page. World Trade Press, 2006. Web. 02 Mar. 2014.

Diamond, Jared M. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Viking, 2005. Print.

Mandia, Scott A. "Decline of the Vikings in Iceland - Influence of Dramatic Climate Shifts on European Civilizations: The Rise and Fall of the Vikings and the Little Ice Age." Decline of the Vikings in Iceland - Influence of Dramatic Climate Shifts on European Civilizations: The Rise and Fall of the Vikings and the Little Ice Age. Suffolk County Community College, n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2014. This source passes the Crap test. The date when it is was published is unknown but it doesn't matter because the article is about past information and as long as it is written after the events it is current. All of the information in this article is relevant because it is about how the climate change of Iceland affected the collapse of Iceland. This author has the authority because the author is a professor at Suffolk County Community College. He teaches Physical Sciences. Also this article site is a .edu which means it is reliable. This article is very accurate and about the topic of Iceland Collapse and in no way is it bias.

Streeter, Richard, Andrew J. Dugmore, and Orri Vesteinsson. "Plague and Landscape Resilience in Premodern Iceland." UW Faculty Web Server. N.p., 28 Nov. 2011. Web. 02 Mar. 2014. This source passes the Crap Test. The date it was published was November 28, 2011 so the article is current. Also the authors have the proper credentials. All three of the authors are professors in different countries. They study geography and archaeology. All this website is a .edu which means it is reliable. Also this info is accurate because these authors are very smart and they teach about geography so they know a lot of information on this topic. This article is in no way bias and it is written from a fair perspective. All of the information in this article is supported by evidence. This is why this article is good and passed the online Crap test.