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22.04.2020

Skuli Magnusson Statue

Skúli Magnússon (* 1711 in Keldunes near Húsavík; † 1794, often called Skúli fógeti) was the first Icelander to hold the office of Icelandic bailiff.
Skúli studied at Copenhagen University from 1732 to 1734.

In 1749 he became the first Icelander to be entrusted with the office of the bailiff and had his seat in Bessastaðir. He realised that the Danish trade monopoly, which had existed since 1602 and only allowed trade representatives to do business in Iceland, was damaging to the country, and he advocated the assumption of trade control by his own countrymen. He participated in the foundation of a partnership (Innréttingarnar), which from 1752 encouraged the establishment of manufactories. For this he had obtained the permission of the Danish King Frederick V.

Skúli thus ensured that the first fish, fur and wool processing plants were established in Reykjavík. In this way, he contributed significantly to the rise of the city, which had previously consisted of only a few settlements. Skúli himself built Viðeyarstofa Manor House on Viðey Island in 1755, the first stone house in Iceland.

The Danish merchants feared that the goods produced in the manufactories might spoil their business and therefore boycotted trade with them. They thus prevented the development of their own Icelandic economy. The shortage of money in the partnership, which was also supported by the king, ultimately led to it being taken over by the Danish monopoly company in 1764; this was also associated with Skúli's disempowerment.

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