Settlements in an Arctic Resource Frontier Region

Louwrens Hacquebord and Dag Avango


In this article we use a core-periphery model in order to understand the general trends in the history of natural resource exploitation in the polar regions. The study focuses on whaling, hunting, and coal mining activities on the European High Arctic archipelago of Spitsbergen, from the seventeenth century to the present. We show that some of the whaling and mining stations developed a regional position and a level of permanence that is not expected in a Resource Frontier Region. The explanation is that there were not only economic reasons but also geopolitical motives for establishing and maintaining these stations, making it possible to build organizations strong enough to sustain them. This phenomenon is not accounted for in the core-periphery model because of a focus on economic driving forces in core regions. In order to understand the role of such stations in polar Resource Frontier Regions, they should be characterized as centers in the periphery.

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