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The Faroe Islands: Interpretations of History (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 15. Juli 2014

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Fish and Literature Build a Nation 27. Juni 2001
Von Bob Newman - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
The Faroe Islands cover about 540 square miles of steep green territory in the stormy North Atlantic and only 34 square miles of that is arable. Most of the rest is turned over to sheep, whose wool long provided material for the export of stockings. Settled first by Scandinavian farmers and fishermen in the 9th century, the Faroes did not differ greatly from other Norse outposts of the time. They lost their independence in the 13th century, being ruled then from Norway, were decimated by plague in the 14th century, and soon transferred to Danish control under the Union of Kalmar which united Denmark with Norway for centuries. Though semi-autonomous---with their own postage stamps and World Cup football team---the Faroes are still linked to Denmark today.
Given the lack of much solid information about the early period of Faroese history, Jonathan Wylie had to concentrate on later times. His history has the feel of an anthropologist straining at the leash, dashing impetuously and gladly towards an anthropological theme, then reluctantly returning to the task at hand. Perhaps an out-and-out book of anthropology would have been better. Not that THE FAROE ISLANDS, INTERPRETATIONS OF HISTORY is bad, but Wylie excels in the "interpretations" rather than in the presentation of straight history. He concentrates on economic and church life in the 1500-1800 period when for a long time Faroes trade was completely dominated by a government monopoly, the result of which was that little change occured in society. To better portray the feel of society at the time, he analyzes some folk tales. This is among the most fascinating parts of the book and again shows where his true talents lie. The conservatism of Faroe society extended even to population control. The authorities prevented landless people from marrying ! The Danish language was used in religion and commerce, but at home people still spoke Faroese. When, in the 19th century, an economic revolution occured with the end of the Monopoly and the birth of a modern fishing industry, it was accompanied by a rise in population and in the status of the local language too. Language and literature became the vehicle for increasing demands for self-rule. Linguistics and linguistics professors played a major role in Faroese history, unlike in any other country I've ever heard of. Wylie does an excellent job in describing the links between language and national feeling. By 1920, he says, "...although the Faroes did not become a nation in political fact, they had essentially acquired a national culture: a shared sense of political and cultural distinctiveness articulated in locally based, locally staffed formal institutions as well as in a set of internationally and locally recognized symbols of nationhood."
This is an academic work, a book for scholars, not for Lonely Planet fans. You are going to find masses of names, wade through a lot of complicated information. And you will find references within the text, an unpleasant feature of many academic books. However, I note the above only to alert general readers. THE FAROE ISLANDS is a thoughtful, interesting work which must be useful to anyone with a serious desire to understand Faroe society in history. The comparisons with Iceland and the Shetlands in the conclusion are especially fascinating. If you stay the course, you will come away with many insights into a small, but interesting part of the world.
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