An early study of the various components of the Greenland, Antarctic and Canadian Arctic ice-cap cores (Koerner, 1989) suggested that during the last interglacial period, the Greenland ice sheet suffered massive retreat and Canadian ice caps melted completely. Since then, modeling has helped support this interpretation (Cuffey and Marshall, 2000). Ice-core records of stable isotopes, melt layering and chemistry from the same Canadian ice cores, and others from the Russian Arctic islands, Svalbard and Greenland are presented as evidence for a more modest, but still substantial, retreat in the early Holocene. the sections representing the first half of the Holocene in many cores have less negative δ18O values (d values) and a higher percentage of melt layers than recently deposited ice, suggesting that temperatures were 1.3–3.5˚C warmer than today. Given that glacier balances are slightly negative today, they must have been substantially more negative during the early-Holocene thermal maximum, leading to retreat of the circumpolar ice caps. Evidence is presented to suggest that, with the exception of Academii Nauk ice cap, the ice in the Russian Arctic islands and Svalbard must have almost disappeared. In the Canadian Arctic, the larger Canadian ice caps retreated but survived. the cooling trend that followed this thermal maximum promoted re-expansion and new growth of most of the ice caps in the Russian Arctic islands and Svalbard.