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The Future History of the Arctic Hardcover – Mar 2 2010

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The Future History of the Arctic + After The Ice: Life, Death, and Geopolitics in the New Arctic + Polar Imperative: A History of Arctic Sovereignty in North America
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1 edition (March 2 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586486365
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586486365
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 16.8 x 3.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 658 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #235,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Discovery Magazine
“As the Arctic thaws, nations around the globe are jockeying for access to its mineral resources and potentially lucrative new shipping routes. With considerable on-site reporting, Emmerson surveys the environmental and geopolitical changes under way.”

National Interest
“Charles Emmerson’s The Future History of the Arctic has the strongest narrative of the three [books on the Arctic] because his is most firmly grounded in a knowledge of the region’s past.”

E, the Environmental magazine
“This new vision of the Arctic, as a site of exploitation and source of political conflict, is chilling indeed.”

“Charles Emmerson has written a superb book, which seamlessly intertwines travelogue, history and jargon-free analysis… The Future History of the Arctic is as reviving as a blast of polar air, bringing the Arctic into wonderfully clear focus; one of the most impressive accounts of the contemporary Arctic I’ve read.”

The Financial Times
“Emmerson marshals a wealth of disparate material to sketch a region in transition… This is an excellent primer to the economic issues of a region so recently and rudely thrust into the geopolitical limelight.”

Winnipeg Free Press
“Emmerson's book is very well researched and certainly educates the reader on the cold, long-ignored region to the north. Its premise that the Arctic will soon be a global hotspot comes through loud and clear.”

Seattle Times
“Thought-provoking… Will science, stewardship and cooperation win out over self-serving politics and economic demands? [Emmerson] warns, ‘We can no longer deal with the Arctic as we would wish it to be — in the future, we will have to deal with the Arctic as it is.’ His book provides a good primer for understanding that future.”

The Scotsman
“It’s easy to romanticise the Arctic, and over the years plenty of authors have. Oddly though, given the region's increasing geopolitical significance, it's rare to find books that treat it as something other than a chilly adventure playground or an excuse for reams of purple prose. Thank goodness, then, for Charles Emmerson. In this book he looks at how the frozen north has played a key role in world affairs in the past and how it could prove more important in the years to come.”

Irish Times
“Definitive yet highly readable, this book will be an absorbing read for anyone with an interest in geopolitics and world affairs.”

Irish Examiner
“This book makes it clear that in the immediate future, as well as being an environmental barometer for the planet, the Arctic could also be a source of future political and military conflict. For pointing out these possibilities, this book deserves to be read.”

The Guardian
“Emmerson produces the most comprehensive analysis… All three are to be commended for their crisp, easily digestible prose, for their clarity and for their avoidance of sentimentality or over-obsessive attention to detail.”, June 8, 2010
The Future History of the Arctic is well researched and written. It is based on extensive interviews conducted by the author that provide information supporting the book’s themes he explores. The book is an easy way to grasp the significant issues and their context that have shaped and are continuing to shape the politics of the Arctic – one of the last great energy frontiers remaining on the planet. While the current U.S. offshore drilling moratorium is a setback for Alaska drilling, the issue of what drilling and how it is done in the Arctic region – in the U.S., Canada, Russia, Norway, Greenland and Iceland – will become front page news in the not too distant future. We urge you to consider adding Mr. Emmerson’s book to your summer reading list.”

The Guardian, April 18, 2010
“Emmerson produces the most comprehensive analysis… All three are to be commended for their crisp, easily digestible prose, for their clarity and for their avoidance of sentimentality or over-obsessive attention to detail.”
Globe & Mail, June 7, 2010
“Charles Emmerson's The Future History of the Arctic is a much broader survey of the international Arctic, written to dispel European myths of a tranquil kingdom, with strong sections on Russia, Greenland and Iceland.”
Center for a New American Security Natural Security blog, July 13, 2010
“As I read, I was quite happily surprised – more than happily, actually. This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. It reads like travel writing: the perfect balance of history, first-person anecdotes from interesting places, current events, and the context of where trends are pointing for the future. The text provides important information, but it is also highly entertaining. Though it would be a good read for anyone, its detail would prove especially useful for anyone in the national security field… Overall, this is the most informative source I’ve read to date on the Arctic, and in particular on what’s happening and likely to happen in Russia. I declare it a must-read for this blog’s readership.”

