Faroe Islands History

By | January 9, 2023

Faroe Islands – prehistory

Faroe Islands Flag

The oldest archaeological evidence of permanent settlement in the Faroe Islands dates to the second half of the 800-t.

Excavations in Kvívík, Fuglafjørður and Leirvík have shown that the settler farmers lived in three-aisled long houses of wood, and that the houses were surrounded by a protective wall of stone and earth or exclusively of peat. Small farm buildings are known from the outfield, for example at Argisbrekka.

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The Faroe Islands are presumed to have been colonized from western Norway, and Anglo-Irish elements are also seen in the jewelery material. Two pagan burial sites are known with stone-set tombs from resp. Tjørnuvík and Sand.

The oldest testimonies of church building from 1000-1100-t. is uncovered in Sand built. As in other parts of the Nordic region, there was an expansion of buildings in the early Middle Ages.

Faroe Islands – history

Irish monks were the first to come to the Faroe Islands in the 600’s, but in the early 800’s. they were displaced by Norwegian Vikings who completed a major settlement. The islands thus became linguistically, commercially, politically, religiously and culturally part of the Viking Atlantic’s North Atlantic and Norse whole, and the emigrants brought their Norwegian imaginary world to the islands as well as their social pattern and their agriculture.

  • AbbreviationFinder: Check three-letter abbreviation for each country in the world, such as FRO which represents the official name of Faroe Islands.

How quickly the islands were fully developed is difficult to say, but around 1300-t. the population was probably approximately 4000. This number seems to have been economically sustainable until the end of the 1700’s, when the Faroe Islands, in line with the rest of Western Europe, entered a long-term population growth that lasted until approximately 1990.

The few medieval sources make it probable that the islands up to 1500-t. as a whole has had a social structure consisting of a few large peasants, a number of noble peasants (freehold peasants) as well as tenant peasants under the church, the monarchy and the large peasants, to which was added an underclass of landless peasants and servants in addition to probably up to 1200-t. some unfree slaves. An actual nobility did not exist. From around the year 900, Faroese large farmers gathered for a legislative, judicial and politically decisive Alting.

The first generations were presumably religiously connected to the Nordic faith in God. The interplay between the spread of Christianity and the Norwegian monarchy’s centralization efforts resulted in the Faroe Islands from approximately 1035 became a tax area under Norway. Thereafter, the power of the church and the king increased slowly on the islands. In 1271, the king placed the Faroe Islands under the Norwegian Gulatingscourt, and in 1298 the islands received from the royal power their own basic law book, the Seyðabrævið (Søjde or Sheep Letter), which laid down legal rules in the field of agriculture. The Althing had at that time been changed to a Lagting (Lagting) with probably 36 storekeepers, six from each of the six occupations, which were the administrative units into which the islands were divided, and appointed by the governors, who were a kind of local bailiffs. The parliament now had less political and legislative authority and acted more like a court under the leadership of the lieutenant (lagmanden), who was royally appointed just like the governors.

In 1152, Nidaros (Trondheim) had become the archbishopric of Norway, and until approximately In 1540, the Faroe Islands were a diocese under Nidaros, although at times it was rare for the appointed bishops to actually be on the islands. The center of the church and the diocese in the Middle Ages was Kirkjubøur. Here is still the islands’ only Romanesque parish church from the late 1100’s, dedicated to Olav the Holy (see Olav 2. Haraldsson), as well as the magnificent ruin of the Gothic Magnus Cathedral from around 1300, probably begun by Erlendur (d. 1308), there was bishop 1269-1308.

Politically and commercially, the islands were linked to Bergen in the Middle Ages. In 1380, the Faroe Islands followed Norway under the Danish crown, where they remained with Iceland and Greenland until 1815.

Economically, the Hanseatic cities were dominant in Bergen and the Faroe Islands in the 1300’s and 1400’s. Tórshavn became the country’s leading trading venue in connection with the establishment of the Lagting. Since then, the center of gravity shifted economically and politically to Copenhagen, where the monarchy in the 1500’s and 1600’s. handed over the exclusive right to trade to trading companies. 1655-1709 the Faroe Islands were given on loan to the crown’s creditors, first to Christoffer Gabel, then to his son, Frederik Gabel, in 1670. In 1709 the crown itself took over the monopoly trade on the islands until it was abolished in 1856. The state power had since late 1700 -t. repeatedly unsuccessfully tried to promote overall economic production on the islands by advocating for increased fishing for export and employment.

With the introduction of the Reformation approximately In 1540, the royal power seized the church estates, which at that time made up almost half of the usable land. The land of the crown was attached on lenient terms to so-called royal peasants. By virtue of the family takeover of the stronghold, it soon became a kind of hereditary stronghold, and the royal peasants became the stable core of the social structure. By constant inheritance, buying and selling, the free noble land did not ensure the same stability and prestige for the noble farmer. Incidentally, a royal farmer also often had noble land.

Seven pastoral debts (pastorates) were continued after the Reformation with seven priests, who in turn served the about 40 churches, where the population on Sundays mostly had to make do with lay readings and hymn singing. The ability to read printed writing was, until the introduction of the modern school system after 1872, quite widespread through homeschooling. A small Latin school in Tórshavn had in the 1600’s and 1700’s. meant a lot, but only with the high school from 1861 did the more modern higher education on the islands begin.

