Thesis ID: CBB984131524

Empire of Ice: Arctic Natural History and British Visions of the North, 1500-1800 (2019)

unapi

This dissertation uses methods from history of science and environmental history to understand how British imperialists—politicians, fur traders, and naturalists—rationalized the Arctic between 1550 and 1800. Through early modern understandings of natural history, geography, and medicine, Britons crafted a narrative of the north that positioned it as a British colonial landscape ripe for exploration and exploitation. Beginning with the first English settlement in the New World on a northern island in Baffin Bay, I explore how English imperialists John Dee and Richard Hakluyt used Arthurian legends, classical geography, and the rhetoric of empiricism to cast the north as a place that was in need of British governance and necessary for the success of the British Empire. The second chapter examines how Hudson’s Bay Company employees who made observations about northern wildlife and climate experienced the north in the early eighteenth century. For fur trader-naturalists, provisioning food was a central preoccupation in conveying to Europeans the habitability of northern lands, especially in the context of paternalist attitudes towards indigenous peoples. This is juxtaposed with a debate over the existence of the Northwest Passage, highlighting the political stakes of making knowledge claims about northern climates. The third chapter examines how eighteenth-century Britons overlaid European ideas of health upon northern indigenous peoples to justify Hudson’s Bay Company treatments of Cree and Athapascan employees: in short, cold climates produced dispassionate behaviors in native peoples, making them immune to the effects of illness, pain, and emotional abuse. This contrasted with Britons who attested to the health of northern climates, calling into question European criteria about healthfulness. The last chapter focuses on the late eighteenth-century Welsh naturalist Thomas Pennant who viewed the Arctic as part of the British Empire, and wrote a natural history of Arctic Zoology, positioning the north geographically within the confines of British sovereignty over nature. Ultimately, each chapter demonstrates the long history of British claims of possession over the Far North, priming it for exploration in the nineteenth century, and reminding us that scientific knowledge can work to dispossess indigenous peoples and construct monolithic and damaging environmental narratives.

...More
Citation URI
http://data.isiscb.org/isis/citation/CBB984131524/

Similar Citations

Book MacLeod, Roy; (2000)
Nature and Empire: Science and the Colonial Enterprise (/isis/citation/CBB000110572/) unapi

Book Josephson, Paul R.; (2014)
The Conquest of the Russian Arctic (/isis/citation/CBB001422068/) unapi

Thesis Stuhl, Andrew; (2013)
Empires on Ice: Science, Nature, and the Making of the Arctic (/isis/citation/CBB001567488/) unapi

Thesis Test, Edward McLean; (2008)
Consuming the Americas: New World Flora and Fauna in English Literature, 1580--1620 (/isis/citation/CBB001561230/) unapi

Book Bauer, Ralph; (2003)
The Cultural Geography of Colonial American Literatures: Empire, Travel, Modernity (/isis/citation/CBB000500940/) unapi

Article Greer, Kirsten A.; (2008)
Placing Colonial Ornithology: Imperial Ambiguities in Upper Canada, 1791--1841 (/isis/citation/CBB001211517/) unapi

Book Beinart, William; Hughes, Lotte; (2007)
Environment and Empire (/isis/citation/CBB000774280/) unapi

Thesis Christopher Michael Blakley; (2019)
Inhuman Empire: Slavery and Nonhuman Animals in the British Atlantic World (/isis/citation/CBB485703529/) unapi

Book Kathleen Davidson; (2017)
Photography, Natural History and the Nineteenth-Century Museum: Exchanging Views of Empire (/isis/citation/CBB301363009/) unapi

Book MacKenzie, John M.; (2010)
Museums and Empire: Natural History, Human Cultures and Colonial Identities (/isis/citation/CBB001033274/) unapi

Book Christopher M. Parsons; (2018)
A not-so-new world: empire and environment in French colonial North America (/isis/citation/CBB350280700/) unapi

Article Eloise Wright; (2021)
History and Autoethnography: Accounting for the Indigenous population of Yunnan, 1550–1650 (/isis/citation/CBB067920677/) unapi

Article Beverly Soloway; (2016)
“mus co shee”: Indigenous Plant Foods and Horticultural Imperialism in the Canadian Sub-Arctic (/isis/citation/CBB852354053/) unapi

Book JEREMY BLACK; (2017)
Geographies of an Imperial Power: The British World, 1688–1815 (/isis/citation/CBB933331653/) unapi

Book Irving, Sarah; (2008)
Natural Science and the Origins of the British Empire (/isis/citation/CBB000952086/) unapi

Article Beisaw, April M.; (2012)
Environmental History of the Susquehanna Valley around the Time of European Contact (/isis/citation/CBB001200341/) unapi

Authors & Contributors
MacLeod, Roy M.
Cronon, William
Staley, Richard A.
Loo, Tina
Keller, Richard C.
Pimentel, Juan
Journals
Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies
Scientia Canadensis: Journal of the History of Canadian Science, Technology, and Medicine
Journal of Historical Geography
Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History
Canadian Bulletin of Medical History/Bulletin Canadienne d'Histoire de la Medecine
Journal of the History of Biology
Publishers
Oxford University Press
Univ. Chicago Press
Cambridge University Press
Pickering & Chatto
Manchester University Press
Harvard University Press
Concepts
Great Britain, colonies
Imperialism
Colonialism
Environmental history
Indigenous peoples; indigeneity
Natural history
Time Periods
17th century
19th century
18th century
16th century
20th century
Enlightenment
Places
Great Britain
Canada
Arctic regions
India
North America
Latin America
Comments

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment