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SPRI Review 1996: Research Overviews

Research Overviews

Polar History and Humanities Group

Dr B. Riffenburgh

H.G.R. King, Professor Ian Whitaker
P. Speak, Dr J. West, M.P. Casarini-Wadhams

During the year, the Polar History and Humanities Group and its corresponding members continued with a wide range of research, dealing with polar, maritime, and exploration history and Arctic humanities studies.

Dr Beau Riffenburgh continued his research into the roles of the British popular press and other aspects of popular culture in the creation, dissemination, and effect of imperial heroic exploration myths in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the relationships of those myths to European imperial expansion and nationalism. This imperial research has been carried forward in conjunction with members of the Faculty of History at the universities of Cambridge, Lancaster, and London.

Dr Riffenburgh co-wrote two books during the year - along with Senior Associate Dr Elizabeth Cruwys - and also had a major editorial role in the publication of three other books, including a study of the Cook-Peary controversy over the discovery of the North Pole. He continued his work on the edited diaries and journals of the American Arctic explorer George W. Melville, many of which must be examined in the United States.

In addition to his regular lecturing on nineteenth century exploration at the University of Cambridge, Dr Riffenburgh gave invited lectures at the University of Birmingham; the University of Wales, Cardiff; and for the Imperial History Seminar at King's College, London. In December and January, he also lectured about exploration on four Antarctic cruises. Three corresponding members of the Polar History Group - Professor William Barr of the University of Saskatchewan, Professor T.H. Baughman of Benedictine College, Kansas, and Ian Stone of the University of Kent - also lectured aboard ship in the polar regions.

Professor Ian Whitaker (Senior Associate) continued his studies on trade between the European Arctic and Middle East during the Middle Ages. He concluded his long-term stay at the Institute in September, moving back to British Columbia.

Maria Pia Casarini-Wadhams (Research Student) continued research for her doctoral thesis entitled 'Lady Jane Franklin and her role in the Franklin searches, 1848-1860.' Her research has included the 150 volumes of Lady Franklin's diaries and correspondence housed in the SPRI archives, for a thesis that is an examination of the impact of Lady Franklin on the search expeditions for her husband and his crew. In September, Ms Casarini-Wadhams presented an invited paper on the life of Francis Crozier at a conference held in Northern Ireland to commemorate the two-hundredth anniversary of that explorer's birth.