Environmental History: Finally, we catch the Swedes …

ON FROBISHER BAY NEAR IQALUIT, NUNAVUT — It’s been too long since I was north of 60 but here’s the last time: February, 2012 while covering one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit to Iqaluit. We were snowmobiled out onto Frobisher Bay (that’s Iqaluit in the background) to witness a PM photo opp. This was, arguably, the coldest I’ve ever been.

The latest issue of The Canadian Historical Review has as its theme: Environmental History. The issue, and this essay by Swedish environmental historian Sverker Sörlin, look to be an interesting read:

The Historiography of the Enigmatic North

In 1995, I came across a new collection entitled Consuming Canada: Readings in Environmental History, simultaneously the first Canadian book in the field so named and the obligatory anthology of canonical texts. The arrival of this volume was both encouraging and a bit puzzling. As an observer from Sweden, a circumpolar country that already had a sizable library of environmental history, I scratched my head: hadn’t Canada advanced further? The land of Innis, the land of “too much geography” in Mackenzie King’s famous phrase – would it not have been the perfect place to think historically about resources and environments, not least in the North? Maybe not. Perhaps it was precisely because of Innis and his school, precisely because of the widespread influence of geography and geographers in the Canadian tradition that environmental history had made so few inroads. Unsurprisingly, something similar can be said about environmental history in the United Kingdom, which had been usurped by landscape geography, economic history, and many strands of the sciences. For Canada this was soon to change, even more decisively than in the uk . Environmental history in Canada has come of age….

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