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Ódrjúgshálsar og sæbrautir: um samgöngur og völd við Breiðafjörð á fyrri tíð.

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Í greininni er sýnt fram á að byggðir við Breiðafjörð hafi myndað landræna heild vegna samgangna á sjó og að íbúar svæðisins hafi einnig myndað eins konar félagslega heild, samfélag fólks sem átti náin samskipti og fann til samstöðu vegna þeirra. Þá er rætt um atriði sem benda til þess að við Breiðafjörð hafi um og upp úr 1200 verið að rísa pólitísk eining, héraðsríki, undir forystu eins goða og hefði getað orðið varanleg stjórnsýsluleg eining, ef þróunin hefði orðið svipuð því sem varð annars staðar þar sem goðorð voru sameinuð og héraðsríki mynduðust og síðar sýslur. Spurt er hvað olli einkum að stefndi í þessa átt við Breiðafjörð. Goðorð voru þá sameinuð við fjörðinn, sem annars staðar, en ekki varð til varanlegt héraðsríki sem síðan yrði ein sýsla, eins og t.d. Rangárþing undir stjórn Oddaverja, sem síðar varð Rangárvallasýsla. Vikið er að hugsanlegum skýringum þessa.
HISTORICAL POWER STRUCTURES, TRANSPORTATION AND COMMUNICATION AROUND BREIÐAFJÖRÐUR BAY This article shows how transportation by sea enabled Breiðafjörður to connect into a geographical unit during Iceland’s Commonwealth Era, and thus how residents of this region were joined to form a separate social entity by 1130. Sources indicate that a political entity emerged here around or after 1200, i.e. a proto-state led by the chieftain Þórður Sturluson (died 1237). This entity would have been able to achieve administrative permanence if the region had continued to develop as elsewhere in Iceland, where areas ruled by more than one chieftain were consolidated to form single proto-states and later counties. Two questions are addressed: what brought about the same initial trend around Breiðafjörður, and why did this not also result in a single county? Throughout most of this region, Þórður Sturluson wielded some power and influence, basing them above all on boats and sea traffic, since he probably found it important to have the support of major farmers who in times of trouble would be able to provide and man large boats. In the more easterly parts of the north coast, his struggle for authority led to serious clashes with other chieftains. Although the land routes there were far from easy, the combination of boats and horses improved the prospects. One must keep in mind that the mainland was important to those farming in the tiny Vestureyjar islands, and vice versa. The key mainland locations of Gufudalur and Staður were linked to the main coastal trail via boat and horse, and the site of the þing, or local assembly, by Þorskafjörður fjord was situated nearby. Thus this area was by no means isolated from the beaten path. However, Þórður Sturluson’s proto-state was subject to a variety of threats and finally disintegrated. Here, comparisons are drawn between him and some of the more powerful Breiðafjörður chieftains of the 15th and 17th centuries, who probably also derived a great deal of their power from boats. Those who came from rich ancestors, owned extensive land around the bay, controlled good boats, had strong ambitions and maintained a prominent social position were likely to take a regional lead. While the ruling monarchy could have appointed a single county magistrate for the entire bay and its surroundings, this was never done. The main hindrances were probably long-standing fragmentation related to geographical conditions and traditional arrangements, together with political discord which hindered formal unification and instead preferred to keep power divided between three or more county magistrates.