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Unit information: Histories of the Polar Regions in 2021/22

Unit name Histories of the Polar Regions
Unit code HIST30102
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Adrian Howkins
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Characterised by cold climates and extreme seasonality, the Arctic and Antarctica both have fascinating histories. In some ways, the two polar regions have much in common. From the outside, they have been viewed as places for exploration, adventure, and science. Histories of natural resource exploitation have brought the polar regions to the forefront of debates over environmental protection, while a warming climate threatens to cause major changes to both places. In other ways, however, the Arctic and Antarctica are also very different. Much of the Arctic is populated, with a wide variety of indigenous peoples. Antarctica, in contrast, is the one continent in the world with no permanent population. Almost all of the terrestrial Arctic is part of the traditional state system, while Antarctica is governed by the innovative Antarctic Treaty System. By taking a comparative perspective on the history of the Arctic and Antarctica, this unit will consider both the similarities and the differences between these two regions. It will suggest that studying polar history can offer interesting perspectives for studying broader themes such as colonialism, resource exploitation, and political conflict, while at the same time examining the histories of these regions on their own terms.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the unit, successful students will be able to:

  1. Critically compare the histories of two different regions in a way that acknowledges both similarities and differences and develop an approach to comparative analysis that can be applied to other times and places.
  2. Situate the histories of the polar regions into a wider historical context using themes such as colonialism, resource exploitation, and political conflict.
  3. Critically utilise the history of the polar regions to consider how different approaches to history (e.g. environmental and political) can be creatively brought together to deepen our understanding of the past.
  4. Work critically with historical sources from a variety of cultural contexts to construct nuanced arguments about the past.

Teaching Information


3 hours of seminars

Assessment Information

One 3500 word essay (50%) [ILOs 1-4]
One 2-hour exam (50%) [ILOs 1-4]


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If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. HIST30102).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.