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PhD ceremony Ms. F. Kruse: Frozen assets. British mining, exploration, and geopolitics on Spitsbergen, 1904-53

When:Th 19-12-2013 at 09:00
Where:Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

PhD ceremony: Ms. F. Kruse

Dissertation: Frozen assets. British mining, exploration, and geopolitics on Spitsbergen, 1904-53

Promotor(s): prof. L. Hacquebord

Faculty: Arts

Kruse’s PhD thesis concerns four British companies during the industrialisation of the arctic archipelago (now Svalbard) in the early 20th century. Against the backdrop of Britain’s leading coal industry, its global empire, and its contribution to polar discovery, it is interesting to ask, ‘What exactly drove the British development in the former no man’s land?’ Rooted in the fields of industrial archaeology and mining history, the study is part of the LASHIPA (Large-scale Historical Exploitation of Polar Areas) Project of the International Polar Year 2007-2008. Guided by the core-periphery model and the actor network theory (ANT), fieldwork and archival research gave rise to six empirical chapters that address why the firms were started; how they operated; why they wound up; and what their impacts were. The results show that the archaeological landscape of mineral exploration in particular is poorly understood. Of the four companies, two focussed on mining and were terminated before the First World War because their local networks could not provide the natural resources that their global networks wanted. Two were land-grabbing exploration companies that used the greatly politicised climate after the war to prolong their existence until no longer commercially viable. The study confirms that the companies were founded for purely economic reasons, but secondary political motivations amplified at a time of international conflict sustained them beyond economic feasibility.

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