The Arctic region has been the subject of much popular writing. This book considers nineteenth-century representations of the Arctic, and draws upon an extensive range of evidence that will allow the 'widest connections' to emerge from a 'cross-disciplinary analysis' using different methodologies and subject matter. It positions the Arctic alongside more thoroughly investigated theatres of Victorian enterprise. In the nineteenth century, most images were in the form of paintings, travel narratives, lectures given by the explorers themselves and photographs. The book explores key themes in Arctic images which impacted on subsequent representations through text, painting and photography. For much of the nineteenth century, national and regional geographical societies promoted exploration, and rewarded heroic endeavor. The book discusses images of the Arctic which originated in the activities of the geographical societies. The Times provided very low-key reporting of Arctic expeditions, as evidenced by its coverage of the missions of Sir John Franklin and James Clark Ross. However, the illustrated weekly became one of the main sources of popular representations of the Arctic. The book looks at the exhibitions of Arctic peoples, Arctic exploration and Arctic fauna in Britain. Late nineteenth-century exhibitions which featured the Arctic were essentially nostalgic in tone. The Golliwogg's Polar Adventures, published in 1900, drew on adult representations of the Arctic and will have confirmed and reinforced children's perceptions of the region. Text books, board games and novels helped to keep the subject alive among the young.
This introduction provides an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book. The book examines the variety and nature of Arctic representations, where appropriate to consider their meaning in the context of theories created in other contexts. For much of the nineteenth century the polar regions were a source of fascination for the British public. Books and articles have confined themselves to examples from Africa and the Indian subcontinent, with occasional forays into South America, south-east Asia and the south Pacific. Contemporary historical interest in the Arctic has followed well trodden paths. The history of the indigenous people of the Arctic, both before and after encounter, has consequently been left to archaeologists and anthropologists. The book demonstrates that an 'unchallenged coherence' of beliefs in the Saidian tradition, though present in the emergence of some surprisingly persistent stereotypes, should not be seen as a dominant feature in the Arctic.
This chapter explores key themes in Arctic images which impacted on subsequent representations through text, painting and photography. Bernard Smith's analysis of the paintings representing the Cook voyages has made clear that images were rarely created in their entirety with the object in view. Theories constructed around images from temperate and tropical lands cannot be assumed to apply to the polar regions. Many Arctic images are so distinctly different that the universality of some theories of representation must be questioned. Despite a conference and book which foregrounded Arctic photography, there has been little sustained interest in interpreting the art and photography of the region in a wider historical context. Arctic art depicted an 'otherness' in which dissimilarities outweighed similarities, seascapes were more common than landscapes, and the condition of the people was more akin to prehistory than pre-industry.
This chapter discusses the images of the Arctic which originated in the activities of the geographical societies. The Royal Geographical Society (RGS) had a key role in promoting, advising and supporting exploration activity in most parts of the world. At the time of the RGS's foundation, interest in Arctic exploration was high, and the number of early Fellows with Arctic experience ensured a profile for the region within the Society. The regional societies were also important for disseminating representations, hut their focus and influence did not always mirror that of the RGS. Some of these societies are the Scottish, Manchester and Liverpool societies. The British Arctic Expedition of 1875-1876 became a matter of national pride, and a reassertion of Britain's traditional supremacy in the Arctic. It was in part due to the tone adopted by the RGS and taken up by the more popular media.
The press in its various forms was instrumental in the dissemination of Arctic representations. The repeal of the stamp duty on newspapers in 1855 coincided with the later Sir John Franklin search expeditions, and resulted in a rapid increase in the number and variety of national daily newspapers. Arctic reporting was particularly affected by geographical and climatic determinants. The departure of an Arctic expedition from Britain, usually in the late spring, could be extensively reported. The Times provided very low-key reporting of Arctic expeditions, as is evident from a study of its coverage of the departure of Franklin in 1845, and the numerous search expeditions during the 1850s. The Illustrated London News had become the most successful illustrated weekly at the time of Franklin and the search expeditions. Edward Moss, the official artist of the British Arctic Expedition, had many of his paintings published in a variety of media.
This chapter considers the exhibitions of Arctic peoples, Arctic exploration and Arctic fauna in Britain. It discusses the earliest exhibitions of Arctic people, which were the tableaux vivants, an entertainment later replaced, on a limited scale, by the 'native villages' constructed at the great international and national exhibitions. The development of the science of ethnography, which provided a more systematic approach to the study of Arctic peoples, coincided with an expansion in the number and variety of museums, where, in the latter part of the century, more people had access to the material culture of the Inuit. Arctic exploration was initially made accessible to the public through panoramas and other paintings, but in the latter part of the century it featured in special exhibitions and, to a lesser extent, in museums. The chapter examines the role of zoological gardens and museums in representing this popular aspect of the Arctic.
This chapter examines the nature of the representations of the Arctic to which children and juveniles were exposed. Textbook coverage of the Arctic illustrates an interesting paradox. British society considered Arctic exploration to be important for reasons of national prestige, providing a training ground for the sailors on whom the security of the nation and later the empire depended. The influence of the Royal Geographical Society on the direction of geographical education was especially significant as the expansion of elementary education. The content of textbooks has to be adjusted to the demands of the market, and in the earlier nineteenth century the market was limited because educational opportunities were restricted. Hunting inevitably played a significant part in both information books and juvenile fiction. In Ballantyne's numerous Arctic novels hunting episodes provided endless interest and action.
The Arctic became represented in a surprising variety of media. Geographically the area studied has been restricted to the western Arctic of Greenland and Canada, because for most of the period that was the centre of British interest. The substantial and systematic assault by Britain on the Arctic between 1818 and 1845 generated a wide variety of representations. For the literate enthusiast, the detailed reporting of expeditions on their return in The Times, and the numerous published narratives, provided an enormous amount of new information about Arctic landscapes and seascapes, atmospheric and other scientific phenomena, expedition activity and native peoples. Some, such as Franklin's narrative of his first overland journey in Canada, became best-sellers. In the Arctic, exploration was mostly organised from the sea, not unlike Cook's exploration of the south Pacific, whereas in Africa and Asia, once the expedition had arrived, exploration was land-based.