Ideals and Aspirations: Democracy and Law-Making in Medieval Iceland

  • Patricia Pires Boulhosa


When it was rumoured in 2009 that Iceland would join the European Union, in an effort to overcome its financial collapse, the European commissioner, Olli Rehn, welcomed the possibility of a membership bid by ‘one of the oldest democracies in the world’ (Traynor, 2009). Commissioner Rehn was only following the official line. Addressing a conference on ‘Women and Democracy’, the Icelandic Minister for the Environment and Nordic Cooperation, Sigríður Anna Pórardóttir, explained that Iceland had once seen ‘the first democratic parliament in Europe, and even in the world, founded in the year 930’ (Pórardóttir, 2005). This idea of a medieval Icelandic ‘democracy’ is perhaps unwittingly suggested by academics when they use terms such as ‘Commonwealth’ or ‘Republic’ in reference to the system of government in existence in Iceland from the time of its settlement, in the second half of the ninth century, until the time when it became a part of the Norwegian kingdom, in the thirteenth century.


Thirteenth Century Ninth Century Assembly Group Special Court Strict Unifor 
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© Patricia Pires Boulhosa 2011

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  • Patricia Pires Boulhosa

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