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Faroe Islands

History

According to Irish missionary Brendan, Celtic monks were already living in eremitic seclusion on the Faroes by the 6th century. Their isolation was ended from around AD800 when the first Norse farmers arrived. The farmers’ independence dwindled with the often forceful imposition of Christianity, and the isles became part of the Kingdom of Norway in 1035. The first bishops’ seat was established in Kirkjubøur.

The Faroese parliament (Løgting) lost further influence after Norway fell to Denmark in 1380. Between 1535 and 1856, all trade was governed by the Danish monopoly for which the great stores of Tinganes were developed. The only Faroese to gain temporary trading rights was Magnus Heinason in 1579, who built Skansin Fort in Tørshavn to protect his ships from pirate attacks.

In 1849 the Danish parliament incorporated the islands as a ‘county’ of Denmark. This provoked strong independence movements, which were re-ignited by the British occupation of the islands during WWII. In 1948 the Danish compromise was to upgrade the Faroes’ status to the ‘self-governing community within the Kingdom of Denmark’ which it remains today. This gave the Faroese legislative power over their own affairs. When Denmark joined the EEC (now EU), the Faroes refused to follow. This smart move protected their fishery-based economy from ruthless EU competition. Following a sharp recession, bank defaults and a population drain in the 1990s, the economy has rebounded impressively in recent years.