Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Essential Franklin Reading

I will eventually post a comprehensive bibliography of Arctic and Franklin related readings, but for now, I set out below the books I've found so far that I consider essential Franklin texts. Consider it your basic first course in Franklin related literature.

  • Atwood, Margaret (1995) Strange Things: The Malevolent North in Canadian Literature -- A survey of the writing and literature about Franklin and how it has created a fundamental Canadian myth.

  • Battersby, William, "Identification of the Probable Source of the Lead Poisoning Observed in Members of the Franklin Expedition", Journal of the Hakluyt Society (September 2008) -- On the cutting edge of theorizing about what doomed the expedition from the outset and builds on the groundbreaking work by Beattie.

  • Beattie, Owen, and Geiger, John (first published: 1989, updated paper back edition: 2004) Frozen in Time: Unlocking the Secrets of the Franklin Expedition -- Groundbreaking archeological work that re-opened research into the Franklin expedition. The 2004 paperback edition updates their research to subsequent theories.

  • Berton, Pierre (1988) The Arctic Grail: The Quest for the Northwest Passage and the North Pole, 1818-1909 -- If you were to pick one book to start with, I strongly recommend The Arctic Grail, the classic book by the iconic Canadian writer historian Pierre Berton. It is an excellent survey of arctic exploration and the central role the Franklin Expedition and, more importantly, the search for Franklin had in mapping and exploring the Arctic.

  • Cookman, Scott (2000) Iceblink: The Tragic Fate of Sir John Franklin's Lost Polar Expedition -- While there is much debate about what role tinned food and food poisoning played in dooming the expedition, the rich and descriptive detail of Cookman's writing and research almost puts you right into the hull of the Terror and Erebus.

  • Lambert, Andrew (2009) Franklin: Tragic Hero of Polar Navigation -- The first comprehensive biography of Franklin really since Cyriax's Sir John Franklin's Last Expedition in 1939. I have yet to read this book, but based on Russell Potter's review, rest assured this one is on my list of must reads.

  • McGoogan, Ken (2002) Fatal Passage: The True Story of John Rae, the Arctic Hero Time Forgot -- Rae uncovered the true story of Franklin and his career and reputation was doomed for being honest about it. McGoogan tries to re-place Rae into his rightful place in history.

  • McGoogan, Ken (2005) Lady Franklin's Revenge: A True Story of Ambition, Obsession and the Remaking of Arctic History -- The story about Sir John Franklin cannot be fully understood without knowing about his ambitious and opinionated wife, Lady Jane Franklin, and her efforts to mount and continue the search for her husband. More than that, McGoogan brings her and Sir John, and the events that led to his command of the fateful expedition, to life.

  • M'Clintock, Francis I. (1860) The Voyage of the Fox in the Arctic Seas: A Narrative of the Discovery of the Fate of Sir John Franklin and His Companions -- This is the original story of the commander of the expedition that finally solved the mystery of what happened and where. And began the mystery of why and how.
  • Potter, Russel (2007) Arctic Spectacles: The Frozen North in Visual Culture -- Confession: I just got this book for Father's Day after quite some time of heavy hints and look forward to reading it. Potter illuminates the nineteenth-century fascination with visual representations of the Arctic and brings us closer to understanding why the Arctic has held such magnetic appeal through history.

  • Sandler, Martin (2006) Resolute: The Epic Search for the Northwest Passage and John Franklin, and the Discovery of the Queen's Ghost Ship -- Another onfession: this one is on my to do list.

  • Smith, Michael (2006) Captain Francis Crozier - Last Man Standing? -- The first comprehensive biography of Captain Crozier, captain of the Terror and, after the death of Franklin, commanded of the expedition. I am excited about the upcoming book by William Battersby who, it seems, will do for Captain James Fitzjames what Smith does for Crozier.

  • Woodman, David C. (1992) Unravelling the Franklin Mystery: Inuit Testimony -- Woodman is one of the first to recognise the profound importance of the Inuit testimony and to analyse it in depth (John Rae or Charles Francis Hall should probably be recognized as the first, but Woodman is one of the first contemporary researchers). He concludes from his investigations, among other startling discoveries, that the Inuit probably did visit Franklin's ships while the crew was still on board and that there were some Inuit who actually saw the sinking of one of the ships. Consider also Woodman's Strangers Among Us (1995) in which Woodman re-examines the Inuit accounts taken by Charles Francis Hall in the light of modern scholarship and re-evaluates the importance of Inuit oral traditions in his search to reconstruct the events surrounding Franklin's expedition.

  • For anyone already emersed in Arctic and Franklin writing, this list is obviously hardly the start of it. I have not even made my way through all of these yet. But they are a good start. Feel free to let me know your favourite, or to provide your own review or suggestions for further reading, in the comments or by email. You may also want to browse this quite comprehensive list of Franklin links and this comprehensive regularly updated bibliography of Franklin fiction and poetry, thanks for both to Professor Potter.

    Scanning this list you might notice something quite remarkable: just how much of the literature covering this nearly 200 year old event is so very recent. With even more on the way.

    We are truly in the midst of a genuine renaissance of writing on the lost Franklin Expedition. I hope to help foster that interest with this website. And you have just become a part of it by visiting.


    Jenny said...

    I'm looking forward to reading your blog and delighted to see all this activity on the web. When I first got interested in the expedition a year ago, I was very happy about Prof. Potter's website, and now it's great to see all the new research and writing going on. I really appreciate this list, since I need to keep learning. I wasn't able to read Cyriax's book until I started at a school with a huge library, but that was definitely a treat as well.

    Ted Betts said...

    Thanks for your comment. Professor Potter has indeed done yeoman's work. As has Battersby who has put up his own research on his blog (Hidden Tracks).

    I plan over the next many months to post links and summarize basic introductory info on the Franklin expedition and research as a sort of "good place to start" entry website for those just getting into it. Feel free to send me any links to any site that you have found useful. I've already started collecting several in the sidebar.

    Then over time, hopefully, I can start to contribute more of my own thoughts and theories.