Historical Atlas of the Arctic


208 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55365-004-2
DDC 911'.98






Reviewed by Jonathan Anuik

Jonathan Anuik is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History and
president of the HGSC at the University of Saskatchewan.


Arctic exploration has resulted in both achievement (e.g., knighthood)
and setbacks (e.g., condemnation or death). Derek Hayes presents the
history of Arctic exploration through the maps that have survived
explorers’ attempts to find the Northwest and Northeast Passages,
reach the North Pole, and improve transportation to the Arctic.

The maps are arranged according to chronology, and each one, from the
late 16th century to the most recent computer-generated images, reflects
additions to preexisting knowledge of northern oceans and lands. Some
maps were made by unscrupulous amateurs desiring funding, while others
drew on preconceptions influenced by religious doctrine and scientific
belief. The visuals demonstrate that in the period of Arctic
exploration, mapmaking became a learned profession. The maps are held
together by a narrative, with a cast of characters from royalty,
navigation, and science.

The strength of the Historical Atlas is its linkage of northern history
with cartography. One textual weakness is that Hayes’s history is of
science, discovery, and transportation; he does not discuss Arctic
social, political, and economic history. A practical problem is the fact
that the text of some of the maps is in Latin, Russian, or German. Some
translation would have made these maps easier to follow.

These caveats aside, academics who study the Arctic will revel in the
visual sophistication of Hayes’s presentation. The atlas will also
appeal to general readers interested in the history of the North.


Hayes, Derek., “Historical Atlas of the Arctic,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 23, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/17336.