GET MORE SMARTER ABOUT SVALBARD: Annual two-week ’The History of Svalbard’ course at UNIS offering lectures, exams (and answers!) and other materials free online


Painting by Abraham Storck, 1690 / Courtesy of Rijksmuseum Netherlands

Now that visiting Svalbard is finally getting back to something resembling normal after two years of Covid, those wanting to arrive informed can take advantage of one of the few pluses of the pandemic as a just completed and much-acclaimed two-week university history course about the archipelago’s history is available free online.

Thor Arlov has taught “The History of Svalbard” for many years at The University Centre In Svalbard, making many of his materials including slides and exams available at the course’s website. But during the past two years he has also posted the lectures since the university, like many academic institutions, has been forced to offer many of its classses digitally.

The course discusses early exploitation of Svalbard as a resource frontier with emphasis on whaling and hunting as well as economic activity in the modern era, first and foremost mining and large-scale tourism,” a summary of the course at UNIS’ website notes. “An overriding perspective is the interaction between man and the environment through nearly 400 years of resource harvesting.”

Science, politics, and the development of the Norwegian and Russian settlements are among the other broad themes.

There are ten two-hour lectures, each accompanied by slides and a wealth of other supplementary materials. For those wanting to test their knowledge exams are also available – along with the answers, of course, including essay examples from exams dating back several years.