Scandinavia’s North Atlantic outpost was first settled by Irish monks in the early 9th century but migrants from Scandinavia and Norse settlements in the British Isles drove them out in 874. A ruling class of chieftains, known as the godar, established thefirst ever democratic national assembly, the Alpingi (Althing), in 930. Primarily an adjudicating body, it also served as a legislature and a fair. In 1000 it adopted Christianity by majority decision as Iceland’s official religion. Bishoprics were established at Skálholt in 1056 and at Hólar in 1106. In the mid-13th century the godar were persuaded to swear allegiance to the king of Norway, bringing Iceland under Norwegian rule but leaving it with relative autonomy. When Norway was joined with Denmark in 1380, Iceland retained the Althing and its own code of law.
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