Iceland travel books 1854-1914

This contribution looks at a selection of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century travel books published by North American visitors to Iceland. The fascination of nineteenth-century British tourists with northern latitudes has been the subject of considerable scholarship by Andrew Wawn and Jón Karl Helgason (amongst others) in recent years. Hitherto, American accounts of travel to Iceland have not been examined in much detail, however. As well as presenting an overview of these little-studied travel books (who were the authors, when and why did they visit Iceland and choose to publish their travel narratives, where did they go?), this essay will attempt to identify what can be said to characterise these American accounts, as well as to evaluate the interest that each author had in the sagas of Icelanders (Íslendingasögur).

in From Iceland to the Americas

Scottish identity is closely linked to the development of a Scottish culture. There is a body of literature that has explored aspects of art, culture and literature and its distinctiveness from other British culture. This chapter explores art and culture, the role it plays in Scottish life and its role in maintaining a distinctive Scottish identity within Scotland.

in Scotland
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We finish with a conclusion in which we seek to bring together various aspects of Scottish politics and society and perhaps indulge in some tightly focused crystal-ball gazing, in terms of the future direction of the country. After two referendums, on Scottish independence and on EU membership, it is clear that the constitutional future of Scotland is a matter of ongoing debate. We reflect on this and on the wider implications for Scottish society and identity.

in Scotland

The reputation of Christopher Columbus has fluctuated over the centuries, with writers sometimes treating him as a hero, and at other times emphasising his crimes against the Arawaks and his legacy of genocide against other indigenous peoples of North and South America. Some of these critics note that the title of ‘Discoverer’ serves to diminish the history of indigenous people and to justify their continued exploitation. Occasionally, critics have attacked the notion of Columbus as ‘Discoverer’ by pointing to the earlier Norse voyages. This chapter analyses works of popular history written since the excavations at L’Anse aux Meadows and argues that using the Norse voyages in this way tends to reproduce Eurocentric assumptions but can also serve as a helpful occasion to imagine pro-indigenous alternatives to European conquest.

in From Iceland to the Americas
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Because Scotland is a relatively small country, there are equally small landowning, business and policymaking elites. This chapter, contributed by David Torrance, explores a range of elites, from the traditional class-based elites, to those elites operating in business, in politics, in policymaking and decision-making. Scotland often likes to think of itself as a left-of-centre egalitarian society; Torrance examines the extent to which this is accurate and the extent to which class and contacts remain important vehicles for ‘getting on’ in society. The chapter also explores the extent to which elite and ‘mass’ views of society and politics diverge.

in Scotland
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The census has demonstrated that Scotland is increasingly a multicultural society and the proportion of black and minority ethnic (BME) people in Scotland has doubled to 4 per cent between 2001 and 2011. In Glasgow it is 12 per cent. This chapter looks at the ‘ethnic’ make up of Scottish society and discusses the experiences of minority groups, refugees and asylum seekers and migrant workers. The chapter will make reference also to white migrants within Scotland, for example from Europe, Ireland and the rest of the UK.

in Scotland
Vinland and historical imagination

From Iceland to the Americas, an anthology of thirteen original critical essays, is an exercise in the reception of a small historical fact with wide-ranging social, cultural, and imaginative consequences. Medieval records claim that around the year 1000 Leif Eiriksson and other Nordic explorers sailed westwards from Iceland and Greenland to a place they called Vinland. Archaeological evidence has in fact verified this claim, though primarily by way of one small, short-lived Norse settlement in Newfoundland, which may not even have been Leif’s. Whether or not this settlement was his, however, the contact associated with him has had an outsized impact on cultural imagination in and of the Americas. Since the middle of the nineteenth century, indeed, novels, poetry, history, politics, arts and crafts, comics, films and video games have all reflected a rising interest in the medieval Norse and their North American presence. Uniquely in reception studies, From Iceland to the Americas approaches this dynamic between Nordic history and its reception by bringing together international authorities on mythology, language, film, and cultural studies, as well as on the literature that has dominated critical reception. Collectively, the essays not only explore the connections among medieval Iceland and the modern Americas, but also probe why medieval contact has become a modern cultural touchstone.

Vinland as remembered by Icelanders

The Old Icelandic Vinland sagas enjoy a special status in American culture as the oldest written accounts of an attempted European settlement in the New World. But how are these stories conceived by the people who can actually claim direct descent from Leif Eiriksson and his fellow pioneers, that is the Icelanders? This contribution explores the various ways in which the story of Vinland has been framed in the cultural memory of Icelanders on both sides of the Atlantic. It focuses on written sources from the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries, when new ideas on Icelandic nationhood emerged in the spirit of the island’s independence movement. Furthermore, it compares the ideas of Icelanders in Iceland to those of Icelandic immigrants in the New World and analyses the differences between them, using the theoretical concept of territorial kinship. Was the Icelandic approach to Vinland on the other side of the Atlantic markedly different from that of the Icelanders who stayed at home? And if so, what does this tell us about the construction of national self-images at home and abroad?

in From Iceland to the Americas
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There is a sizeable literature on how Scotland is portrayed or indeed portrays itself. We look at tartan imagery (the ‘Tartan Monster’, as Tom Nairn put it), at images of the ‘kailyard’, ‘Clydesidism’ and the international image of Scotland as a land of heather and glens, whisky, haggis and shortbread. All nations use different forms of imagery but Scotland’s imagery (particularly tartan) is recognised worldwide. Scots are sometimes uncomfortable with this but recognise it as an important marketing tool. We add to the traditional considerations and presentations by looking at how Scotland and being Scottish is employed in contemporary literature and Arts both within and outwith Scotland. We will ask if there is a modern image of Scotland to which all Scots could subscribe and that might be more appropriate in the twenty-first century.

in Scotland
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We begin by asking how many Scotlands there are and how we may make sense of them. Geography has long acted as a way of dividing the country – for example Highland versus Lowland, Glasgow versus Edinburgh, etc. – but people also have an overarching sense of belonging to another Scotland, whatever it might be. There are those who feel part of civic Scotland and those who feel excluded. There are social, religious and cultural differences within Scotland, as within any country. What we focus on and set out in this initial chapter is how we will differentiate them and approach our task, by unpicking the various elements within Scottish life, to expose the many Scotlands that exist, and the many Scots who inhabit them.

in Scotland