Iceland in the 1950’s

By | March 4, 2022

Population. – According to the 1950 census, the population was 144,263. with a density of 1.4 residents per km 2 ; the evaluation of 1958 gave a value of 170,156 residents; from the 1940 census to the 1958 valuation the overall increase was 48,682 units. Given the development of the fishing activity and the strategic importance assumed by the island, the population tends to concentrate in the coastal areas with a phenomenon of urbanism.

Economy. – The position of Iceland between Europe and America it has made the island one of the most strategic and most privileged points in relation to international traffic, so much so that the major airlines have established scheduled stopovers there. This set of circumstances has led to an imbalance of the economy and to inflation; to keep the standard of living of the residents very high, a considerable amount of imports is necessary which are not balanced by exports; the first in 1957 had a value of 1.362 million crowns, the second 987. The major supplier countries in order of importance are the USSR, the USA, England, West Germany, Denmark. Of considerable importance is the increase that occurred in fishing activity with the creation of a flotilla equipped with very modern technical means, for a total tonnage of 54,531 t. The climate conditions only allow the development of poor pastures; intensive farming is made up of sheep species (770,000 heads in 1958); there are 49,000 cattle and 33,000 horses (1958); among these also the ponies widely used for internal communications. There is a tendency to replenish the forest heritage with the importation of conifers from Canada. Electricity production: 460 million kWh (1958). 000 and 33,000 horses (1958); among these also the ponies widely used for internal communications. There is a tendency to replenish the forest heritage with the importation of conifers from Canada. Electricity production: 460 million kWh (1958). 000 and 33,000 horses (1958); among these also the ponies widely used for internal communications. There is a tendency to replenish the forest heritage with the importation of conifers from Canada. Electricity production: 460 million kWh (1958).

Finances. – Since April 1951 Iceland has had a system of multiple exchanges based on exchange certificates, whereby the major burden that it placed on importers was distributed in the form of subsidies to exporters. From December 1956 to February 1961 the certificate mechanism was replaced with a system of export premiums and import taxes. Most of the exchanges were settled at an exchange rate of 16.26 (on purchase) and 16.32 kronur (on sale) per dollar, plus various premiums or taxes. In February 1961 the multiple exchange system was abolished, while the crown was devalued. The new official parity is 38 kronur for one US dollar and all transactions are done at an exchange rate ranging from 38 to 38.10 kronur (at the sale).

History. – Inserted in the system of economic aid of the USA to Europe which goes by the name of the Marshall Plan, – a real depressed area of ‚Äč‚Äčnorthern Europe – had a tangible and immediate relief for an amount, in 1948-49, of 11 million dollars. Even the Iceland, which due to its position represents an important point in the strategic defense of the USA and northern Europe, joined the Atlantic Pact signed in Washington on April 4, 1949 and ratified on July 22, 1949. In the framework of NATO it followed, in 1951, the lease to the USA from the Keflavik air base. Inside, the economic and financial difficulties with a largely deficit balance of payments in spite of American aid, have made the life of the governments that have gradually succeeded one another in power particularly unstable. Numerous government crises have pointed out this widespread unease and, on several occasions, the question of joining NATO and leasing the Keflavik base to the USA has been called into question, especially in the various electoral campaigns. Under the pressure of economic difficulties, Icelanders have been extremely uncompromising in terms of fishing rights in the Icelandic territorial sea, since 15 May 1952 considered extended by 4 miles starting from the outermost line of the headlands of the islands and rocks. This measure, determined by the serious depletion of fish resources, opened the way to a long dispute with Great Britain, which resulted in a real economic hostility between the two countries, never really sedated so far and not without serious incidents.

The elections of October 1959 were also held under the sign of economic problems and, setting aside the problem of joining NATO and the Keflavik air base, all the parties agreed to oppose British claims in terms of rights of fishing. The country’s economic crisis has underlined a certain shift to the left of the Icelandic electorate, with the attribution of 24 seats to the independents (conservatives), 17 to the progressives (agrarians), 9 to the Social Democrats and 10 to the Communists. This fact had limited consequences in the government, because after the resignation of the government of the progressive Harman Jonasson (4 December 1959), a minority Social Democratic government came to power with Emil Jonsson, supported by the separatists.

Iceland in the 1950's