The History of the Faroe Islands

Spotted by St. Brendan and his monks while sailing past the jewel islands, the Faroes were first settled by these Irish monks late in the 6th century. The monks were most likely either seeking pagan souls they could save, or were in search of a peaceful refuge away from pirates and tyrants from the mainland. Large amounts of Viking settlers came to the islands in the 9th century, from whom the current population is largely descendant – during your travel to Faroe Islands you can still see the Viking influence on the region today. The Faroes converted to Christianity around the year 1000 when the King of Norway, Olaf Tryggvason claimed the islands. They officially became part of the Kingdon of Norway in 1035. The Kingdom of Norway formally joined the Kingdom of Denmark in 1380, and the Faroe Islands soon adopted Danish laws. In 1655 the Danish government allotted the Faroes to Christoffer von Gabel as a personal feudal estate, bringing oppressive rule and exploitation to the islanders until 1709 when the government relieved the von Gabel family of the islands. In 1814 the Treaty of Kiel separated the kingdoms of Norway and Denmark, within that agreement the Faroe Islands remained under Denmark’s control. The Danish government officially incorporated the Faroes into the legislature in 1849, offering them two seats in the House. Despite this representation, by the 1890’s many Faroese were expressing desires for home rule instead of inclusion in Denmark’s government. This sentiment never came to fruition due to the impact of British presence during WWII and the 1948 Act of Faroese Home Rule passed by Denmark, which changed the Faroe Island status from a county to a self-governing community within the Kingdom of Denmark.

On a tour of the islands, you will experience the flag and language that the Faroese developed independent from Denmark. They also formed their own legislative body refusing to join the European Union along with Denmark. The Faroese are given independence to decide their own affairs inasmuch as it does not affect Denmark. Denmark still controls and is responsible for insurance, banking, defense, foreign relations and justice. In return the Faroe Islands receive a large federal subsidy amounting to around 15% of their total budget. In recovery stages from a serious recession in the early 1990s that lead to a lot of emigration to Denmark, the Faroe economy is picking up again and cod fisheries are reaping profits. The increased popularity of Faroe Islands travel has also helped the local economy. Efforts and sentiment towards establishing independence have once again been revived, and we may see the formation of a new country in the upcoming years.