Time to Eat the Dogs

On Science, History, and Exploration

Michael Robinson


Welcome to Time to Eat the Dogs, a blog about science, history, and exploration. I am a professor of history at Hillyer College, University of Hartford. I study the role of exploration in science and culture. My first book, The Coldest Crucible: Arctic Exploration and American Culture, winner of the 2008 Book Award from the Forum for the History of Science in America, takes up the story of Arctic exploration in the United States during the height of its popularity, from 1850 to 1910. My latest book The Lost White Tribe: Scientists, Explorers, and the Theory that Changed a Continent (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), describes at the rise and fall of the Hamitic Hypothesis, a theory claiming that many native peoples were the descendants of a prehistoric “white invasion” from Central Asia.

A central goal of this blog is to broaden the conversation about science, history, and exploration and expand it beyond the limits of my own discipline, the history of science. Lots of people –explorers, scientists, anthropologists, literary scholars, and historians– have things to say about exploration. The hope is that this blog will not merely be a platform for my ideas but  serve as a clearinghouse of ideas about exploration as it is discussed across its many disciplines.  

If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, or would like to contact me for a presentation, email me at microbins@hartford.edu.  You can subscribe to this blog by email, RSS feed, or Twitter. Instructions for all of these options are available in the third column. My vita and published work are available on Academic.edu

About the Name

For many polar explorers, dogs served two purposes. They pulled sledges, and when they broke down, they were eaten as food, first by the healthier dogs, and then by the expedition party. Sometimes this happened as a last resort. Sometimes it was a part of a plan, a calculation of food, weight, and distance.

Exploration was difficult, even deadly, work. Explorers had to make decisions with a rational, and at times ruthless, efficiency. This did not always jibe with their public personae however. Explorers were often associated with the noblest traits of the nation, a set of ideals that did not include eating dogs (or other members of the party).

There is some black humor in the name, but it also illustrates something more broadly true: explorers had to hew closely to complicated, even contradictory, codes of behavior. They were expected to be fiercely patriotic yet were often deeply egocentric. They seemed desperate to escape civilization yet also seemed equally obsessed with their public images back home. For me, these contradictions are the most interesting part of exploration history because they are most revealing about society, culture, and human nature. And they make good stories too.

Contact Michael Robinson



  Mapping Africa « The Renaissance Mathematicus wrote @

[…] Jump to Comments At Time to Eat the Dogs the always excellent Michael Robinson (and if you don’t already regularly read him you should) has a stimulating review of a […]

  Scienspiration wrote @

I am really looking forward to following your blog! What a great speciality!

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