Making ‘Man in the North’: Academic and Military Entanglements in Arctic Science, 1944-49


In the brief period between the final months of World War II and the acceleration of the Cold War at the end of the 1940s, several new scientifically-focused agencies, often working in concert, began to steer the study of northern North America and the broader perception of the region in much of Canada and the United States. Focused on two of these agencies, the bi-national Arctic Institute of North America and Canada’s Defence Research Board, this presentation charts some understudied connections between a small number of individuals who exerted significant influence over southern approaches to the post-War Arctic. Fundamentally, they treated the region as a potential and suitable stage for war, a characterization that ultimately transcended sovereignty anxieties. Combined with the apparent absence of ‘systematic’ knowledge about the region, this representation justified the investments made by the U.S. and Canadian militaries in northern infrastructure, operations, and research projects across a wide range of sciences. I conclude by speculating on one result of those military investments: the invention of ‘man in the north’, an individual with colonial ancestry, no doubt, but most directly a product and a subject of the Cold War human sciences, as they turned to the conditions of northern military life.