It is well established ethnographically that history is a particularly important and celebratedaspect of Icelandic identity. Paraphrasing Hastrup, it could be argued that Icelandic cultureis a culture of the past. The collapse in Iceland in 2008 problematised this valorisationof history. In this paper we draw on Carrithers’ ideas of cultural rhetoric to analyse howIcelanders made sense of the collapse particularly in relation to their understanding oftheir own history. Following Johnson, we look at the play of agency, intention and responsibilityevident in the accounts offered for the collapse. Through that we seek to highlighthow these accounts, even when highly critical of Icelandic political and cultural practices,tend to allow for and even encourage the on-going identification with the nation-form.