The aim of this article, which presents an outline of the provisional results of several years' study of the Danish island community Læsø in the Kattegat, is to demonstrate what microlevel studies of European communities viewed in the long historical perspective can contribute to the understanding of continuity and change. From an ecological and economic viewpoint the history of the island has taken the form of a number of adaptations to changes, often radical ones, in external and internal conditions. ln the period from 1200 until 1900 we can distinguish three main periods, each with its dominant occupation, separated by transitional phases, the latter often periods of crisis. In the first section of the article the main phases in the history of the island are reviewed from this point of view and one of the things emphasized is that the history of the island cannot be seen in isolation, but must be related to structures and market fluctuations at the macro-level. The second section of the article deals with some important aspects of the particular sociocultural system that took form on the island given these conditions of existence. It emerges that this system retained a high degree of permanence and stability throughout radical transformations, although at the same time it was subject to gradual change. In a concluding section I discuss the possibility of understanding and explaining continuity and change in the sociocultural system of the island.