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234 × 156 × 30 mm
354 pages
31 illustrations
01 Sep 2012

A History of the Arctic Nature, Exploration and Exploitation John McCannon

Cold and isolated, yet home to some 4 million people; harsh and unyielding, yet disintegrating with every passing year: the Arctic defies definition. In the modern mind it represents the quintessentially timeless – its landscape imagined both as a realm of crystalline purity and as a frozen kingdom of dread and death. A unique ecosystem that hosts such beloved creatures as the polar bear and the narwhal and serves as the homeland for some of the world’s most robust peoples, the Arctic domain has fascinated and unsettled outsiders throughout history. For all its renown the Arctic remains far from perfectly understood, and today it stands at the epicentre of an unprecedented environmental crisis.

In A History of the Arctic, award-winning polar historian John McCannon provides a far-reaching overview of the region from the Stone Age to the present, examining all of its major aspects from a global perspective. Devoting attention to every Arctic nation – from North America and Greenland to Scandinavia and Russia – this vividly drawn account weaves together topics as diverse as polar exploration and science, Arctic nation-building, the northern environment and the role of indigenous peoples in Arctic history. McCannon details the centuries-long attempts to navigate and develop the Northwest and Northeast passages, as well as the conflicting claims to each waterway engendered by the rapid melting of Arctic ice today. He also reviews the resources found in the Arctic – oil, natural gas, minerals, sea mammals and fish – describing the importance these hold as such reserves are depleted elsewhere, and the challenges faced in extracting them. With Arctic territorial claims and resource extraction assuming ever-greater importance in the twenty-first century, this book includes a timely assessment of the current diplomatic and environmental realities of the region, exposing the increasingly dire risks it is likely to face in the near future. A History of the Arctic is an engagingly written, detail-rich and thoroughly engrossing survey of this region at the top of the world.

A Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2013’ — Award

‘This is one of the few books in English (as well as, arguably, the best one) to deal with these themes from a widely comprehensive circumpolar perspective rather that a strictly national one. The chapter Crusades, for example, deals with the great age of exploration, 1800-1914, and examines not only those explorers familiar to English speakers, but also lesser-known Finns, Icelanders, Faroese, Greenlanders, and Russians. Indigenous people also figure large in these pages. This makes the book tremendously valuable as an added bonus, it is approachably and engagingly written. It should serve for some considerable time as the standard work on the subject . . . Essential.’ — Choice

‘John McCannons book is a valuable and timely addition . . . its never dull, and [McCannon] possesses a keen eye for detail, especially in chronicling the regions wildlife and the painful transition from exploration to exploitation . . . This is a thoughtful, provocative study that should be read by anyone who cares about the Arctic's fate.’ — Geographical Magazine

‘John McCannons narrative of Arctic offers a fascinating insight into a unique and little understood continent. Drawing upon an impressive intellect and a comprehensive bibliography, the author has sought to distil innumerable references and a wide range of subjects into a single authoritative volume . . . well written and certainly worth the jacket price for anyone who has an interest in the far north.’ — Naval Review

‘From a historians perspective, the Arctic is unusual as a region defined by climate and environment, not historic ethnic boundaries. It imposes special demands on the historian, who must possess more than a superficial grounding in the geography, natural history, and ethnography of the region, along with some knowledge of the history of the varied nations that either border the Arctic or have intruded on it to some degree. A History of the Arctic has been written by someone who meets these requirements, which is fortunate for readers . . . an excellent synthesis and likely to become a widely referenced source on the Arctic.’ — Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research

‘A remarkable voyage through the Arctic, from its misty past to contentious present. A graceful writer with a fine eye for telling detail, McCannon offers an exciting, broad-sweep tour . . . A must-read volume for the general public and scholars alike.’ — Ronald E. Doel, Associate Professor of History, Florida State University

‘I have long sought an outstanding general environmental history of the Arctic only to be disappointed. John McCannons new work, A History of the Arctic, admirably fills this need. McCannon is at his best in explaining for a broad audience the complex interactions of environment, ecosystems, and humans of all nationalities and cultures in the Arctic. It is a thoughtful, broadly-considered, and sometimes provocative study that offers a transnational perspective on the profound changes over time taking place in this significant region.’ — Roger D. Launius, PhD, Senior Curator in the Division of Space History, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

‘A dazzling tour dhorizon . . . Anyone who cares about the Arctic should read this sobering book. Lets hope his gloomy predictions are wrong. I suspect he is right.’ — Klaus Dodds, Professor of Geopolitics, Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London

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John McCannon is Assistant Professor of History at Southern New Hampshire University, and has published widely in the field of Arctic history and exploration. He is the author of Red Arctic: Polar Exploration and the Myth of the North in the Soviet Union, 1932-1939 (1998).

1. Origins: Introduction and Environmental Overview
2. Encounters: Prehistory and Early History to 1500 CE
3. Incursions: 1500 to 1800
4. Crusades: 1800 to 1914
5. Subjugations: 1914 to 1945
6. Contaminations: 1945 to 1991
7. Extinctions? 1991 to the Present

Photo Acknowledgements