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Explorer without a country: the question of Vilhjalmur Stefansson's citizenship

  • Janice Cavell (a1) and Jeff Noakes (a2)
Abstract

Confusion has long existed on the subject of Vilhjalmur Stefansson's citizenship. A Canadian (that is, a British subject) by birth, Stefansson was brought up and educated in the United States. When his father became an American citizen in 1887, according to the laws of the time Stefansson too became an American. Dual citizenship was not then permitted by either the British or the American laws. Therefore, Stefansson was no longer a British subject. After he took command of the government sponsored Canadian Arctic Expedition in 1913, Stefansson was careful to give the impression that his status had never changed. Although Stefansson swore an oath of allegiance to King George V in May 1913, he did not take the other steps that would have been required to restore him to being Canadian. But, by an American act passed in 1907, this oath meant the loss of Stefansson's American citizenship. In the 1930s American officials informed Stefansson that he must apply for naturalisation in order to regain it. From 1913 until he received his American citizenship papers in 1937, Stefansson was a man without a country.

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References
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Polar Record
  • ISSN: 0032-2474
  • EISSN: 1475-3057
  • URL: /core/journals/polar-record
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