The Mystery of the Franklin Expedition 0f 1845

Rottingdean Whiteway Centre

Special Event

The Mystery of the Franklin Expedition 0f 1845

Day Saturday
Date22nd April 2023
Time 10:00 - 12:30
Presenter Laetitia Key
Cost £12.00
Room Main Hall
Availability 30/30 Places
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Event Description
The fate of the Franklin Expedition is still remembered today as one of the biggest exploratory failures in England’s race to conquer new territory in the 19th century. Departing from Greenhithe, England, on May 19th, 1845, the expedition was led by Sir John Franklin, a veteran Artic explorer on his third mission to discover the fabled ‘North-West Passage’ (believed at the time to represent the fastest route between England and China), which was sought after for economic purposes. The expedition, composed of two ships (the HMS Erebus, and the HMS Terror) and 129 men, one of the best prepared in British history, was last seen in July by British whaleships en route to Lancaster Sound. After this, it all but vanished from the face of the earth. 
In the following 2h seminar, we will attempt to answer the following questions: 
• How did Victorian England’s definition of “Englishness” shape the narrative of what happened to the ships, and of how Franklin’s men attempted to survive once stranded in the Arctic? 
• Consequently, we will strive to understand why it was vital for the defenders and moral enforcers of these perceptions to cover up the truth when reports of cannibalism from Inuit witnesses were brought back by Scottish explorer John Rae in 1854. 
With participants, I will first define the concept of ‘Englishness’ in the context 19th century imperialism and maritime exploration, in order to gain a better understand of the importance of the Franklin Expedition’s search for the North-West Passage. Then will examine the economic and financial disaster brought on by the disappearance of the ships and how the nation attempted to come to terms with a loss that shook its sense of identity. Finally, we will analyse how reports of cannibalism by Inuit witnesses challenged the idea of ‘Englishness’. 
The seminar will conclude with a Q&A and a discussion.


I have always been incredibly passionate about history and literature and hold two BAs: one in Anglo-American Literature and History, and another in English-Italian Linguistics. In 2019, I obtained my MA in English Drama and Literature, specializing in the Restoration era and 1960s England. After growing up in the United States and then living for sixteen years in the South of France, I came to England in 2016. I currently reside in Brighton with my husband, daughter, and French cat. I teach foreign languages (French, English, and Italian) in Brighton & Hove, and Rottingdean, as well as mentoring sixth form students. I am passionate about: art, literature, history, yoga, gastronomy