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Rekindling histories : families and British polar exploration



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Warrior, Claire 


This thesis examines the roles that families played, and continue to play, in sustaining British polar exploration. It uses polar exploration as a case-study to investigate the ways in which people maintain or revive particular histories in public and in private, and probes the intersection between memory and history, family and nation. What people do is not necessarily unusual, but using a case-study allows for an appreciation of the extent to which their practices may be effective over extended periods of time . While words are important here (in the form of manuscripts and books), material culture, commemorative events and travel also play their part. My hypothesis is that history-making in a British context is closely connected to kinship and that the importance of familial relations has been naturalised, rather than questioned. It notes the continuity that is perceived to be generated by kinship ties, and demonstrates how families in the present attempt to reinforce it. This is connected to a notion of responsibility towards ancestors, an acknowledgement that a person may be both individual and dividual, balancing their own sense of self with wider familial concerns. In the case of polar exploration, the focus on particular heroic figures creates certain perceptions of the regions and also subdues the presence of other participants on specific expeditions. This thesis pays particular attention to the ways in which their family members in the present work to ensure that ancestors are publicly remembered. Institutions associated with making histories, such as museums, are similarly imbued with familial relations, yet this has rarely been acknowledged. A focus on the National Maritime Museum demonstrates how family memory becomes national history, and what this move means. It illustrates the ways in which families are pulled into commemorative activities by external parties, how this is perceived by them and what it entails. Finally, analysing the Museum's displays through time demonstrates how shifts in historical understanding are reflected in public spaces and the agency of families within them.






Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge