University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science > The hubris of youth? Oxford, Cambridge and the Arctic, c.1920–1940

The hubris of youth? Oxford, Cambridge and the Arctic, c.1920–1940

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During the interwar period, the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge sent successive expeditions to the Arctic, mainly focusing on Nordauslandet (North East Land in the Svalbard archipelago) and Greenland. These expeditions have been rather neglected by historians, save for some celebratory work by former protagonists. This paper investigates some of their legacies, both in terms of their scientific contribution and in their impacts on particular Inuit communities. It focuses specifically on psychological experiments conducted on the people of Illorsuit in the late 1930s. In investigating this, some of these expeditionary activities complicate a number of historiographical assumptions about the nature of Greenlandic governance, the role of universities in the field sciences and the wider development of the disciplines of Arctic study. This discussion also provides for heuristic reflection in recent attempts to de-colonise the curriculum at both universities.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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