dr. Sigurður

Away! Faraway! - And to Another Continent. Personal Sources of Icelandic Immigrants to Canada.
(Reykjavík, 2001)

Anthology from diaries of eight Icelandic emigrants to North America in the 19th century (Anthology from Icelandic Popular Culture 5)

Historical Background

The majority of the Icelandic population was literate during the 19th century. Those who moved to the USA and Canada during the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century took with them the skills of reading and writing. More importantly, these people often wrote down their thoughts and ideas before they decided to move to a new country. They recorded their experiences during their passage to the New World and documented their daily struggles on a new continent. Their thoughts were expressed in private diaries or journals, in letters to family and friends back home, and in autobiographies. These sources have mostly stayed in private hands and therefore out of reach for historians. Because of this and trends in the use of historical methods, these first hand sources have not got the scholarly attention which they definitely deserve.

The Autobiographical Advantage

The advantages of using personal sources, when one is researching people's everyday life, are enormous. No other historical documents are likely to give the historian the opportunity to look into the mentality of the people who took part in the great migration. In diaries we witness desires, frustrations, surprises and the general world view of those who made the dramatic decision to move to the New World. These perspectives are extremely important to understand in depth the struggle which people had to go through on their way to "the promised land".

The book

"Icelanders On the Move" is an attempt to show how eight individuals, and their families from this small island in the North Atlantic Oceean in the 19th century, decided to pack their bags and move to a foreign continent. It also demonstrates how they took on the challenge of the trip itself, to America, and finally, how they experienced their first year in the New World. The diarists represent a wide spectrum of the social strata in Iceland, from workers and poor peasants to goldsmiths and wealthy farmers. They come from a large collection of extremely colourful diaries which have ended up in manuscript departments in Iceland and are in the group of the very best of that collection. Each individual diarist will be introduced before the excerpts are shown and the authors will write an extensive introductory chapter to the book where they will shed light on one of the most important historical transitions in the eleven hundred year history of Iceland: - the great migration to North America.

The Authors

Dr. Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon received his Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, USA, in 1993, and has since then been a lecturer at the University of Iceland and a member of the Reykjavik Academia, an interdisciplinary research group located in Reykjavik. He is the founder of a book series called "Anthology from Icelandic Popular Culture" and he has recently published a monograph called "Education, Love, and Grief: A Micro-Historical Analysis of the 19th and the 20th Century Peasant Society in Iceland." (Studia historica 13 (1997)), another called "The Sound of Divine Revelation. A Diary, Autobiography, Letters and Poems of Magnus Hj. Magnusson." (Anthology from Icelandic Popular Culture 2 (1998)). He has led a group of scholars who have used and developed microhistorical approach in historical research in Iceland.

Davíð Ólafsson, MA in history from the Univesity of Iceland, is the country's leading expert on diaries as a historical source, and has written extensively on the subject. His groundbreaking research on the scope of the Icelandic diary-writing in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries has in fact opened up a new way of dealing with historical questions concerning this time period. He is currently a member of the Reykjavík Academia and is working on research on literacy and popular culture.

Academic liturgy
From Re-evaluation to Disintegration
History War
Dreams of Things Past
Education, Love and Grief
Pieces and Molds
The Sound of Divine Revelation
Microhistory - Conflicting Paths
Brothers from the Stranda Commune
Modes of Living in Reykjavik, 1930-1940
Away. Faraway! - And to Another Continent
The Contours of Social History
Method facing a Dilemma
"I am 479 Days Younger than Nilli."...
Modern fairy tales...
Dissertation: The Continuity of Everyday Life
The Reykjavík Academy
Íslensk heimasíða
© 2006 - Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon