More New Books on Early Canadian History

LittleBack in May we reported on Keith Gtant’s Borealia post on new books in early Canadian history.  Today we report on Part 2 of his roundup.

Here is a taste:

Welcome to Part 2 of Borealia’s 2016 roundup of forthcoming books on early Canadian history. (You can find Part 1 here.) The list is drawn from publishers’ catalogues and websites, including books scheduled for release in 2016. I have included a few recently-released titles that escaped my attention in January.

What kinds of books made it into this preview? Works of historical scholarship on any region of what eventually became Canada, to about 1870. I have included books that place “Canada” in transnational studies, and books whose chronological coverage extends beyond 1870, as long as there is substantial discussion of the early period. Naturally, this is all quite subjective, and my survey has likely overlooked a few titles. So please use the comments below or the contact form to suggest additional titles. 

A lot of good stuff here.

New Books in Early Canadian History

People and the BayI am a sucker for online roundups of new books. Over at Borealia blog, Keith Grant, the blog co-proprietor and a SSHRC Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholar, introduces us to some new books on early Canadian history.

Here is a taste:

Welcome to the first Borealia roundup of forthcoming books on early Canadian history. The list includes books scheduled for release in 2016, with information compiled from publishers’ catalogues and websites. I plan to post Part 2 later in the year to highlight Fall titles.

What kinds of books made it into this preview? Works of historical scholarship on any region of what eventually became Canada, to about 1870. I have included books that place “Canada” in transnational studies, and books whose chronological coverage extends beyond 1870, as long as there is substantial discussion of the early period. Naturally, this is all quite subjective, and my survey has likely overlooked a few titles. So please use the comments or the contact form below to suggest additional titles.

The books are listed by month of scheduled release. Descriptions have been supplied by the publishers, unless otherwise noted….

The People and the Bay: A Social and Environmental History of Hamilton Harbour, by Nancy B. Bouchier and Ken Cruikshank (UBC Press, January 2016).

“In 1865, John Smoke braved the ice on Burlington Bay to go spearfishing. Soon after, he was arrested by a fishery inspector and then convicted by a magistrate who chastised him for thinking that he was at liberty to do as he pleased “with Her Majesty’s property.” With this story, Nancy Bouchier and Ken Cruikshank launch their history of the relationship between the people of Hamilton, Ontario, and Hamilton Harbour (a.k.a. Burlington Bay). From the time of European settlement through to the city’s rise as an industrial power, townsfolk struggled with nature, and with one another, to champion their particular vision of “the bay” as a place to live, work, and play. As Smoke discovered, the outcomes of those struggles reflected the changing nature of power in an industrial city. From efforts to conserve the fishery in the 1860s to current attempts to revitalize a seriously polluted harbour, each generation has tried to create what it believed would be a livable and prosperous city.”

Fragile Settlements: Aboriginal Peoples, Law, and Resistance in South-West Australia and Prairie Canada, by Amanda Nettelbeck, Russell Smandych, Louis A. Knafla, Robert Foster (UBC Press, February 2016).

“Fragile Settlements compares the processes through which British colonial authority was asserted over Indigenous peoples in south-west Australia and prairie Canada from the 1830s to the early twentieth century. At the start of this period, as a humanitarian response to settlers’ increased demand for land, Britain’s Colonial Office moved to protect Indigenous peoples by making them subjects under British law. This book highlights the parallels and divergences between these connected British frontiers by examining how colonial actors and institutions interpreted and applied the principle of law in their interaction with Indigenous peoples “on the ground.””

Read the entire list here. And stay tuned to Borealia for Part 2.

Is Early American History Experiencing a “Canadian Turn?”

New FranceJeffers Lennox of Wesleyan University thinks so.

Here is a taste of his piece at Borealia:

The American Revolution wasn’t simply American. The Early National period was hardly national at all. From 1774 to at least 1815, regional linkages and continental strategies shaped the development of American states and British provinces as people, policies, and ideas traversed a porous and fluid border. Ironically, loyal British colonies were less foreign to Americans in the late eighteenth century than Canada is to Americans today. Colonial and early American newspapers carried news from Halifax and Montreal; Revolutionary politicians, military figures, and leading intellectuals paid close attention to developments in the northern colonies; and American geographies published in the 1790s had entries on (and maps of) most of the British colonies.

Historians, it seems, have gotten in the way. The emergence of national narratives on both sides of the border has bifurcated what was a shared history. Lately, however, American historians have begun looking north in ways that reflect the attitudes, curiosities, and ideas of their ancestors. Leading scholars at major American institutions have recently tackled the Acadians (expelled from their “American homeland”), loyalists and late loyalists, Joseph Brant and the Six Nations, and the War of 1812.[1] Borealia, its American sibling The Junto, and those who contribute to these important resources have made crystal clear that the new generation of American historians considers Canada a worthy subject of inquiry.

Read the entire piece here.

Historians of Canada Have Been Studying Loyalists for a Long Time

loyaliststamp

Because history is often written by the winners, Whigs and patriots have long dominated the study of the American Revolution.  Loyalists–or those men and women who supported the Crown during the Revolution–have thus received sort shrift in the narratives that historians write about this era.

Are early American historians rediscovering the Loyalists?  Yes and no.  While many historians in the United States are trying to bring more complexity to the story of the American Revolution by bringing Loyalists into the mix, others–particularly scholars who focus on Canada and “North America” more broadly–have been studying Loyalists for a long time.

This is the argument of University of New Brunswick historian Bonnie Huskins in a recent piece at Borealia.

Here is a taste:

It has been gratifying to see the number of recent Borealia blog posts on the loyalists – Sources for Loyalist Studies, Loyalists in the Classroom: Students reflect on historical sources, The Future of Loyalist Studies, and Let’s Play Again: Recovering “The Losers” of the American Revolution (Part I). However, it is sometimes a tad frustrating to hear references to the loyalists as an ‘overlooked’ people. Perhaps this is the case in the context of American historiography, but I would like to interject with the reminder that scholars of British North America/Canada have been studying the loyalists for a long time. This is articulated in Jane Errington’s 2012 review essay “Loyalists and Loyalism in the American Revolution and Beyond” as well as Ruma Chopra’s “Enduring Patterns of Loyalist Study: Definitions and Contours.” I realize that many scholars of early America are more interested in examining the loyalists in situ. Indeed, one of the most interesting directions in loyalist studies is the analysis of loyalist reintegration into the United States being pursued by historians such as Rebecca Brannon. Nonetheless, I still hold that the literature written about loyalists and loyalism in a Canadian and Atlantic World setting are useful for American researchers. Perhaps this is a transitional moment, as Chris Minty suggests in The Future of Loyalist Studies. As scholars and public historians engage with the loyalists who returned to the United States, or never left, it is hoped that they will do so in the spirit of collaboration.

Read the rest here.

Losing the Revolution

loyalistsWe have mentioned Borealia here before.  It is relatively new blog devoted to early Canadian history.  Not only is the blog attractive, but it has also been putting out some really good content.  In the past couple of months Keith Grant and Denis McKim have published some thoughtful posts on the history of loyalism during the age of the American Revolution.

A case in point is Taylor Stoermer‘s recent piece, “Let’s Play Again: Recovering ‘The Losers’ of the American Revolution.”

I like how Stoermer frames his post.  Here is a taste:

Much has been made lately of the rediscovery of the American Revolution by scholars as a series of questions that remain unresolved.  Both veteran historians and those new to the field (although those groups aren’t mutually exclusive) are, through conferences and colloquia and online forums, exploring this ostensibly transformative event of the late eighteenth century on something close to the level of those who lived through it, now that we are in a “post-Atlantic” historiographical moment.  Mostly gone are the debates that left the study of revolutionary history somewhat moribund, as neo-whigs and neo-progressives, even a neo-tory or two, marched away from the field without a decisive victor, as their concerns were abandoned like an unnecessary baggage train, in favor of shifting interests towards exploring discrete groups in provincial America, the Early Republic, and what was left of British North America.  But now revolutionary history is in the midst of something of a renaissance, which as a historian of the Revolution, I can only applaud, even as I watch with no small wonder as historians largely dismiss the work of older, yet still very much relevant, scholars in favor of their new pursuits of intellectual happiness.

