The Danish state council and Icelandic politics 1874-1915

Birgir Hermannsson


The main purpose of this article is to trace the debate in Iceland about the inclusion of the minister of Iceland in the Danish state council from 1874 to 1915. This debate concerned the interpretation of the Danish Positional Law and whether the Danish Constitution was in some regards also enforceable in Iceland. The state council was included in the Icelandic constitution in 1903 and proposed changes hotly debated until 1915. To understand this debate the political discourse on the state council is analyzed and its role in the wider struggle for independence. The Icelandic opposition to the state council was based on the definition of specific Icelandic issues apart from Danish ones in the Positional law and the proposition that the state council was a Danish institution defined by the Danish constitution. It was therefore against Icelandic self-rule to discuss and decide on specific Icelandic issues in a Danish institution. During the independence struggle Icelanders had to decide whether the state council clause was a matter of principle and should therefore stand in the way of agreement with Denmark or whether a more pragmatic view should be taken. The disagreement was therefore not only between Iceland and Denmark but also a source of conflict and disagreement within Iceland.


State council; struggle for independence; Icelandic constitution; nationalism.

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