The history of polar exploration is commonly understood in terms of the dramatic, romantic, and oftentimes tragic exploits of intrepid mariners such as Ernest Shackleton, Roald Amundsen, and Sir John Franklin. And while such stories abound in the literature and will be a significant part of the course, humankind’s connection to the Arctic and Antarctic touches on deeper historical themes such as nationalism, colonialism, science, geographical misconceptions, Indigenous cultures, racial theories, the biological impact of cold, and the advances and limits of technology. This course will trace the evolution of polar exploration, focusing on the 19th and early 20th centuries, to demonstrate that exploration is an integral part of being human. Students will work with primary sources, read and discuss secondary works, think and write analytically, and hone their skills in developing evidence-based arguments.
HSTRY 388 is a seminar course that emphasizes the basic skills of reading, analysis, and verbal and written communication that are central to the historians’ craft. In this course you will read a lot, write a lot, and speak a lot in both class discussion and small-group work. The objectives of the course are twofold: You will learn about the history of polar exploration in the 19th and 20th centuries, and, perhaps more importantly, you will acquire and hone skills in historical research, interpretation, and writing that will prove useful as you continue your university studies.
There are two required books:
Elizabeth Kolbert and Francis Spufford, eds., The Ends of the Earth: An Anthology of the Finest Writing on the Arctic and the Antarctic (New York: Bloomsbury USA, 2007)
Anthony Brandt, The Man Who Ate His Boots: The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage (New York: Anchor Books, 2010)