Nevertheless, it is an exciting moment for those of us who still find the American Revolution a puzzling and exciting field of inquiry, especially because, as one looks more closely at it, the more it resembles an exercise in fauvism, devolving into tiny points of colorful interest that reveal patterns missed by earlier observers.  The danger, of course, is in remaining so focused on the small points that the larger picture is lost, as happens in so many micro-histories, as valuable as many of them are in recovering the stories of the heretofore unsung men and women who made most of the history of the period.  After all, as Henry David Thoreau reminded us in his reflections on “Revolutions” that “The hero is but the crowning stone of the pyramid—the keystone of the arch…. The most important is apt to be some silent and unobtrusive fact in history” (Journal, 27 December 1837).  And such an approach helps us to avoid the pitfall, into which many of us can trip, of considering whatever happened in eighteenth-century North America that divided the British world from an American one, as part of a grand, impersonal scheme of processes and mentalities, almost Calvinistically predetermined by the forces of social change that led inexorably from the colonial to the early national period of U.S. History (leaving Canada, unfortunately but conveniently, out of the picture).

But there remains that pesky question of just what was so revolutionary about the period in between the colonial era and the Early Republic, what we call the American Revolution?  The fact that it now seems to be an open question for scholars, perhaps for the first time, whether sitting at a university or in an armchair, is invigorating enough.  The first historians of the Revolution, such as Mercy Otis Warren and John Marshall, never doubted for a moment that there was something transformative about it.  Their primary concern, however, was not whether such a transformation took place, but who was responsible for it, and therefore could define it for contemporaries and posterity.  That we can freshly approach the people and events of the period, without being weighed down by the ideological baggage of centuries, but also without ignoring it, should drive an entire new era of scholarship that puts the colorful points, many of which have only dimly been perceived, back into the broader picture.

For me, the overlooked people who are most interesting are the loyalists, and properly defining them, as my work seeks to do, along with that of other historians with similar interests, can reveal a whole new revolutionary history, one that not only breaks down our understanding of the period’s freighted language, like “patriot” and “tory,” but that might make us entirely redefine what we mean when we say “the American Revolution.”

Read the rest here and stay tuned to Borealia for the second part of Stoermer’s piece.

Interested in Early Canada?

cover-collage-jan-2016

Borealia, the website which has quickly become the go-to source for all things early Canada, gives us a glimpse of some forthcoming book on the subject.  Here is Keith Grant’s introduction to the booklist:

Welcome to the first Borealia roundup of forthcoming books on early Canadian history. The list includes books scheduled for release in 2016, with information compiled from publishers’ catalogues and websites. I plan to post Part 2 later in the year to highlight Fall titles.

What kinds of books made it into this preview? Works of historical scholarship on any region of what eventually became Canada, to about 1870. I have included books that place “Canada” in transnational studies, and books whose chronological coverage extends beyond 1870, as long as there is substantial discussion of the early period. Naturally, this is all quite subjective, and my survey has likely overlooked a few titles. So please use the comments or the contact form below to suggest additional titles.

Read the entire list here.

The State of Loyalist Studies

Borealia: A Group Blog on Early Canadian History continues to produce solid content.  For example, today I read Christopher Minty’s post on the future of loyalist studies.  As someone who does not write too much about loyalists, I found it to be a short and very useful overview.

Here is a taste:

Defining “loyalist” is difficult for a number of reasons. Many of the problems relate to grouping loyalists together. Those white and black men and women who, at one stage, opposed America’s revolutionaries had different backgrounds. Their stories were rarely comparable, and contrasting impulses underpinned their allegiance. Furthermore, many loyalists were not really loyalists at all. As one contemporary noted during the Revolutionary War, people “wait[ed] to go with the stronger.” That is, they sided with the strongest military, or political, presence. Their ideological or political beliefs mattered less than their lived reality.[3]
Definitions are tricky, of course, but some have been quick to criticize when one is not offered. Philip Ranlet, in a 2014 article in The Historian, criticized Jasanoff’s George Washington- and National Book Critics-prize-winning Libertys Exiles for not providing a rigid definition of “loyalist.”[4]
Back in Nova Scotia, in answer to the question on defining “loyalist,” I remarked that a tiered framework could be useful. I have developed this idea, in an episode of The JuntoCast. The number of tiers would vary, but it would work like this: those who were committed loyalists, individuals dedicated to the restoration of British rule, would be a “Tier 1” loyalist. Those who changed sides, people like Peter Van Brugh Livingston, Jr., would be further down the scale.
This could be a workable tool for teaching purposes, but I do not think it can be used to further scholarship. If one adds too many tiers with hopes of understanding how the Revolutionary War affected ordinary people, then the term “loyalist” becomes meaningless—if everyone was, at one point, a “loyalist,” no one was a “loyalist.” Simply put, by asking what a “loyalist” is indefinitely, we run the risk of missing the forest from the trees.
Where, then, do we go from here? Like Brendan McConville, I do not have an open-access Manifesto for Loyalist Studies. But, like Woody Holton advocates, a return to microhistorical, comparative studies might offer a new direction. Indeed, a focus on the lived reality of people during the Revolutionary War, individuals who, for whatever reason, did not support America’s revolutionaries, could trigger a new direction in loyalist studies. That is to say, by focusing less on “what is” and focusing more on “what happened, and why,” we might begin to understand the contrasting local impacts of war, investigating how and why it affected people in distinct, though related, ways.

