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The hidden crime of Dr Richardson

  • Janice Cavell (a1)

Since the 1970s, a number of writers have endorsed the belief that Dr John Richardson very probably committed discreditable, and possibly even criminal, acts during the first Franklin expedition (1819–1822). These acts, they allege, were concealed from the public by Franklin and Richardson, who inserted a fabricated account into Franklin's 1823 narrative. This paper examines the evidence and arguments put forward by the originator of this theory, the historian Richard Glover. It concludes that Glover was motivated primarily by a desire to vindicate the good name of another explorer, Samuel Hearne. Richardson had suggested that Hearne's narrative was not an entirely reliable account of his travels, and in Glover's view, these remarks had seriously damaged Hearne's reputation. Glover therefore sought to characterise Richardson as a deceitful man of exceptionally poor judgement, upon whose claims no reliance could be placed. Later writers, engaged in a re-evaluation of Britain's imperial activities in the Canadian north, have accepted and expanded on Glover's theories. However, an examination of the primary sources cited by Glover and others demonstrates that there is no solid basis for the revisionist version of the 1819–1822 expedition.

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