In 1687, the autocracy’s new Norwegian Law was introduced in the Faroe Islands, which was continuously supplemented with laws and recipes from the central government in Copenhagen. A scribe, actually a scribe, took over during the 1700’s. in practice more and more of the act of judge, and in 1816 the Lagting was abolished.

In 1821 the status of the Faroe Islands as a county was determined, and the leading officials were then the county governor, the provost, the magistrate (judge), the land bailiff (ie the police chief, the tax chief and until 1856 the head of the royal monopoly) supplemented by a handful of priests, a land physicist (doctor) and Tórshavns Forts commander. The Faroe Islands had previously appointed many of these officials, ie. that the islands had to a large extent governed themselves, but in the 1800’s. the officials were increasingly sending out Danes.

In 1849, the Faroe Islands were placed under the scope of the Constitution with a Faroese representation in the Riksdag. In 1852-54, a modern elected county council was introduced under the name of the Lagting, and in 1872 a municipal division was introduced, which in 1997 numbered 49 primary municipalities. The Lagting’s area of ​​authority was expanded in 1948 under a home rule scheme that is still in force.

In 1856, the royal monopoly trade was abolished, and soon economic activity increased in many areas. Potato cultivation spread successfully in the early 1800’s, and with an extensive expansion of the cultivated area of ​​the settlements, agricultural production increased sharply. Yet it was the transition around 1880 to an export-oriented deep-sea fishery with salting and drying of the fish by female labor that seriously brought the Faroe Islands into the modern market-dominated world community and made fishing the islands’ all-dominating livelihood. In the 1900’s. Fisheries have continuously accounted for more than 90% of exports, thus ensuring payment of the necessary imports. Beginning with the crisis solutions of the 1930’s and continuing from the 1950’s’

Around 1890, a cultural and linguistic self-knowledge appeared on the islands, mediated by the association Føroyingafelag and the magazine Föringatíðindi and from 1899 by a Faroese folk high school. From the beginning, it was built into the cultural Faroese movement that it had to become political, and this open politicization took place in the first decade of the 1900’s with the royal farmer and politician Jóannes Paturssón as initiator. At the center for a long time was the struggle for Faroese in school, church and the judiciary. A linguistic equality between Danish and Faroese in school and church was introduced in 1938/39, and since then Faroese has been dominant on all levels, except in the judiciary.


  • Andreas Samuelsen (1948-50)
  • Christian Djurhuus (1950-59)
  • Peter Mohr Dam (1959-63)
  • Hákun Djurhuus (1963-67)
  • Peter Mohr Dam (1967-68)
  • Christian Djurhuus (1968-70)
  • Atli Dam (1970-81)
  • Pauli Ellefsen (1981-85)
  • Atli Dam (1985-89)
  • Jógvan Sundstein (1989-91)
  • Atli Dam (1991-93)
  • Marita Petersen (1993-94)
  • Edmund Joensen (1994-98)
  • Anfinn Kallsberg (1998-2004)
  • Jóannes Eidesgaard (2004-08)
  • Kaj Leo Johannesen (2008-15)

During World War II, the Faroe Islands were occupied by Great Britain and thus cut off from Denmark. The occupying power mixed only a little, and the islands therefore largely controlled themselves in a collaboration between the county governor and the Lagting, which set up a form of government.

The experience of the war necessitated the abolition of the islands’ county status and far greater Faroese independence. Following a referendum result on the Faroese independence rejected by the government, after new parliamentary elections and lengthy negotiations, an agreement was reached on a home rule system, which came into force in 1948.

Until the deep crisis of recent years, it must be stated that the Home Rule Act until 1990 has functioned as a good framework for increased Faroese independence, during which the major parties in changing coalitions have actively participated in the Faroese government, as well as politically united to modernize fisheries and create a Nordic welfare state. Relations between Denmark and the Faroe Islands were shaken in the 1990’s in connection with the so-called Faroese banking case, which followed in the wake of a devastating economic crisis. It gave the independence supporters renewed support. In the 1998 general election, the Republican Tjóðveldisflokkurin made significant progress, and a National Government was formed, the main goal of which was secession from Denmark and the rapid establishment of a sovereign Faroese republic. There were lengthy but fruitless negotiations with the Danish government, and during 2000 the negotiation process came to a complete standstill.

The beginning of 2000-t.

In the election in 2002, the current national government lost two seats to the Confederation Party, which is against secession, but the small Center Party was admitted to the National Government, which thus continued until 2004, when a coalition of Social Democrats, People’s Party and Sambandsflokkur formed a new national government and more. pragmatic goals than the previous one. In the 2008 election, the coalition government withdrew a mandate. Jóannes Eidesgaardcontinued initially as a lawyer and leader of a coalition consisting of the Javnaðarflokkurin, Tjóðveldi and Miðflokkurin. Later in the year, co-operation collapsed as a result of disagreements both internally within the individual parties and between the parties, and a new coalition government was formed, which now again consisted of the three major parties Fólkaflokkurin, Sambandsflokkurin and Javnaðarflokkurin. The government has been named the ABC government after the parties’ party letters. The new team member was Kaj Leo Johannesen from Sambandsflokkurin.

At the election in 2015, both Sambandsflokkurin and Sambandspartiet declined, while Javnaðarflokkurin became the election’s big winner and the country’s largest party.