About the Author

Charles Emmerson has been a Global Leadership Fellow and Associate Director of the World Economic Forum, heading the Forum's Global Risk Network and acting as their resident geopolitical specialist. Formerly, he worked for the International Crisis Group foreign policy think-tank. He graduated top of his class from Oxford University, and, as a recipient of an Entente Cordiale scholarship, studied international relations and international public law at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris. Henow lives in London.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 9 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The Arctic in Focus April 9 2010
By Dag Stomberg - Published on
Format: Hardcover
How do we protect the Arctic environment whilst considering the economic opportunities that are many?

The Nordic nations, Canada, the United States and Russia are all after the oil and gas beneath the Arctic Ocean; who will get the
most? All are quite capable of pursuing their objectives with

What about the melting ice?

Charles Emmerson has given the reader some thought provoking issues
about the FROZEN north and how it will have profound consequences
in the years to come.

Arguably, the book may be one of the best on this subject because
of the author's predilection to use the interviewing method to see the future prospects.

Read this 'future history' and suggest to family and colleagues.

Dag Stomberg
St. Andrews, Scotland
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Especially recommended for college-level collections interested in Arctic climate and culture May 12 2010
By Midwest Book Review - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The Future History of the Arctic comes from a geopolitics expert who offers an intellectual journey through the history, literature and politics of the Arctic, offering insights into the political and environmental forces that have shaped the region. In so doing, he explains connections that will likely evolve in the future, and provides a social and political history of the Arctic especially recommended for college-level collections interested in Arctic climate and culture.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Must Read for Understanding the Arctic Dec 1 2012
By Michael L. Jackson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Barren wasteland, hostile wilderness, obstacle to trade routes, frontier to be explored, raw powerful force to be conquered by man and science, doorway to vast resource wealth, vital strategic asset, laboratory for advancing understanding of the environment...these are just some of the ways we have perceived the Arctic region during our history on this planet. Emmerson's book takes you to a region that is poorly understood by most, but which may be one of the most crucial areas of this planet to understand both now and in the future. The book is comprehensive; it examines several Arctic issues from multiple points of view, giving the reader a broader understanding of the complex realities facing the nations that border this region, as well as the rest of the planet whose stake in the Arctic increases with each passing year.

Emmerson walks you through the past history: Soviet exploration, the Gulag system, Stalin's industrialization, the scramble for land and resources by the U.S. and Canada, the region's importance to World War 2 and the Cold War, the rushes for gold, oil, and minerals over the course of the last century and a half. He lucidly relates the complicated process of how Arctic land, ice and seabed are claimed, and gives you an idea of the difficulty in balancing the interests of business, government, science, and indigenous populations. He introduces you to some of the major personalities that defined our understanding of the region, such as Fridtjof Nansen. He also gives you a framework for understanding the dilemma faced by each Arctic nation: Russia's choice between maintaining national control of its vast oil and gas resources or seeking Western aid in developing them in the Arctic; the environmental and native concerns about the U.S. developing its Alaskan oil reserves; Norway's balanced approach between exporting hydrocarbons and environmental stewardship and whether the country can sustain that approach as it shifts to Arctic development; the impact of climate change on Greenland, and how the country's mineral riches may put it on the path to full independence from Denmark; Iceland's struggle, as a small North Atlantic nation, to maintain its identity in the face of growing international interest in the Arctic.

