History of Greenland

The history of Greenland is a history of life under extreme Arctic conditions: currently, an ice sheet covers about eighty percent of the island, restricting human activity largely to the coasts. The first humans are thought to have arrived in Greenland around 2500 BC. Their descendants apparently died out and were succeeded by several other groups migrating from continental North America. There has been no evidence discovered that Greenland was known to Europeans until the 10th century, when Icelandic Vikings settled on its southwestern coast, which seems to have been uninhabited when they arrived. The ancestors of the Inuit Greenlanders who live there today appear to have migrated there later, around AD 1200, from northwestern Greenland. While the Inuit survived in the icy world of the Little Ice Age, the early Norse settlements along the southwestern coast disappeared, leaving the Inuit as the only inhabitants of the island for several centuries. During this time, Denmark-Norway, apparently believing the Norse settlements had survived, continued to claim sovereignty over the island despite the lack of any contact between the Norse Greenlanders and their Scandinavian brethren. In 1721, aspiring to become a colonial power, Denmark-Norway sent a missionary expedition to Greenland with the stated aim of reinstating Christianity among descendants of the Norse Greenlanders who may have reverted to paganism. When the missionaries found no descendants of the Norse Greenlanders, they baptized the Inuit Greenlanders they found living there instead. Denmark-Norway then developed trading colonies along the coast and imposed a trade monopoly and other colonial privileges on the area. During World War II, when Germany invaded Denmark, Greenlanders became socially and economically less connected to Denmark and more connected to the United States. After the war, Denmark resumed control of Greenland and in 1953, converted its status from colony to overseas amt (county). Although Greenland is still a part of the Kingdom of Denmark, it has enjoyed home rule since 1979. In 1985, the island decided to leave the European Economic Community (EEC), which it had joined as a part of Denmark in 1973; the Faroes had never joined.


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