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New Medieval Books: The Cambridge History of the Polar Regions

The Cambridge History of the Polar Regions

Edited by Adrian Howkins and Peder Roberts

Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 9781108429931

A collection of 31 essays examining the history of the Arctic and Antarctic regions, from prehistoric times to the modern day. Includes a few essays of interest to medievalists, including “The Norse Settlement of Greenland,” by Jette Arneborg, ” Russia, the First Arctic Empire, 1000–1917,” by Ryan Tucker Jones, Alexei Kraikovski and Julia Lajus, and “Archaeology, Politics, and Sámi Heritage,” by Carl-Gösta Ojala. The article, “The Discovery of Antarctica from Ptolemy to Shackleton, by Erki Tammiksaar and Cornelia Lüdecke even has a slight amount of medieval content.


Greenland has been peopled from the west by several different groups and only once – in the late tenth century AD – from the east, this time by Norse farmers from northern Europe. Unlike the mobile Arctic hunters, the Norse settlers were sedentary, and the society they established in southwest Greenland was based on the natural vegetation, hunting, and trade with their homelands. For almost 500 years the Norse population in Greenland thrived, and then it vanished for reasons not yet fully understood. Several explanations have been put forward: that the small Norse society failed because of inflexible social and economic strategies, or fell victim to a combination of unfortunate circumstances, or (as recently argued) suffered from organized and systematic violence by invading Inuit.


Who is this book for?

This book is useful collection of articles for those in the history of the Arctic and Antarctica. The focus is mostly modern, but medievalists may want to check out the few articles that cover the earlier periods. Environmental historians will also want this book.

The editors:

Adrian Howkins is a Reader in Environmental History at the University of Bristol. Peder Roberts is associate professor of modern history at the University of Stavanger.


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