True North: Circumpolar Histories

Fall 2001 Wednesdays 10-12
UC 330
Heidi Bohaker Alison K. Smith
Office: Sidney Smith Hall 2086 Office: Sidney Smith Hall 2055
Office Hours W 1-3 Office Hours: Wednesdays 2-4
Office Phone: 416-946-0978 Office phone: 416-946-0968
heidi.bohaker@utoronto.ca alison.smith@utoronto.ca
  website: http://individual.utoronto.ca/aksmith

Course description:

The North, as both a direction and a place, figures prominently in constructions of Canadian identity. But other countries also claim the North as their own. This course compares and examines connections in the contested polar region through several themes:  cultures in contact, trade and exploration, environment, crime and punishment, and defense and sovereignty.

Required texts (available at the University Bookstore):

  • Renée Fossett, In Order to Live Untroubled: Inuit of the Central Arctic, 1550 to 1940 (Manitoba: University of Manitoba Press, 2001)
  • Yuri Slezkine, Arctic Mirrors: Russia and the Small Peoples of the North (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994)

Additional materials are available on line or on reserve at Robarts.


  • 4 (four) in-class quizzes (5% each)
  • 3 (three) 4-5 page papers (10% each)
  • final exam (30%)
  • class participation (20 %)

Marking of written assignments is based on accuracy and use of historical evidence, statement and development of a strong thesis, style, and grammar.

Course Policies:
Be warned that plagiarism is a serious offense.  Read the university’s policies on academic dishonesty, located at http://www.governingcouncil.utoronto.ca/policies/behaveac.htm.  In this course, plagiarism (ask if you’re confused about what that means) can lead to failure, not on a single paper, but for the class as a whole.
For more information on avoiding plagiarism, see in particular the University’s information on “how not to plagiarize” at http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/using-sources/how-not-to-plagiarize.
Furthermore, students agree that by taking this course all required papers may be subject to submission for textual similarity review to www.turnitin.com for the detection of plagiarism. All submitted papers will be included as source documents in the Turnitin.com reference database solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of such papers. The terms that apply to the University’s use of the Turnitin.com service are described on the Turnitin.com website.
Unexcused late papers or missed exams are also not acceptable.  If you find yourself in dire straits, or anticipate a conflict, discuss the matter with us ahead of time.  The night before something is due is not ahead of time.  Do not simply fail to turn in a paper and assume we’ll accept something late. 
At a minimum, the penalty for late work is three percentage points per day.

Films will be viewed at the Audio Visual Library on the 3rd floor of Robarts Library. Those who cannot view the film at the assigned time will be expected to view it independently at the library or will rent a copy from a video store.

One final note:  please, when sending us emails, include “XBC199” in the subject line.

Course Schedule:
September 14:  Introduction
September 21:

Arctic Space and Place

  • Kerry Abel and Ken S. Coates, "Introduction: The North and the Nation" in Northern visions: new perspectives on the North in Canadian history (Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview Press, 2001), 7-21.
September 28:

Settling the North (I) (Siberia)

  • Slezkine, “Introduction” (1-7)
  • Arctic Russia Image Project (see assignment)
October 5:

Settling the North (II) (Americas)

  • Fossett, Chapter 1, “Empty Dishes and Days of Feasting” (9-32)

Quiz #1 (Map Quiz)

October 12:

Rare Books Library Trip

October 19:

The Northeast Passage

October 26:

The Northwest Passage (I)

November 2:

Muscovite (North) Eastern Expansion

  • Slezkine, Chapter 1, “The Unbaptized,” (11-46)
  • Hessel Gerritsz, “Description of the Land of the Samoyeds in Tartary” (available on Blackboard)
November 9:

The Fur Trade (I)

  • Fossett, Chapter 3, “Fear when Winter Comes” (57-83)

Paper #1 Due (Primary Source)

November 16:

The Bering & Cook Expeditions

  • [Captain Cook], A New, Authentic and Complete Collection of Voyages round the World, undertaken and performed by Royal Authority, Chapter 13
November 23: 

The Fur Trade (II)

Quiz #2 (Short Identifications)(Description of Quiz)

November 30: ROM Trip