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Polar Imperative: A History of Arctic Sovereignty in North America Hardcover – Jul 5 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Douglas & McIntyre; First edition (July 5 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1553654188
  • ISBN-13: 978-1553654186
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 16.5 x 3.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #362,008 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"Grant's Polar Imperative is the first really detailed study of 200 years of North American sovereignty in the Arctic, written from a Canadian vantage point but with excellent documentation of American, Danish, British and Norwegian histories." (Globe & Mail 2010-06-18)

"Polar Imperative may well be the best book ever written on the history of the Arctic in North America. In the age of climate change and competition for Arctic resources, this original and provocative book will spark renewed debate about the future of the North. Essential reading for anyone seeking to understand what is going on in the Arctic today." (Ken Coates, author of "Arctic Front" 2010-05-01)

"Rippled with adventure, this essential reading is an authoritative history for anyone interested in understanding why the world's attention is shifting to the Arctic." (Lionel Gelber Prize Jury 2011-01-15)

"This is a book that you could dip into every time Arctic sovereignty pops up. There is a good index, excellent maps and well-chosen illustrations." (Peterborough Examiner 2011-01-22)

"The book as a whole is expertly documented and eminently readable." (Arctic Book Review 2011-02-21)

"Despite seeking to inform a public audience, Grant's scholarship provides a richly footnoted argument accompanied by a comprehensive bibliography. Copiously and imaginatively illustrated. Highly recommended." (Choice Magazine 2010-12-01)

"This book is a 'must read' for every Canadian who is interested in the history of the Arctic: Grant recounts the fascinating story of how Canada -- a modest and sparsely populated country -- successfully asserted sovereignty over the entire Arctic Archipelago in the face of considerable odds." (Policy Options 2010-09-01)

"Grant knows this stuff better than anyone and has always told her complex tales well." (Toronto Star 2010-05-22)

"Shelagh Grant has confirmed her position as our leading historian of the North." (J.L. Granatstein 2010-05-01)

"Grant's comprehensive survey comes across as a fresh look at a region that has long consumed our identity as Canadians." (Heather Robertson Canada's History 2011-09-01)

About the Author

Shelagh D. Grant is the author of the award-winning Arctic Justice: On Trial for Murder; Pond Inlet 1923; Sovereignty or Security? Government Policy in the Canadian North 1936-50; and more recently, Mittimatalik-Pond Inlet: A History, translated into Inuktitut; as well as numerous scholarly articles on related topics. She is an adjunct professor in the Canadian Studies Program and research associate of the Frost Centre for Canadian Studies at Trent University and lives in Peterborough, Ontario.

Customer Reviews

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Format: Hardcover
Canadian historian Shelagh Grant has written what I consider to be one of the truly great treatments of the Arctic over the last four centuries. This study is significant in the material it covers, the points it makes, and the impressions it leaves its readers. Here are ten features of "Polar Imperative" that make it worth reading for those of us who want to have a firmer grasp of life in the Arctic from cultural, geopolitical, historical and environmental perspectives:
1. The author develops a couple of worthy themes in this book that are well backed up with evidence. One that caught my attention is the idea that history has helped to change how Canadians see the Arctic lands as an immense part of their national heritage. For her, the proof is found in tracing the story of how the white man and the native adapted to this great frontier over an extended period of modern time;
2. The author defines the strategies these two unique cultures used to handle each other's presence;
3. Grant explores how the history of the outside world has impinged on the development of Arctic life for both the settler and native;
4. Grant uses reliable data to reinforce the idea that the Arctic lands are anything but a mere ice-cap. It is a large expanse of land that has now become the focus point for a lot of geopolitical to-ing and fro-ing;
5. The book highlights some of the major claims that the northern nations like Denmark, Canada and the US are putting on this geographical expression;
6. "Polar Imperative" contains some very helpful references to ongoing scientific research in the Far North;
7. Grant writes in a language that can be easily appreciated by the average reader. All technical terms are thoroughly explained and referenced in the context of major ongoing research;
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Format: Hardcover
As a history of the North-American arctic from the beginning of occupation to 2009 this book is comprehensive. It is quite readable despite its numerous references to agreements and attempts at them involving the circumpolar countries, particularly Denmark (Greenland), Iceland, Canada and the USA, with Europe and Russia occasionally discussed.
There is a focus on the native inhabitants and their progress towards self rule,
The major focus is on the question of Canadian sovereignty. That for the arctic islands seems to have been agreed upon, but it is not completely secure. Sovereignty over the ice and waters of the north-west passage is still unsettled as the USA refuses to recognize it. At one point Prime Minister Trudeau told the US Secretary of State 'If you send up a tin can with a paper-thin hull filled with oil, we will not only stop you, we'll board you and turn you around. And if we do so, Mr Rogers, we'll have the world on our side.' The Canadian government has taken charge of regulations designed to prevent pollution as a step towards sovereignty that is recognized. Only a concerted Canadian military and civilian presence appears to have any hope of achieving complete sovereignty over the passage.
The latter chapters discuss the effects of and responses to climate change, along with the challenges of commercial interests. The author is clearly disappointed with the world's response to the necessity of severely reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The book is enlivened by several maps and photographs. More would have been welcome. There are occasional tales that whet one's appetite for more information, such as the 1968 crash of a USA bomber near the Thule air base in northern Greenland with four hydrogen bombs aboard; one may never have been recovered.
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Format: Hardcover
I found Polar Imperative to be an excellent read, and also a very useful resource for anyone who is interested or who works in Canadian history. Grant gives a historical tour through over 5 centuries of Artic related politics with a special emphasis on the Canadian Arctic, Alaska, and Greenland. Like any work by a historian, there is much attention paid to the political and legal events that have influenced the evolution of Artic sovereinty, but there is also very good allusions to the literature and mythology of the region and how it has shaped Canadian identity. The Inuit are also given their space and acknowledged as important contributors in shaping the north whereas in the past they may have been a footnote or cited as an exotic 'other.' The book is rich in maps and contains a very useful annotated bibliography for anyone interested in reading more on the subject. Essentially this is a book that is well worth the price and the time spent to read it.
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