Faroe Islands History

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The Faeroese were part of Norway until 1380 when the Norwegian Crown came under the Danish monarchy. Protestantism came by decree of the Danish Crown in 1536. With the Reformation, the power of the medieval church was reduced and the king's power increased. The Faeroese bishopric was abolished and the properties of the church were taken over by the Crown.

The Reformation was also opening the way to Danish influence upon Faeroese society. Under the Danish monarchy, Danish officials and pastors were sent to the Faeroe Islands, and Danish became the language of the church and the court. The authority of the local Faeroese legislature was replaced by direct royal governance in the 1400s. Denmark became sole owner of the islands when Norway was separated from Denmark in 1814.

After losing Norway, Denmark experienced a severe economic depression and was unable to devote resources to developing the Faeroes. The Faeroese had to become more self-reliant and came to resent Danish rule. Faeroese national identity was reaffirmed with the restoration of the Lagting local community government in 1852.

The Danish Lutheran state church under the direction of Danish bishops was the official church of the Faeroes. It was responsible for keeping birth, death, and marriage records. But Scottish fishermen brought another religion in the 1870s. The first congregation of the Plymouth Brethren in the Faeroe Islands was established in 1876, and between 15 and 20 percent of the islands’ inhabitants came to associate themselves with the Brethren.

Following the invasion of Denmark by German forces, the islands passed under the military control of Great Britain in April 1940 and remained a British protectorate throughout the Second World War. British occupation ended in September 1945. Many Faeroese did not want to return to Danish rule. The British fresh fish market offered possibilities for large export revenues, and the Faeroese national movement was strong. After the war it was unthinkable to return to the old county status. In September 1946 as a result of a close plebiscite vote, the Lagting of the Faeroese declared the islands independent of Denmark, ratified by a vote of 12 to 11.

The Faeroe Islands today is a modern society with comparable living standards to the other Nordic countries. But the islands are not without controversy. Whaling became a significant Faeroese industry in the 1600s and 1700s, and this politically unpopular activity continues at a much reduced level today. The Faeroese economy is still supported by a substantial annual subsidy from Denmark.


872 - 1397 Norwegian control of the Faroes continued until 1814, although, when the Kingdom of Norway entered the Kalmar Union with Denmark, it gradually resulted in Danish control of the islands
1538 -1814 The Reformation with Protestant Evangelical Lutheranism and Reformed reached the Faroes in 1538. 1803 - 1816 Following the turmoil caused by the Napoleonic Wars, the Faroe Islands became a county in the Danish Kingdom
1814 - When the union between Denmark and Norway dissolved as a result of the Treaty of Kiel Denmark retained possession of the Faroe Islands; Norway was joined in a union with Sweden
1876 - The first congregation of the Plymouth Brethren in the Faeroe Islands was established
1940 - In the first year of World War II, British troops occupied the Faroe Islands, shortly after the Operation Weserübung with the Nazi German invasion of Denmark
1946 - The Faroe Islands subsequently declared independence, this declaration was annulled by Denmark on 20 September on the grounds that a majority of the Faroese voters had not supported independence
1973 - The Faroe Islands declined to join Denmark in entering the European Economic Community

Population Statistics

Population Statistics

The population of the Faeroe Islands has grown steadily from a few hundred people in the 900s to 1,000 people in the 1300s. Plague hit the Faeroes hard in the late 1300s and what were once important communities became insignificant hamlets. By 1800 the population reached 5,000. Over the period from 1801 to 1860 the number of inhabitants almost doubled, to about 9,000, reaching 12,000 in 1900. In 1925 there were 20,000 inhabitants and 30,000 in 1950. In 1970 the population stood at 41,824.The population peaked in 1989 at 47,838 and declined to 43,393 in 1995, whereupon it began again to rise, presently standing at 45,200. Eighty percent or more of the population are members of the state Lutheran church, though the Plymouth Brethren are also established on the island and constitute more than fifteen percent. Among other religious denominations (each with less than 1%) are the Pentecostalists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Roman Catholics.