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In Darkest AlaskaIn Darkest Alaska

Travel and Empire Along the Inside Passage

Robert Campbell

Narrated by Robert E. Anderson

Available from Audible

Book published by University of Pennsylvania Press

Before Alaska became a mining bonanza, it was a scenic bonanza, a place larger in the American imagination than in its actual borders. Prior to the great Klondike Gold Rush of 1897, thousands of scenic adventurers journeyed along the Inside Passage, the nearly thousand-mile sea-lane that snakes up the Pacific coast from Puget Sound to Icy Strait. Both the famous—including wilderness advocate John Muir, landscape painter Albert Bierstadt, and photographers Eadweard Muybridge and Edward Curtis—and the long forgotten—a gay ex-sailor, a former society reporter, an African explorer, and a neurasthenic Methodist minister—returned with fascinating accounts of their Alaskan journeys, becoming advance men and women for an expanding United States.

In Darkest Alaska explores the popular images conjured by these travelers' tales, as well as their influence on the broader society. Drawing on lively firsthand accounts, archival photographs, maps, and other ephemera of the day, historian Robert Campbell chronicles how Gilded Age sightseers were inspired by Alaska's bounty of evolutionary treasures, tribal artifacts, geological riches, and novel thrills to produce a wealth of highly imaginative reportage about the territory. By portraying the territory as a "Last West" ripe for American conquest, tourists helped pave the way for settlement and exploitation.

Robert Campbell teaches history at Montana State University, Bozeman. His work has appeared in American Quarterly and Pacific Historical Review.


“Scholars of U.S. history will not want to miss this well-written and compelling book.... In Darkest Alaska illuminates a realm of potent anxieties about natives, nature, and national expansion which have shaped American culture and politics right down to the present day.”

—Louis S. Warren, author of Buffalo Bill's America: William Cody and the Wild West Show

“A work of sweeping erudition and insight. If, as he so convincingly shows, Alaska was a Rorschach test for the American imagination, then Campbell is the peerless interpreter of its imperial and racial foundations. This is a serious trip in the best sense imaginable.”

—James C. Scott, Yale University

“One of the most sophisticated and important studies of western American travel and tourism and one of the most significant histories of Alaska.... A brilliant study on many levels... It is theoretically rich, structurally innovative, very well written, deeply researched, and beautifully illustrated.”

American Historical Review

“The environmental particulars of Alaska (and the Northwest Coast in general) present a wonderful backdrop for his human history.... Written with style and grace, this carefully crafted work rests on a firm documentary foundation.”

Journal of American History

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