Candidate Profile

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Adventure & Exploration
History - General
Travel & Destinations
Dr. Edward J. Larson is University Professor and Hugh & Hazel Darling Chair in Law at Pepperdine University. He earned a B.A. from Williams College and a J.D. from Harvard University. He also holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in the History of Science from the University of Wisconsin- Madison. He previously taught at the University of Georgia and served as Associate Counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor. While at the University of Georgia, Professor Larson received several teaching awards, including the Richard B. Russell Award for Undergraduate Teaching. He also received the George Sarton Award for Science History from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr. Larson was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for History for his book, Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion. He is the author of three other books and more than 50 articles for such publications as Nature, Scientific American, The Atlantic, and The Wall Street Journal.

1. Arctic Convoys: Russia's Frozen World War Two Lifeline.
Enrichment lecturer Ed Larson tells the gripping tale of North Atlantic heroism as Britain, Canada, and the United States struggled to resupply their Soviet Union allies during the darkest days of World War II. Complete with original film footage, this inspiring story makes these Arctic waters come alive for travelers on any cruise to Norway, Iceland, Greenland, or Russia.

2. Alaska’s Historic Panhandle: Fish, Furs, and Gold.
From Charlie Chaplin’s Gold Rush to Bing, Bob, and The Road to Utopia, Alaska has been the stuff of dreams since the Russians first settled its coast in the 1700s and the United States purchased the place in 1868. Destination lecturer Ed Larson will introduce you Alaska’s historic panhandle from settlement to the great Klondike gold rush.

3. Alaska Statehood and Beyond: Hot War, Cold War, and Oil.
Alaska is much more than ice and gold. It jumped on American front pages with the bombing of Dutch Harbor near the start of World War II. Gaining statehood in 1959, Alaska has remained critical to American military defenses from the Second World War to the present and become a prime producer of crude oil beginning in the 1970s. Focusing on parts Alaska beyond its scenic panhandle, destination lecturer Ed Larson will introduce you to the history of America’s 49th state from World War II through statehood to today.

4. North Pole or Bust: The Horrifying Story of Man’s Quest to Reach the North Pole.
Enrichment lecturer and polar historian Ed Larson takes you back to the early struggle by Europeans to reach the North Pole in the nineteenth century. Failure upon failure marked this effort, with many men lost in a quest to reach a spot on the sea-ice that had no material value but was given worth by its shear unattainability. Initially for the British but then for Americans and Europeans as well, reaching the Pole first became a goal for adventurers, a topic of immense popular interest, and a test of national resolve. Join us as Larson takes us north, to the Pole.

5. Who Owns the North and South Poles, and Why It Matters More Than Ever.
Enrichment lecturer Ed Larson, a historian and property-law professor, will address the vexing question, what countries claim the Arctic and Antarctic regions, and what is the historical and legal basis for those claims. The melting ice cap has given new urgency to this issue, especially in the Arctic, as countries and corporations rush to exploit the resources and seaways of a one-frozen but now increasingly accessible region.

6. The Man Who Ate His Boots: Tragic Search for a Northwest Passage.
As we sail north, enrichment lecturer Ed Larson with review the four century long and tragic quest to find and navigate the Northwest Passage from Greenland to Alaska. The quest began around 1500, shortly after Europeans reached the New World, and did not end until Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the first to make it through early in the twentieth century. The effort was marked by heroism and horror, courage and carnage, salvation and shipwreck. Larson will let you decide for yourself if it was worth it.

7. Discovering Terra del Fuego and Patagonia.
As we travel the Argentine coast of Patagonia and sail around Terra del Fuego to Cape Horn, destination lecturer Ed Larson will discuss the storied history of these remote regions. Long settled by Native Americans, Ferdinand Magellan was the first European to reach them as he led his famed expedition south looking for a route around the Americas to Asia. Having that route west through the Straits of Magellan in 1520, he claimed Patagonia and Terra del Fuego for Spain. Argentina’s independence opened the region to explorers and immigration from other countries, with the Beagle Channel being first charted during the 1830s by British expedition that included Charles Darwin as its naturalists. The explorers and other will be featured in Larson’s lecture.

8. Scott, Science, and the Race to the Pole.
As we travel south to Antarctica, this lecture will retell the story of the celebrated “race to the South Pole” between teams led by the already famous Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and Britain’s soon to be legendary Robert Scott. This race captured the world’s attention a century ago and remains one of the best known real-life adventure stories. Drawn for this 2011 prize-winning book on early Antarctic exploration, enrichment lecturer Ed Larson will relate the history of Amundsen and Scott’s rival expeditions with an important scientific twist.

9. Ernest Shackleton: 100 Years of Endurance.
A century ago, the Anglo-Irish polar explorer Ernest Shackleton and the men of the Endurance were crossing the sea ice east of the Antarctic peninsula after their ship had been crushed by the ice prior to landing for a planned trans-continental expedition. Shackleton’s remarkable efforts to save his men made him one of the most famous and beloved explorers of 20th century, but his heroic story actually began with two earlier Antarctic explorations and would continue with one more. In this talk, enrichment lecturer Ed Larson will take the full measure of Shackleton, the man and the explorer.

10. Fighting Over the Falkland Islands.
With a population of less than 3000 persons, the Falkland Islands are one of the most remote human outposts on earth. Claimed by Argentina but governed by Britain for the past two centuries, in 1982, these islands became the unlike site of a war between these two western nations following the decision of a military junta in Buenos Aries to invade and occupy the island and Prime Minister Margret Thatcher’s response to send an armada to reclaim them. A repeat visitor to the islands, destination lecturer Ed Larson will try to make some sense of this battle at the bottom of the world and its ongoing significance for both countries.

11. An Arctic Question: Is Geoengineering the Answer to Global Warming?
Global warming appears to have a particular impact on the Arctic, as Greenland’s glaciers retreat, the polar sea ice thins, and frozen tundra in Siberia, Alaska, and Canada thaws. Some concerned scientists on the right and some of the left have begun proposing novel means of geo-engineering, particular the use of stratospheric aerosols, to counter the effects of greenhouse gases. Some like President Reagan’s former science advisor Edward Teller have claimed this might be needed to save the earth as we know it – but at what cost? As this public-policy debates heats up with the recent release of studies by America’s elite Academy of Sciences, enrichment lecturer Ed Larson with discuss the issue and let you decide for yourself what course to follow.

12. Nansen and Amundsen: Norway’s Larger-Than-Life Polar Heroes.
When Norway secured its long-sought independence from Sweden in 1905, it boosted two living legends: Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen. By 1905, both men had gained worldwide notice for their exploits in Arctic expeditions that achieved long sought goals. And both men would go on to even greater accomplishments that sealed their status as global celebrities and continue to make them the pride of Norway and all Norwegians. Enrichment lecturer Ed Larson will retell their heroic stories in a lecture that separates fact from legend.

13. New England’s Revolutionary Roots.
From “The Rude Bridge that Arched the Flood” that early morning in April, 1775, at the Battles of Lexington and Concord to the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788, with New Hampshire supplying the critical ninth vote, New England played an oversize and often decisive role in the American Revolution and formation of the United States. In his lecture, Revolutionary Era historian Ed Larson will take you back to those critical years in American history to relate the part played by New England and New Englanders, particularly Boston and Bostonians such as John Hancock, John Adams and Henry Knox, in the Revolution. Be ready to hold on to your tri-cornered hats.

14. The Many States of New England.
The entirety of New England is smaller than a dozen other American states, yet it is broken up into six separate states, each with a distinctive character. Some call it a fluke of history, but if so, that history influenced much that followed. Religion, geography, and a deep-sense of Yankee independence was never far from the surface. “Live Free or Die,” was the motto that all of these states came to live by and one still prints on its license plates. By exploring the founding and early history of New England, Larson’s lecture will explain the many states of New England and why they still matter today.

15. ME Three Sons: Chamberlain, Blaine, and Peary.
The Great State of Maine as three favorite sons. Colonel Joshua Chamberlain received the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1863 for his pivot role in the Battle of Gettysburg, which itself was pivot for Union victory in the Civil War. A national hero, he went on to become Maine’s governor. James Blaine was Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and a U.S. Senator, twice served as Secretary of State, and was the 1884 Republican nominee for President. Robert Peary was America’s foremost Arctic explorer and in 1907 led the first team to credibly claim to reach the North Pole. This lecture will tell the remarkable stories of these three favorite son of Maine (or ME as it is abbreviated).

16. Oh Canada: A Tale of Two Cultures.
As we sail into Canada and down the great St. Lawrence River, Destination Lecturer Ed Larson will supply a primer in early Canadian history. It is a tale of two cultures, as the French battled the English for domination of a land already fully populated with native peoples. For a critical period, Quebec went to France even as the Maritime Provinces became predominately English. The Seven Years War gave political control to the United Kingdom but French culture remained dominant in the lower St. Lawrence River valley. The revolutionary states to the south tried twice to annex the region, failing both times. The result was the independent nation of Canada, which remains a country with two cultures, a noble history, and a promising future.

17. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and the Catastrophic Election of 1800.
Presidential historians look back to the Election of 1800 as perhaps the most divisive and ultimately the most pivotal presidential election in American history. It marked the beginning of partisan politics as we know it today and pitted two heroes of the Revolution and former friends, John Adams of Massachusetts, the sitting President, and Thomas Jefferson, the sitting Vice President, against each other in what became a no-holds-barred fight to the finish for the future of the republic. Early American historian Ed Larson help you relive this critical and still-timely episode in American political history.

