Between the Arctic & the Adriatic: Polar Exploration, Science & Empire in the Habsburg Monarchy

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Between the Arctic & the Adriatic: Polar Exploration, Science & Empire in the Habsburg Monarchy

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Title: Between the Arctic & the Adriatic: Polar Exploration, Science & Empire in the Habsburg Monarchy
Author: Walsh, Stephen Anthony
Citation: Walsh, Stephen Anthony. 2014. Between the Arctic & the Adriatic: Polar Exploration, Science & Empire in the Habsburg Monarchy. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: Exploration was a defining aspect of how European societies encountered and established relations with the wider world. It set the stage for worldwide empires and laid the foundations for understandings of planetary existence. Exploration facilitated the exchange of commodities and ideas, the migration of peoples and the construction of scientific knowledge. This dissertation examines the nexus between ice and imperium through a study of how citizens of the Habsburg Monarchy contributed to polar exploration.
In the long nineteenth century, the two main objects of European exploration were Africa and the polar regions. In the former, the dynamic between exploration and empire was fairly straightforward. But how did imperialism function in the frozen, uninhabited, latitudes of the world? This question becomes more problematic for the Habsburg Monarchy, a multinational polity with eleven officially recognized languages, and a self-professed empire that was the one European "Great Power" at the time without overseas colonies.
This dissertation analyzes how the symbology and practice of polar exploration was used in the service of sundry - and frequently contradictory - political projects, including various nationalist activisms, Habsburg loyalism, and the liberal politics of notables. The analysis incorporates a case study in the convoluted road between discovery and empire, Franz Josef Land, the northernmost terrain in Eurasia, discovered by an Austro-Hungarian expedition in 1873. This dissertation then traces fractures within the Austro-Hungarian culture of exploration, as explorer/scientists could reach little consensus on the goals and practices for expeditions to the farthest latitudes of the globe. Finally, it examines how the rise of mass-data driven inductive sciences, such as geomagnetism, caused a fundamental redefinition in the practice of polar research toward a model of corporate, coordinated scientific effort and transnational cooperation.
With the emergence of nation states and colonial empires, the basic frameworks of sovereignty, legitimacy and political meaning were changing and this study highlights how Habsburg subjects contributed to these modernization processes. In so doing, it brings to light neglected but lasting aspects of nineteenth century imperialism and treats both nationalism and empire as research problems rather than given ends.
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:13070045
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