The Future History of the Arctic



The Arctic has long lain at the margins of world affairs, a place invested with a magnetic pull on the human imagination yet at the outer edge of the map of human civilisation. The ancients considered it uninhabitable, a fringe-land to the known world. The explorers who made their names in the Arctic in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries did so in the pursuit of imperial glory, scientific discovery or a new route to the Indies. Even as the states of Europe and North America peered further and further into the Arctic, the indigenous peoples remained the true masters of the north.

In the twentieth century the Arctic began to change. Joseph Stalin, once exiled by the Tsarist Russian state to an Arctic village, launched the Soviet Arctic - and the rest of the Soviet Union - into a period of dramatic industrialisation. The Russian Arctic became a place of gulags, mines and industrial cities. The Cold War made the Arctic an arena of key strategic importance, nuclear submarines silently gliding underneath the ice. Oil companies began to sniff the prospect of fortunes to be made in the north.

Now, history has speeded up again. For better or for worse, the region's historical isolation is coming to a definitive end. Global warming and environmental change are transforming the geography of the north. New players and new interests are being drawn in. The imaginary Arctic of pristine whiteness is being recast in the mould of twenty-first century geopolitics and geo-economics.

The Future History of the Arctic uncovers the Arctic's past, present and future in a blend of reportage, analysis and history.