Borealia Reports on the Omohundro French Atlantic Conference

A couple of weekends ago the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture in Williamsburg hosted a conference titled “Emerging Histories of the Early Modern French Atlantic.”  For those of you who were not at the conference, or did not have a chance to follow along via Twitter #oifrenchatl, Mairi Cowan of the University of Toronto at Mississauga has summarized the event at Borealia, a new blog devoted to early Canadian history.

Here is a taste of her post:
The early modernism of early Canadian history made a good showing last week in Williamsburg, Virginia. There, at the Emerging Histories of the Early Modern French Atlantic conference sponsored by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture, about a hundred scholars gathered to discuss the connections around and across the Atlantic from the fifteenth to the early nineteenth centuries. Co-organizers Brett Rushforth and Christopher Hodson said in their opening remarks that one of the conference’s goals was to transcend the boundaries of geography and periodization in the early modern French Atlantic.  This crossing of boundaries proved to be a major theme of the conference, and one that has the potential to enrich the study of early Canadian history in interesting ways.  In particular, it became clear that exciting work on early Canadian history is being vigorously pursued beyond Canada, and that scholarship on regions not normally associated with Canadian history as a field can provide valuable insights for early Canadianists.
Several papers at the conference were tied directly to early Canadian history, in the sense that their geographical scope included an area now within the borders of Canada. Taken together, these papers demonstrate that Canadian history is not restricted to scholars with Canadian addresses; early Canada, as a subject of study, has wide appeal. In the session on “Legalities”, Alexandra Havrylyshyn (University of California, Berkeley) interrogated the presumption that there were no lawyers in New France. In her paper “Practitioners and Procurators in the Litigious Society in New France: An Atlantic Perspective”, she argued for a departure from the common rigid definition of “lawyer” towards a broader understanding of a group of legal professionals that included practitioners and procurators. In the same session, Marie Houllemare (Université de Picardie Jules Verne) delivered a paper on “Penal Circulations in the French Atlantic, 18th century”. Some of the banishments she discussed were cases of people being sent to or from Canada. The session on “Cultures” also featured two papers with strong connections to early Canada. Céline Carayon (Salisbury University), in her paper “Embodied Empire? Communication, Sensibilities, and the Making of the French-Indian Atlantic World”, made a persuasive case for the role of gestures in a system of communication that was deeply embodied and sustained by individual connections grounded in physicality. My own paper, “Demons in New France and the Atlantic Anxieties of Early Canada”, considered how the demonology of New France included both European and North American features in response to Atlantic colonial anxieties. In the session on “Boundaries”, Thomas Wien (Université de Montréal) played with the notion of the “Space of flows” in his paper “Flows of the Space: New France and Central Europe, même combat?” Using images by Franz Xaver Habermann and various textual sources, he showed a surprising series of connections between New France and Central Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Helen Dewar (Boston College), for her part in the session “Religion and Power”, explored how commerce and religion were linked in the seventeenth-century French Atlantic through the example of “A Collaborative Enterprise: Financiers, Religious Orders, and the Company of New France”.
Read the entire report here.

Newspapers and British Identity in 18th-Century Quebec City and Halifax

If you have not discovered Borealia, you should go check it out.  The editors of this blog are pushing us to expand our understanding of early America to include Canada. (Of course scholars have been doing this for a long time, but I appreciate the effort of the folks at Borealia to bring the conversation to a larger reading public).

I just finished reading Keith Grant’s excellent review of Michael Eamon’s Imprinting Britain: Newspapers, Sociability, and the Shaping of British North America. Eamon uses newspapers to show how the so-called “public sphere” found its way to the British cities of Quebec City and Halifax.  I have been fascinated with these kinds of studies since graduate school.  Discussions of print culture, sociability, and the Enlightenment in early America influenced my 2008 book The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America.

