The scope and intensity of human activity in the Antarctic region has changed considerably over the past 100 years, resulting in significant modifications to the Antarctic environment and its ecosystems, and to the institutional arrangements governing human activities. Since the nineteenth century, Antarctica has seen periods of heavy resource exploitation followed more latterly by swells of governmental scientific research programmes which have, in turn, led to a plethora of international agreements. By the end of the twentieth century, commercial tourism was also firmly established. Development in human engagement with the Antarctic environment has been accompanied by changes in human values, technologies and ways of thinking. This chapter sets the scene for the entire volume by providing a historical background on human activities, their management and their implications, which other chapters build upon. The purpose of this chapter is not to explore the full breadth of human activities, environmental impacts and governance arrangements in Antarctica. Rather, it aims to provide a contextual framework that can be used to anchor together the diverse subjects treated in the subsequent chapters.