An Empire of Ice Scott, Shackleton, and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science Edward J. Larson

Publication date:
04 Dec 2012
Yale University Press
344 pages: 210 x 140mm
54 b-w illus.
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Published to coincide with the centenary of the first expeditions to reach the South Pole, An Empire of Ice presents a fascinating new take on Antarctic exploration. Retold with added information, it's the first book to place the famed voyages of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, his British rivals Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton, and others in a larger scientific, social, and geopolitical context. Efficient, well prepared, and focused solely on the goal of getting to his destination and back, Amundsen has earned his place in history as the first to reach the South Pole. Scott, meanwhile, has been reduced in the public mind to a dashing incompetent who stands for little more than relentless perseverance in the face of inevitable defeat.

An Empire of Ice offers a new perspective on the Antarctic expeditions of the early twentieth century by looking at the British efforts for what they actually were: massive scientific enterprises in which reaching the South Pole was but a spectacular sideshow. By focusing on the larger purpose, Edward Larson deepens our appreciation of the explorers' achievements, shares little-known stories, and shows what the Heroic Age of Antarctic discovery was really about.

More about this title

• Awarded an Honorable Mention for the 2011 National Outdoor Book Awards in the History/Biography category
Shortlisted for the 2012Hessell-Tiltman prize
• Edward J. Larson was named Author of the Year 2012 in the History category by the Georgia Writer’s Association

Edward J. Larson is University Professor of History and holds the Hugh & Hazel Darling Chair in Law at Pepperdine University. His numerous books include Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion, for which he received a Pulitzer Prize in History. Larson splits his time between Georgia and California.

"An enlightening and entertaining new book, An Empire of Ice, seeks to rescue the exploits of Edwardian derring-do from the condescension of posterity by showing us how much more there was to what his subtitle refers to as the heroic age of Antarctic science."—Robert J.Mayhew, Times Higher Education

"In this fascinating book…..Larson’s intriguing accounts begin to reveal the bigger picture of early scientific research in Antarctica and its place in European geopolitics of the time."—Michael Bravo, New Scientist

"Larson is a brilliant researcher, going far beyond the standard source materials, so even devotees of polar literature will learn things"—Jennifer Kingson, The Scotsman

"This is an easy, interesting and great read of a difficult topic."—Frank Nugent, Irish Mountain Log

'A hugely refreshing book... This book is beautifully written and brings a refreshing perspective... a welcome addition to the literature that will help the general understanding of the British Heroic Age expeditions and is a 'must read' book for anyone with an interest in the period."—David M. Wilson, Geographical

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