Photo: Thor Inge Vollan/UNIS

Moonlight over Mine 2B, Longyearbyen. Photo: Thor Inge Vollan/UNIS

Latest news

By the deadline yesterday, I received 45 online exercise responses, and all of them have been approved — congratulations! You will find the exercise solution here (PDF).

Remember, today at 18:00 is the deadline for the online exercise, which is mandatory for exam candidates. Some of you have asked about my book “Svalbards historie”. It is now available in the museum shop at Svalbard Museum.

The PDF copies of next week’s lectures (06-10) are now available for download. Please remember the mandatory online exercise; you will find all the information you need to answer correctly in the summaries, lectures or the recommended reading list — or, if you are too lazy, by googling with a critical mind (no guarantees extended).

NOTE! The exam on 10 February is rescheduled to 09:00-12:00 (not after lunch as previously announced).

The online exercise is now open for your response. Click this link to access it: There are 33 quite simple questions and you need 66% correct answers to pass. Shortly after you have clicked ‘Submit’, you will receive a copy of your answers to the email address you provided. There will also be a link there that you can use to revise your answers later. The exercise will be closed for response on Wednesday 5 February at 18:00.

Group 1 to visit Svalbard Museum today, please meet outside Lassegrotta at 11:55 and we will go together through to the museum. Leave your backpacks and heavy clothes behind. Same procedure for group 2 tomorrow, on Wednesday.

Welcome to The History of Svalbard! We start the course in Lassegrotta on Monday 27 January at 16:15. You will get a very brief overview of Svalbard’s history, an introduction to history in general and practical information. Updated slides and summary (PDF) for lecture 1 will be made available on this page. See you!

Contact information: Thor B. Arlov
At UNIS: Office A 317, mobile phone +47 90 63 50 72, e-mail:
At NTNU: Phone +47 73 59 81 23, e-mail:

Lecture summaries 2020

Summary 01 (PDF)
Summary 02 (PDF)
Summary 03 (PDF)
Summary 04 (PDF)
Summary 05 (PDF)
Summary 06 (PDF)
Summary 07 (PDF)
Summary 08 (PDF)
Summary 09 (PDF)
Summary 10 (PDF)

NB: Summaries may deviate somewhat from the actual lecture.

Slides 2020

Lecture 01 (PDF)
Lecture 02 (PDF)
Lecture 03 (PDF)
Lecture 04 (PDF)
Lecture 05 (PDF)
Lecture 06 (PDF)
Lecture 07 (PDF)
Lecture 08 (PDF)
Lecture 09 (PDF)
Lecture 10 (PDF)

Course description

SH-201 The History of Svalbard

Lecture plan 2020

No. Date Lecture topic Lecturer Reading
1 27 Jan Introduction: Arctic colonization and main lines in the history of Svalbard Thor B. Arlov Vaughan 1999, ch. 1.
2 28 Jan The early exploration of the Arctic and the discovery of Svalbard Thor B. Arlov Vaughan 1999, ch. 2–3; Arlov 1994, pp. 9–15
3 29 Jan Whaling and sealing in the 17th and 18th centuries Thor B. Arlov Vaughan 1999, ch. 4; Arlov 1994, pp. 16–34
4 30 Jan Hunting and trapping. Russian and Norwegian trappers Thor B. Arlov Vaughan 1999, pp. 111–115; Arlov 1994, pp. 35–41
5 31 Jan The scientific exploration of Svalbard and modern polar research Thor B. Arlov Arlov 1994, pp. 42–49
6 3 Feb The great (and not so great) polar expeditions from Svalbard Thor B. Arlov Vaughan 1999, pp. 192–198, 221–232
7 4 Feb The industrialization of Svalbard: Exploration and mining from Søren Zakariassen to Svea Nord Thor B. Arlov Vaughan 1999, pp. 248–252; Arlov 1994, pp. 50–59
8 5 Feb The development of governance and environmental protection Thor B. Arlov
9 6 Feb Svalbard in national and international politics: problems of strategy and sovereignty Thor B. Arlov Vaughan 1999, pp. 232–238; Arlov 1994, pp. 60–78
10 7 Feb The development of permanent settlement and the local history of Longyearbyen Thor B. Arlov Arlov 1994, pp. 79–87
10 Feb Exam 09:00-12:00

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  • Vaughan 1999. Richard Vaughan: The Arctic. A History. Paperback or hardcover edition 1999-2007, Sutton Publishing (can be ordered new or used from Amazon UK for around £ 10).
  • Arlov 1994. Thor B. Arlov: A Short History of Svalbard. Polarhåndbok nr. 4, 2nd ed. 1994. Norsk Polarinstitutt (out of print, but available in hard-copy at the UNIS library and online from the National Library).
  • Arctic Human Deveopment Report (2004) contains much relevant information on the circumpolar Arctic. The various chapters can be downloaded here.
  • The Cruise Handbook for Svalbard by the Norwegian Polar Institute is available online and contains general articles on history and cultural monuments as well as specific articles pertaining to the different geographical areas.
  • Unveiling the Arctic, special issue of Arctic vol. 37, no 4 (1984). Many interesting papers relevant to the history of Svalbard. The papers can be freely downloaded (PDF) here.

Previous issues of the journal Arctic can be freely downloaded here. Below are some examples of interesting articles:

A bibliography of relevant Svalbard literature can be downloaded here (PDF). Also, check out the public library in Longyearbyen which has a good collection, the UNIS library or Svalbard Museum’s book store.

Statistics Norway (Statistisk Sentralbyrå) has issued a very useful collection of Svalbard statistics in English, Norwegian and Russian, which can be viewed or downloaded here.

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Seminars and activities

We will arrange a guided visit to Svalbard Museum, see Latest News for update. During the course period, registered SH-201 students have free access to the exhibition and also a discount on books in the shop, courtesy of Svalbard Museum.

Students who understand Norwegian will benefit from following the “Svalbard Seminar” lectures on Tuesday and/or Thursday evenings (see programme here).

Online exercise

The online exercise is a knowledge test consisting of some 30 questions, which you answer by either multiple choice or short text. The exercise is mandatory in order to take the exam, requiring at least 66% correct answers. You may want to do the exercise anyway, just to test yourself.


The lectures are open, but in order to take the exam, you must be a registered student at UNIS in spring term, including Arctic Nature Guide students from UiT.

Requirements: An online exercise is required in order to take exam. The online exercise must be submitted by Wednesday 5 February 2020 at 18:00. There will be a 3 hour written exam on Monday 10 February at 08:45–12:00 (Kapp Lee, Kapp Mitra, Kapp Schoultz, Kapp Wijk).

If you have registered for exam on the attendance list and are qualified, you are automatically entered on the exam list. If you wish to redraw, you must do so in writing (e-mail) within Monday 28 January 2019 to the Study Adminstration:

Downloads (PDF):

Here are some tips on how to write a good exam (PDF).


We want to improve! Registered students will receive an online course evaluation form by e-mail, which I urge you to fill in and return.

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