Roland Huntford

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Roland Huntford (born R. Horwitch in 1927) is an author, principally of biographies of Polar explorers. He lives in Cambridge, and was formerly Scandinavian correspondent of The Observer, also acting as their winter sports correspondent. He was the 1986–87 Alistair Horne Fellow at St Antony's College, Oxford.[1]

He has written biographies of Robert Falcon Scott, Ernest Shackleton and Nobel Peace Prize winner Fridtjof Nansen; these biographies have been the subject of controversy. Huntford's controversial The Last Place on Earth (originally titled Scott and Amundsen) had a tremendous impact on public interest in Polar matters.[citation needed]

Huntford put forth the point of view that Roald Amundsen's success in reaching the South Pole was abetted by much superior planning, whereas errors by Scott (notably including the reliance on man-hauling instead of sled dogs) ultimately resulted in the death of Scott and his companions.

Huntford is accused of deceit in gaining permission to use diary excerpts. He is accused by Ranulph Fiennes of having written to the children and relatives of the Scott team on Scott Polar Research Institute headed paper when he held no official position at the Institute and had no right to do so.[2]

Defenders of Scott's actions, notably Fiennes, assert that Huntford, who lacks direct experience of Polar travel and man-hauling, is not qualified to draw the conclusions he does on Scott's alleged technical deficiencies. In his biography of Captain Scott, Fiennes offers a rebuttal of some of Huntford's assertions of Scott's deficiencies.[3] The Coldest March (2001) by Susan Solomon disputes many of Huntford's conclusions on Scott's leadership and skill by analysing scientific and particularly meteorological data.[4][page needed] In 2012, Karen May rediscovered Scott's written order to use the dog teams to assist him on the way home (an order that was not carried out), disputing Huntford's 1979 claim that this order was only oral, and placing more of the blame on Scott's men at base camp.[5]

Huntford's non-polemical books include Sea of Darkness,The Sayings of Henrik Ibsen and Two Planks and a Passion: The dramatic history of skiing. His polemical The New Totalitarians is a critique of socialism in Sweden, written from the point of view of western political culture. His main thesis was that the Swedish social democratic party, like the "new totalitarians" in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, relied less upon the violence and intimidation of the old totalitarians than upon sly persuasion and soft manipulation in order to achieve its goals.[6]


  1. Horne Fellows.
  2. Fiennes, Ranulph (2004). Captain Scott. Great Britain: Coronet. pp. 444–445. ISBN 9780340826997.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Fiennes, Ranulph (2004). Captain Scott. Great Britain: Coronet. pp. 416–426. ISBN 9780340826997.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Solomon.
  5. Karen May 2012, Could Captain Scott have been saved? Revisiting Scott's last expedition, Polar Record |p=1-19
  6. Marklund, Carl (2009). "Hot Love and Cold People. Sexual Liberalism as Political Escapism in Radical Sweden". NORDEUROPAforum. 19 (1): 83–101.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>