Cold and isolated, yet home to some 4 million people; harsh and unyielding, yet disintegrating with every passing year, the Arctic defies definition. In the modern mind it represents the quintessentially timeless; its landscape imagined both as a realm of crystalline purity and as a frozen kingdom of dread and death. A unique ecosystem that hosts such beloved creatures as the polar bear and the narwhal and serves as the homeland for some of the world's most robust peoples, the Arctic domain has fascinated and unsettled outsiders throughout history. For all its renown the Arctic remains far from perfectly understood, and today it stands at the epicentre of an unprecedented environmental crisis. In this book the author a polar historian provides a far-reaching overview of the region from the Stone Age to the present, examining all of its major aspects from a global perspective. Devoting attention to every Arctic nation, from North America and Greenland to Scandinavia and Russia, this account weaves together topics as diverse as polar exploration and science, Arctic nation-building, the northern environment and the role of indigenous peoples in Arctic history. The author details the centuries-long attempts to navigate and develop the Northwest and Northeast passages, as well as the conflicting claims to each waterway engendered by the rapid melting of Arctic ice today. He also reviews the resources found in the Arctic: oil, natural gas, minerals, sea mammals and fish, describing the importance these hold as such reserves are depleted elsewhere, and the challenges faced in extracting them. With Arctic territorial claims and resource extraction assuming ever-greater importance in the twenty-first century, this book includes an assessment of the current diplomatic and environmental realities of the region, exposing the increasingly dire risks it is likely to face in the near future. This book is a survey of this region at the top of the world.