The article examines the history of cultural policy in Iceland from a Nordic comparative perspective. National cultural policy takes form in the 19th and early 20th century as a part of the nation-building, emphasising the Icelandic language as the core of national identity, building cultural institutions and relying heavily on civic society enterprise. After national independence in 1918 there are growing conflicts in the cultural field and during the Cold War such conflicts take the form of an alliance of nationlism and socialism against NATO-oriented anti-communism. However, there is consensus on the continuing emphasis on central cultural institution and the Icelandic language. Since the 1970s Cold War conflicts have been replaced by a consensus on growing support to artists and an armth's length policy, and furthermore the 1990s have seen a strong move towards NPM and international participation.