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Circumpolar history and public policy

Circumpolar history and public policy

Research in circumpolar history and public policy aims to address issues of contemporary relevance to the polar regions by bringing together historical analysis and public policy debate. Historical research at SPRI is a tradition in its own right, but we believe that it is also an integral part of analysing and developing public policy.

The history of science and imperial expansion has a strong appeal for diverse audiences. Our aim is to write primarily for academic specialists, but also to reach out to wider audiences. Part of our brief is therefore to understand why and how visual and literary images can sustain an enduring mythical power in shaping public imagination. Scientific institutions and expeditions from Martin Frobisher to Ernest Shackleton have played an integral role in capturing public interest and remain central in constructing a big picture of the polar regions and their human and physical environmental histories.

Historical research covers a wide range of topics and approaches: the historiography of science and imperialism, travel literature and colonisation, the environmental history of human-animals relationships, the historiography of northern peoples and strategies of resisting traditional development narratives of missionaries, trading companies, and states.

Circumpolar governance poses many new challenges today as older centre-periphery models have given way to a much broader range of new stakeholders. In practice policymaking is all too often subject to short-term priorities and historical memory is normally very limited. We use historical and ethnographical research to explore policy issues and options over a longer timeframe, focusing in particular on science policy, traditional knowledge of northern peoples, and transnational governance.

Workshops, events and seminars