By Tim Lambert

The Inuit in Greenland

The first inhabitants of Greenland were the Inuit. They lived in Greenland for long periods but there were also times when Greenland was uninhabited. The first people to live in Greenland were the Saqqaq people who lived there from about 2,500 BC to about 900 BC. Greenland was then uninhabited to about 500 BC when the Dorset people came. They lived in Greenland till about the 1st century AD. The Thule people arrived in Greenland in the 10th century.

The Vikings in Greenland

The Vikings arrived in Greenland at the end of the 10th century. They were led by Erikr Povaldsson (c.950-1003), known as Erik the Red because of his red hair. Erik first sailed to Greenland about 982 and he like what he saw. Erik the Red is said to have given the country its name 'Greenland' hoping it would attract settlers. At any rate around 985 Erik led the first Viking settlers to Greenland. He set out with a fleet of 25 ships but only 14 of them made it.

The Vikings were able to live in Greenland because at that time the climate of was milder that it is today and the settlers were able to live by farming. The Vikings made two settlements in Greenland, a Western and an Eastern settlement. Eventually the European population of Greenland rose to over 3,000. In 1126 Greenland gained a bishop and in 1261 Greenland became part of Norway. Then in 1380 Norway was joined to Denmark and Greenland came under Danish rule.

Throughout history the climate of the Earth has varied. In the 10th century the Earth was relatively warm. That allowed the Vikings to settle on Greenland. However in the early 14th century the Earth cooled spelling doom for the colonies in Greenland. The Viking settlements in Greenland died out in the 15th century.

Viking life in Greenland had the same characteristics as life elsewhere. Viking daily life

Modern Greenland

In 1578 the Englishman Martin Frobisher landed on Greenland. Then in 1585 and 1587 John Davis explored the eastern coast and the Davis Strait is named after him. From the late 17th century European whalers visited Greenland.

Europeans returned to Greenland permanently in 1721 when the missionary Hans Egede (1686-1758) went to evangelize the Inuit. In 1728 Egede founded Godthab (now called Nuuk). Greenland formally came under Danish rule again in 1729.

In 1888 a Norwegian named Fridtjof Nansen led the first expedition to cross Greenland.

In 1940 the Germans occupied Denmark but afterwards, in 1941 the USA established bases in Greenland. In 1953 Greenland ceased to be a colony of Denmark and became a province (an integral part of the country). The Bank of Greenland was founded in 1966 and in 1973 Greenland with Denmark became part of the EU. However links with Denmark weakened. In 1979 Greenland was granted home rule. In 1982 the people of Greenland voted to leave the EU and they ceded in 1985. Also in 1985 Greenland obtained a flag. Greenland was granted still more autonomy in 2009. Kalaallisut was made the official language of Greenland instead of Danish. Today the official name of Greenland is Kalaallit Nunaat. However the queen of Denmark is still the head of state of Greenland.

Today the population of Greenland is 57,000. The capital of Greenland, Nuuk has a population of 15,000. Most of the population of Greenland are Inuit.


Today the main industry in Greenland is fishing. However Greenland has great potential for tourism. Greenland is also very rich in minerals.

A Brief History of Canada

A Brief History of Denmark

A Brief History of Norway

A Brief History of Sweden


Last Revised 2017