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Wasteland with Words


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Table of Contents

Introduction: Blind Spots in History 1 Modern Times: Society, Work and Demography 2 People and Politics 3 The Feeling of Swallowing a Hunchback: Material Culture 4 Icelandic Connections: The Lure of the New World 5 Tactics for Emotional Survival: Education, Work and Entertainment 6 Death and Daily Life 7 Childhood, Youth and the Formation of the Individual 8 A True Passion: Writing as Personal Expression 9 The Shaping of Modern Man 10 The Middle Ages and Beyond: A Cultural Foundation 11 The Barefoot Historians and the 'People's Press' 12 Urban Living: Industry, Labour and Living Conditions 13 The Myth of the Modern Woman: Gender Roles in Urban and Rural Iceland 14 Death in the City 15 Children in Urban Areas 16 Monsters from the Deep and the Icelandic Way of Thinking 17 Selective Modernization and Capitalist Euphoria 18 'Iceland Sucks!' References Select Bibliography Acknowledgements Photo Acknowledgements Index

About the Author

Sigurdur Gylfi Magnusson is the Chair of the Center for Microhistorical Research at the Reykjavik Academy. He is the author of many books, including Microhistory - Conflicting Paths and The History War: Essays and Narratives on Ideology.


'Magnusson narrates a well-timed history of Iceland through the lives of ordinary people and local communities in a pointillist style that evokes a rich heritage. He shows how a localised barter economy, based in fishing and agriculture, became a financial system with a global strategy that fatally overreached itself with embarrassing international political and financial consequences. The dust has yet to settle.' - The Times '[a] combination of cultural depth and material backwardness is the central message of Sigurdur Gylfi Magnusson's social history of one of Europe's smallest and remotest countries ... This book, drawing on Icelanders' astonishingly detailed diaries and letters in past centuries, gives the outsider a rare glimpse into the past lives of an extraordinary people.' - Edward Lucas, The Economist 'Magnusson's ambitious work provides a unique perspective on the development of Iceland's cultural heritage ... an unflinching look into Iceland's past through the literary legacy of many average Icelanders and attempts to construct a clearer picture of the development of Iceland's culture and educational past ... well researched and full of rich resources, the book provides unique insight into a truly unparalleled country and culture, not found in many works available to English readers ... an important work. Highly recommended.' - Choice 'an intimate and personal history of Iceland ... Anyone planning to travel to Iceland will find that this well-written book offers a valuable background on the island's unique social and cultural history.' - Sydney Morning Herald 'an indispensible book for everyone who is interested in the history of Iceland. It is a highly informative piece of solid scholarly work, with a clear methodology and it is simply very well written. Finally, just a word of praise about the superior choice of illustrations throughout the book and the highly informative captions that accompany them.' - TijdSchrift voor Skandinavistiek 'a very welcome addition to the small number of books about Iceland's modern history available in English. The few other works on modern Icelandic history are largely written in Icelandic for local consumption. This means that the rest of the world is largely starved of any broader or deeper understanding of Iceland beyond the headline-grabbing activities of its bankers and volcanoes ... as an introduction to 19th- and 20th-century Icelandic history it is excellent.' - Reviews in History 'An unusual approach to social history, with the emphasis on the last two centuries but looking back also to earlier periods, this study is impressive methodologically and conceptually and has much to offer those working on the social history of other countries. Good in its range which includes cultural history. Fascinating range of sources.' - The Historian '[Magnusson] tells the story of Iceland from the bottom up, through examples culled from diaries, newspapers, and the histories of particular families. He avoids discussing the ceremonial and official. He has read an amazing number of Icelandic autobiographies. His writing is fluid, lithe and informal.' - The Grapevine, Iceland

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