Source: US State Department
In the early 19th century, national consciousness revived in Iceland. The Althingi had been abolished in 1800 but was reestablished in 1843 as a consultative assembly. In 1874, Denmark granted Iceland home rule, which again was extended in 1904. The constitution, written in 1874, was revised in 1903, and a minister for Icelandic affairs, residing in Reykjavik, was made responsible to the Althingi. The Act of Union, a 1918 agreement with Denmark, recognized Iceland as a fully sovereign state united with Denmark under a common king. Iceland established its own flag, but Denmark continued to represent Icelandic foreign affairs and defense interests.
German occupation of Denmark in 1940 severed communications between Iceland and Denmark. Consequently, Iceland moved immediately to assume control over its own territorial waters and foreign affairs. In May 1940, British military forces occupied Iceland. In July 1941, responsibility for Iceland's defense passed to the United States. Following a plebiscite, Iceland formally became an independent republic on June 17, 1944.
In October 1946, the Icelandic and U.S. Governments agreed to terminate U.S. responsibility for the defense of Iceland, but the United States retained certain rights at Keflavik. Iceland became a charter member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949. Iceland is the only NATO country with no standing military of its own. After the outbreak of hostilities in Korea in 1950, and pursuant to the request of NATO military authorities, the United States and Iceland agreed that the United States should again be responsible for Iceland's defense. In a bilateral defense agreement signed on May 5, 1951, the United States committed to make arrangements on behalf of NATO for the defense of Iceland. Under this agreement the United States maintained a military presence in Iceland for over 55 years.
In the years following the end of the Cold War, as the military threat to Iceland and the North Atlantic area decreased, the United States gradually reduced its presence at Keflavik. On September 30, 2006, the last permanently stationed U.S. military forces departed Iceland, and most facilities that had been used by the U.S. military were turned over to the Icelandic Government. The 1951 Defense Agreement remains in force, and the U.S. Government remains committed to the defense of Iceland under both that agreement and the North Atlantic Treaty, the founding document of NATO. On October 11, 2006, Prime Minister Geir Haarde, Foreign Minister Valgerður Sverrisdóttir, and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed a Joint Understanding regarding future security cooperation between the two countries, focusing on the most serious contemporary threats, such as terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and transnational crime
NOTE: The information regarding Iceland on this page is re-published from the US State Department. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Iceland History information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Iceland History should be addressed to the State Department.