18. The South African Cradle of Humankind: From Australopithecus to the Bushmen.
The area around Johannesburg in northeast South Africa and on into Botswana is commonly referred to as “the Cradle of Humankind,” This phrase refers to the remarkably rich array of ancient hominid and early human fossils found there, but also can apply to the current Bushmen, who are the oldest surviving human ethnic group. Here, more than anywhere else, modern humans are discovering where we came from. In this talk, enrichment lecturer Ed Larson, a historian of science who has written extensively on this topic, explores humankind’s remarkable African roots.

19. Dr. Livingstone, I Presume: The European Discovery of Southern Africa.
As visitors to southern Africa, we follow a long line of Europeans and others in exploring a rich and fascinating region of the world that was long unknown to outsiders. Those outsiders called it “deepest, darkest Africa,” and it remained so to them until little more than a century ago. In this talk, enrichment lecturer Ed Larson traces the European exploration of southern Africa from the first tentative visits to the coastal regions in the 1500s to the opening of the interior in the 1800s, with its profound consequences of local life.

20. Introducing South Africa: The Rainbow Nation.
Populated by rich array of different peoples that gives it the nickname, The Rainbow Nation, South Africa is visibly different from the rest of Africa. It has the most temperate climate, the most manufacturing, the most vibrant agricultural sector, the most diverse economy, the most robust middle class, the best schools and colleges, and the most ethnic diversity. In this talk, destination lecturer Ed Larson discusses the historical roots and current realities of South Africa as the Rainbow Nation.

21. Three African Success Stories: Namibia, Botswana, and Malawi.
From South Sudan, to Zimbabwe, to Somali, news reports often focus on what seems to be going wrong in Africa without tell us much about what is going right there. Certainly the continent contains more than its fair share of failed states – but that is partly because it includes so many states arbitrarily created with little or no historical or ethnic foundation. The southern horn of Africa contains three modern success stories – Namibia, Botswana, and Malawi – that many of us will be visiting. In this talk, destination lecturer Ed Larson examines these modern successes of African nation building and the key elements that make these nations work were others fail.

22. Mutiny on the Bounty in Fact and Fiction.
Clark Gable, Charles Laughton, and Polynesian beauties, what’s not to like in the Academy Award winning Best Picture of 1935, Mutiny on the Bounty, which romantically retells the famous story of Fletcher Christian’s overthrow of Captain William Bligh. Marlon Brando tried it again in 1962 with less success. And both movies depart from the facts of the Royal Navy’s only successful mutiny, with some of the mutineers remaining on Tahiti and others establishing a lasting community on remote Pitcairn Island. Destination lecturer Ed Larson separates fact from fiction in the gripping tale of murder and mayhem on the high seas.

23. Master and Commander: The True Story of War in the Galapagos.
The Oscar winning 2003 movie Master and Commander beautifully retold the story from Patrick O’Brian’s popular novels of war on the far side of the world. Those novels drew on real historical incidents as the United States and the United Kingdom fought the War of 1812 over whaling rights in the South Pacific. Much of the movie was filmed on the Galapagos Islands, where many of the sea battles were fought. Prize-winning author of a best-selling history of the Galapagos Islands, lecturer Ed Larson will discuss both the movie and the real events behind it as he discusses the Galapagos in war and peace.

24. A Whale of a Tale In the Heart of the Sea.
The sinking of the whaleship Essex by a whale strike in 1820 inspired Herman Melville’s American masterpiece Moby Dick and was brought to the big screen last year in director Ron Howard’s In the Heart of the Sea. As we sail through the waters where this tragic American event and its unforgettable consequences took place, Pulitzer Prize winning historian Ed Larson will retell the tale as it happened and as it was later retold.

25. Inherit the Wind on Broadway, in Hollywood, and at Dayton.
Spencer Tracy’s 1960 classic hit, Inherit the Wind, often called the finest courtroom movie of all time, was based on the world-famous 1925 trial of John Scopes for teaching evolution in Dayton, Tennessee, public schools. The trial spawned what was then the longest running play in Broadway history, which in turn became the movie. Lecturer Ed Larson, author of the Pulitzer Prizing winning history of the trial and its cultural impact, Summer for the Gods, will discuss the trial, the movie, and how Hollywood reshapes history.
Frequent enrichment speaker for Antarctic and Arctic expedition ships; frequent destination lecturer on Crystal Cruise ships and other lines; recipient of Pulitzer Prize in History and numerous teaching awards.
I have served as a certified IAATO Antarctic Expedition Leader and made repeated voyages speaking with National Geographic / Lindblad Expedition trips to the Antarctic Peninsula and with Crystal Cruises, mainly to Norway, the Arctic, Alaska, the Antarctic, New England, and South Pacific.