Settled by Norwegian and Celtic (Scottish and Irish) immigrants during the late 9th and 10th centuries A. D, Iceland boasts the world's oldest functioning legislative assembly, the Althing, established in 930.
Fallout from the Askja volcano of 1875 devastated the Icelandic economy and caused widespread famine.
Over the next quarter century, 20% of the island's population emigrated, mostly to Canada and the US. Denmark granted limited home rule in 1874 and complete independence in 1944.
The second half of the 20th century saw substantial economic growth driven primarily by the fishing industry.
Literacy, longevity, and social cohesion are first rate by world standards.