Companions: Knowledge, Intimacy, and Empire in British Arctic Exploration, 1818-1859


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation examines the networks of knowledge and intimacy crucial to early nineteenth century British Arctic exploration. It focuses on the complex web of “companions” —wives, indigenous guides, sailors, and brother officers—who navigated and narrated the Arctic from the 1820s to the 1850s. In the encounter with a harsh environment and extra-imperial space (as experienced and imagined) categories of race, class, and gender were unsettled, exposing the blurred boundaries between “public” and “private” in this most homosocial enterprise. These intertwined networks of knowledge and intimacy ultimately constructed a close association between polar exploration and British identity, one with enduring power for an imperial nation.