The British in the Arctic, 1818-1829

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This thesis will concern itself with British involvement in the Arctic during the period 1818 to 1829. This study seeks to determine and to explain why the British decided to go into the Arctic after the Napoleonic Wars, what happened in the various expeditions that were sent out, and what results were achieved from such an investigation. Various forces, motives and prominent figures are examined to establish the kind of rationale that induced government to sponsor not only one expedition but to embark upon a sustained and continuing series of exploration in the Arctic regions. A recurrent theme that presents itself throughout this quest - and a notion that had held the minds of men for centuries - was the road to Cathay. In order to achieve this dream, British policy was directed towards the discovery of a north-west passage or, failing that, a quicker route to the east via the North Pole. By 1829 the British had become disheartened in the quest. Again and again expeditions had returned without having achieved their goals. The most immediate and obvious success was, of course, the opening up of the North American continent bordering the Arctic Ocean. The other major achievements were the discoveries and additions given to science.