The Faroe Islands (Faroese: Føroyar, meaning "Sheep Islands") are a group of islands in the north Atlantic Ocean between Scotland and Iceland. They are an autonomous region of the kingdom of Denmark. Since 1948 they have had self-government in almost all matters except defence and foreign affairs.
The early history of the Faroe Islands is not clear. It appears that about the beginning of the 9th century Grímur Kamban, a Norwegian emigrant who had left his country to escape the tyranny of Harald I of Norway, settled in the islands. Early in the 11th century Sigmund or Sigmundur Brestisson, whose family had flourished in the southern islands but had been almost exterminated by invaders from the northern, was sent from Norway, whither he had escaped, to take possession of the islands for Olaf Tryggvason, king of Norway. He introduced Christianity, and, though he was subsequently murdered, Norwegian supremacy was upheld, and continued till 1386, when the islands became part of the Kalmar Union and later the double monarchy Denmark-Norway. Denmark retained possession of the Faroe Islands at the Treaty of Kiel in 1815.
A high degree of self-government was attained in 1948 and the Faroese are supported by a substantial annual subsidy from Denmark. The islanders are about evenly split between those favoring complete independence and those who prefer continued presence in the Danish state.
The islands are administratively parted in seven counties, which again are divided into 120 communities.
The Faroe Islands are an island group consisting of 18 islands, off the coast of Northern Europe, between the Norwegian Sea and the north Atlantic Ocean, about one-half of the way from Iceland to Norway. Its coordinates are 62 00 N, 7 00 W. It is 1,399 square kilometers in area, and includes no major lakes or rivers. There are 1,117 kilometers of coastline, and no land boundaries with any other country. The only island that is uninhabited is Lítla Dímun.
The Faroe Islands generally have cool summers and mild winters, with a usually overcast sky and frequent fog and heavy winds. The islands are rugged and rocky with some low peaks; the coasts are mostly bordered by cliffs. The lowest point is at sea level, and the highest is at Slættaratindur, which is 882 meters above sea level.
After the severe economic troubles of the early 1990s, brought on by a drop in the vital fish catch, the Faroe Islands have come back in the last few years, with unemployment down to 5% in mid-1998. Nevertheless, the almost total dependence on fishing means the economy remains extremely vulnerable. The Faroese hope to broaden their economic base by building new fish-processing plants. Oil finds close to the Faroese area give hope for deposits in the immediate area, which may lay the basis to sustained economic prosperity.