White Fox and Icy Seas in the Western Arctic The Fur Trade, Transportation, and Change in the Early Twentieth Century John R. Bockstoce, William Barr

The Lamar Series in Western History
Publication date:
20 Mar 2018
Yale University Press
344 pages: 235 x 156 x 24mm
73 b-w illus.
Sales territories:

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How the fur trade changed the North and created the modern Arctic

In the early twentieth century, northerners lived and trapped in one of the world’s harshest environments. At a time when government services and social support were minimal or nonexistent, they thrived on the fox fur trade, relying on their energy, training, discipline, and skills. John R. Bockstoce, a leading scholar of the Arctic fur trade who also served as a member of an Eskimo whaling crew, explores the twentieth-century history of the Western Arctic fur trade to the outbreak of World War II, covering an immense region from Chukotka, Russia, to Arctic Alaska and the Western Canadian Arctic. This period brought profound changes to Native peoples of the North. To show its enormous impact, the author draws on interviews with trappers and traders, oral and written archival accounts, research in newspapers and periodicals, and his own field notes from 1969 to the present.

John R. Bockstoce is an independent scholar and author of award‑winning books, monographs, and articles on the Arctic. He has worked at the Smithsonian, the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

“This new work also exhibits Bockstoce’s comprehensive and assiduous research and his accessible writing style.” —Stephen Haycox, The Journal of American History

White Fox and Icy Seas in the Western Arctic nicely captures the history of an industry, a time, and a place that has rarely been the focus of historical scholarship”—Adrian Howkins, American Historical Review

Winner of the Outstanding Academic Title for 2018 award sponsored by Choice

Honorary Mention for the 2020 William Mills Prize for Non-fiction Polar Books, sponsored by Polar Libraries

"John Bockstoce’s White Fox and Icy Seas in the Western Arctic ranges from the ice floes of the High Arctic to the fashion houses of  Paris, pulling politics, technology, economics, and anthropology into a coherent whole. A tour de force."—Robin McGrath, author of Canadian Inuit Literature: The Development of a Tradition

"Informative and scholarly, this detailed account is a must read for those interested in the economic and social history of Chukotka, Northern Alaska, and the Western Canadian Arctic."—Stephen R. Braund, author of The Skin Boats of Saint Lawrence Island, Alaska

“Authoritative and entertaining, White Fox and Icy Seas in the Western Arctic highlights John Bockstoce’s unique talent for uncovering obscure but crucial archival sources to produce a lively account that integrates three different historical threads – the Native northeast Asian-Alaskan trade, the Western Arctic Alaskan trade, and the Canadian Hudson Bay trade – and stories of the day-to-day life of the traders and trappers rarely included in historical writings into one grand narrative.”—Douglas Anderson, Professor of Anthropology (emeritus), Brown University 

"National rivalries, fashion trends, and cross-cultural encounters at sea and on land: this brilliant book has it all, connecting our long fascination with the fur trade and the Arctic to the freshest approaches of recent scholarship."—Jay Gitlin, author of The Bourgeois Frontier