The earliest known inhabitants were Celtic. In the 8th cent. A.D. the islands were settled by Norsemen. In the early 11th cent. they became part of the kingdom of Norway and were Christianized. The population was nearly wiped out by an outbreak of black plague in the 14th cent. and was soon after replaced by Norwegian settlers. Along with Norway, the Faeroes passed under Danish rule in 1380, and they remained Danish after the Treaty of Kiel (1814) transferred Norway from the Danish to the Swedish crown. A nationalist movement in the 19th cent. led to the revival of Faeroese, a language akin to Icelandic, and there is an extensive native literature.
In World War II, Great Britain established (1940) a protectorate over the islands after the German occupation of Denmark. After the war there was considerable sentiment for full independence, and following a plebiscite in 1946, the islands' parliament proclaimed independence. The Danish king dissolved the Lagting, and after a new parliament was elected, the proclamation was reversed. However, in 1948 the Faeroese obtained home rule from Denmark. Since 1953 they have sent two representatives to the Danish parliament. The Faeroes did not join the European Community (EC; now the European Union) with Denmark in 1972 because it would have opened their fishing waters to other EC members. In 1977 the fishing limit was extended to 200 nautical mi (370 km). Sentiment in favor of independence remains strong among many islanders.
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