The country is sometimes erroneously called The Republic of Iceland and sometimes its counterpart Lýðveldið Ísland in Icelandic, but the official name is rather like the official name of Canada - simply the country name. One example of the former is the name of the Constitution of Iceland, which in Icelandic is Stjórnarskrá lýðveldisins Íslands and literally means "the Constitution of the republic of Iceland", but note that "republic" is not capitalized. The official title of the President of Iceland (Forseti Íslands) does also not include the word republic as in some other republics. See also Names for Iceland.
Icelanders, especially those living on the main island, have had a tumultuous history. Development of the island was slow due to a lack of interest from the countries controlling it for most of its history; Norway, Denmark–Norway, and ultimately Denmark. Through this time, Iceland had relatively few contacts with the outside world. The island became independent in union with Denmark in 1918. Since 1944, Iceland has been a republic, and Icelandic society has undergone rapid a modernization process in the post-independence era.
Due to the isolated location of Iceland, immigration and genetic inflow was limited among its indigenous population for hundreds of years; thus the population was considered to be highly homogeneous in terms of its genes. This genetic similarity and unusually well-documented genealogy of the Icelanders are being utilized today for genetic studies.
Vigdís Finnbogadóttir (born 15 April 1930) was the fourth president of Iceland, serving from 1980 to 1996. She was the world's first elected female president. She was Iceland's first and so far only female president and head of state. In 1980 she was the first woman in the world to be elected the head of state in a democratic election. She was narrowly elected over three male opponents. She was subsequently reelected three times (in 1984, in 1992, and overwhelmingly in 1988), before retiring in 1996. Although the Icelandic presidency is largely a ceremonial position, she took an active role in promoting the country as a cultural ambassador and enjoyed great popularity. Currently, she is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, and a Member of the Club of Madrid.