The Arctic in the British Imagination.

Starts with 1818 and Barrow’s Admiralty focus on the north for geographical, scientific, commercial, and nationalistic purposes. David describes three phases:

1818-1845 discovery and mapping of NW Passage

1845-1860 Franklin and Franklin search

1860-1914 decline with sporadic intense activity, and late shift to Antarctic.

p. xviii, defines Arctic by area north of the 10°C July isotherm, excluding Iceland and the Aleutians. David’s study explores both the imaging (representation) and the imagining of the Arctic, the latter particularly through the press. He points out the paradox that the Arctic captured the British imagination (cf. Spufford and Riffenbaugh) through literary and print-related representations, but has largely been ignored by historians other than in straightforward narratives, a sub-discipline isolated from mainstream historical research (p. 5). He notes the shift during the century from the sparsely illustrated travel book to the copiously illustrated works at the end of 19th century (Bradford and Moss, e.g.)., (p. 8), or illustrated weeklies.

p. 10: However, the work of the engraver usually had greater influence than the original art work, and it must be remembered that the process by which a published representation was created provided scope for distortion and inaccuracy, although such alterations were not inevitable.

p. 16—notes that most scientists and artists on these expeditions were amateurs, and incidental justifications for some of these joy rides.

p. 19—stereotypes of the native population easily conveyed by pictorial and literary images, much of it designed to support a social Darwinian concept of the hierarchy of peoples and nations, the primitive leading to the dominance of Europe technocracy.

Chap I: Images of the Arctic. Unquestioned authority of the photograph created many distorted images. But he contrasts the popularity of Oriental images with the Victorian neglect of Arctic equivalents (e.g. warm and clean vs cold and messy). During most of this period images were created by artists assigned to the ships (usually with other duties) and by amateur photographs using the early technology of the medium. The results David sees as amateurish, especially in the ethnographical photographs which staged the natives to the photographer’s archaic tastes. Captions also could distort the content, e.g the stereotypes of “a native belle” or “a typical native.” (p 35). The Western image was also of a monochromatic Arctic, while in fact traveler’s were astounding by the colours, from reflections on ice, to sunsets, to the borealis, belying the widespread image of “a whiter and rather drab Arctic” (p. 41).