A History of Alaska, Volume I: From Old and New Frontiers to the Changing Strategic Balance


Nielson, Jonathan M., Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara


Author of American Historians in War and Peace: Patriotism, Diplomacy, and the Paris Peace Conference, 1918-1919

As a unique, distant geographical region of the United States, Alaska has evolved from military insignificance to high strategic priority in the 142 years since its purchase from Russia in 1867. The reasons for this dramatic shift derive from a correlation of geography, foreign policy, domestic politics, and military technology.

Historically the role of the armed forces in Alaska has been large and diverse. Alaska was one of the two principal territorial purchases made by the United States between 1803 and 1867 adding nearly 1.5 million square miles to America’s national domain. Smaller by the size of Texas than Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase, Alaska, unlike all of the territories and states carved out of the former, languished in obscurity and isolation, and was administered as a colonial dependency by the military and other branches of the federal government, its official ‘territorial status’ and government notwithstanding. While sharing many common aspects of frontier settlement and Western history with territories such as Montana, the Dakotas, Wyoming, and Colorado, Alaska presented special challenges peculiar to a non-contiguous arctic and sub-Arctic environment, separated from the United States by a foreign power. Indeed, only the defeated South under Reconstruction experienced the same degree of military occupation and martial law.

Alaska also has the unique distinction in the American experience of belonging to Imperial Russia before it became of interest to American expansionists. Still others found Alaska tempting and pursued their own designs North of '53. The Spanish, British, Canadians, and even the French plied Alaska’s waters and made their claims to Alyeska- the Great Land. And it is with these clashing imperial ambitions that this three-volume history begins.

American History, American Studies, Colonial Studies, Imperial History, Military History, Alaska, Alaskan History, Russian History, Political Science, US Politics, Public Policy, Statehood, Western Settlement, the Old West
Release Date: 
Feb. 1, 2018
Hardcover: 978-1680530582
Trim Size: 

1727 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 507
Washington, DC 20036