If you read this book, you will have a better understanding of other modern issues, when you hear about energy, climate change, and border disputes. It will also give you a connection to a region that few of us will ever visit, but which will possibly define our future. Superbly written and researched, and one of the most timely books that could be written in our age.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Poet Disguised as a National Security Analyst Oct. 28 2011
By James G. Workman - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Emerson brings us into an evocative landscape -- correction, ice, better make that sea-scape that is both exciting and terrifying in its strategic and ecological import. Nothing against the arctic, but I have many places I'd rather travel to and understand before I die and now, thanks to Mr. Emerson (and Barry Lopez before him) I actually feel like I've been there.
This is a testament to his skills not only as a master of geopolitical affairs but as a storyteller. He introduces self-deprecating humor to serious situations. He brings touching insight to his interviews with people. He brings humility to the human affairs of poor communities in remote landscapes.
Future History of the Arctic is, at its core, less about a cold analysis of strategic imperatives and fateful policy decisions than it is a story about the fears and aspirations of individuals, the ones who have, and will, and must make hard decisions, based on what they see as their own self interest. He succeeds to the extent that he makes their self interest our own. We become individuals who must weigh in on decisions, knowing they affect us all.
We see the potential for the Arctic to become governed peacefully and carefully, much like its southern polar counterpart; we also see the potential for it to become a cold and depopulated global version of Somalia.
Thanks to his narrative skill, Emerson does not push us in one direction or the other, he lets us find our way there on our own as his voice is seen nowhere and felt everywhere. A bravura accomplishment.
Arctic Geopolitics April 14 2014
By Stephen T. - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The Future History of the Arctic by Charles Emmerson will delight some and infuriate others because it immediately takes the stance that global warming is a fact of life. The Arctic powers: Russia, the United States, Norway, Iceland, Denmark (Greenland), and Canada will relatively soon be in a powerful position to leverage other nations with the resource wealth that dominates the far northern reaches of the planet. To the crowd that doesn't believe in global warming, they may want to stay away from this volume unless they're interested in geopolitics. But, to the crowd that believes in global warming the book reads as a prophetical recording of things and situations to come as global warming becomes more and more relevant. Mr. Emmerson makes good points that future geopolitics will pivot from Asia to the Arctic because despite the population centers of India, China, and Japan none of these nations have the resource capabilities to sustain themselves over the long term. The current locations with sufficient fossil fuels to sustain the world powers are overburdened and will soon become obsolete in the global energy sector, but the Arctic with its largely un-tapped resource wealth will soon make a powerful impact on global energy. Places like Russia are difficult to gauge and are currently unreliable in maintaining clean energy production in its vast Arctic regions. Canada and the United States represent a potentially powerful economic partnership with strong claims throughout the Arctic regions. Norway is the guiding light for clean energy and Arctic environmental preservation in an increasingly profits-first, global society. Iceland has potential to become a powerful energy supplier to Europe and Denmark is still a relevant Arctic player due to its possession of Greenland, which is becoming increasingly self-governing. Readers will come across three very interesting thoughts: (1) The Soviet legacy in the Arctic is dirty and their Russian inheritors are counting on the previous mineral wealth development in northern Siberia to be a springboard for their future economic plans and global energy dominance/salvation; the theory is partially rhetoric and partially truth, but what is certain is the Russians will do anything to protect their Arctic regions. (2) The United States could have capitalized on Artic territory shortly after the Civil War when William Seward bought Alaska in 1867 and tried to persuade Congress to buy Iceland and/or Greenland around the same time; apparently money was too tight to make another Arctic gamble since Alaska was seen as a folly. (3) The United States and Canada had a bitter rivalry over Arctic territories and the politically and financially un-prepared Canadian government under John MacDonald desperately tried to keep the increasingly opportunistic and expansionist United States out of the Arctic Islands and the Yukon (Klondike), and British Columbia regions. Mr. Emmerson's frequent comments upon oil company policies and politics treads tedious at times; especially in the Alaska chapter. Also, the final chapter on Norway seemed hastily written and the careful research, which dominates the rest of the book seemed lacking. In conclusion, Mr. Emmerson's book appeals to this reader primarily because it is timely and packed with information.