Here is a taste of Keith Grant‘s review:

Eamon’s cultural definition of Britishness also includes the moderate Enlightenment’s emphasis on “useful” and “improving” knowledge. He gives us enticing glimpses of Haligonians who participated, however modestly, in the transatlantic Republic of Letters, as well as the surprising liberality of Governor Frederick Haldimand’s Quebec Library. Newspapers, almanacs, and magazines disseminated Enlightenment science in abridged form to a broad reading public.
Colonial newspapers were closely allied with other kinds of face-to-face sociability. The pages of colonial newspapers aired debates about the propriety of Freemasonry, theatres, and coffeehouses, with printers often advocating for their usefulness. As the detailed appendices demonstrate, those papers prove to be one of the few windows into colonial associative life, and readers are indebted to Eamon for cataloguing mentions of societies, coffeehouses, and plays performed in Halifax and Quebec City. Northern winters were no obstacle to flourishing social scenes, as one Quebec City correspondent reported in December 1790: “Tho’ surrounded with Ice and Snow, we enjoy health & are at least as social as in any other quarter of the Globe” (116).
Eamon charts a shift in colonial associative life as the eighteenth century progressed, from sociability for the sheer pleasure of it toward an increasing concern for the public good. “Let the social virtues shine / Doing good is sure divine,” declared a Masonic song printed in a Nova Scotia newspaper (135). (The Illuminati conspiracy theorists among our readership will be interested—perhaps apprehensive—to know that every eighteenth century governor and lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia was a Freemason! [133])
Mention “print” and “sociability” in the same sentence, and cultural theorist Jürgen Habermas’ concept of the “bourgeois public sphere” is sure to come to mind.  However, though it was incubated in similar coffee houses and likewise deliberated through a burgeoning print culture, the public sphere of British North America, Eamon argues, was less egalitarian than its bourgeois European or republican American counterparts. The colonial print community created “hybrid spaces of sociability and social control” (11), and its discourse “favoured consensus and balance over discord and radical change” (189). Imprinting Britain will find a place on reading lists on British North American sociability and the public sphere, alongside works by Jeffrey McNairn, Darren Ferry, and David Sutherland.

Introducing Borealia: A Group Blog on Early Canadian History

I have been waiting for the arrival of Borealia, a new blog on early Canadian history edited by Keith Grant, a Ph.D candidate in history at New Brunswick University, and Denis McKim, a historian at Douglas College in British Columbia.

Here is a taste of the blog prospectus:


Borealia (bor-ee-al-ya) is a new academic group blog on early Canadian history, featuring writing by regular, occasional, and guest contributors. It can be found at http://earlycanadianhistory.ca.
We begin with the basic assumption that the field of early Canadian history is vibrant and varied. It may be a bit of a stretch to claim that, “We are all Canadianists now,” but with the Atlantic turn in historiography, it is no longer only Canadian-based scholars that integrate the northern half of the continent into their narratives. Early Canadian sessions, encouragingly, were a major presence at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture (Halifax, June 2014), and at the American Society for Environmental History (Washington, March 2015). The field is healthy and robust, and we have plenty to talk about.
The goal of Borealia is to provide an energetic, professional, and respectful space for conversation about research and teaching in early Canadian history. We believe that a dedicated forum for discussion, alongside broader historical associations and publications, will nurture informal networks of scholars and will demonstrate the vitality of the field among colleagues and the public.
Borealia (“northern”) is a title expansive enough to take in the breadth of our field. We are interested in all regions of what eventually became Canada, to about 1867, and connections to the wider world. We hope our contributors will reflect the diversity of our field, encompassing cultural, intellectual, political, religious, economic, and other perspectives, and will come from every stage of academic careers. We will strive to have content in both English and French.
We intend the tone of the blog to be positive, focused on content and ideas, respectful and civil in conversation, and professional. If the blog were a restaurant, it would be “casual fine dining.” We anticipate a modest but regular schedule of blog posts, which will include brief work-in-progress profiles, research notes, timely historical commentary, author interviews and book reviews, reflections on teaching and career development, digital and public history, and conference recaps.
The early American historians at the Junto have posted a short interview with Grant and McKim. Here is a taste: 

JUNTO: For those of us whose research interests straddle the present-day borders of the United States and Canada, this seems like a potentially wonderful resource. What about those early Americanists who don’t focus on the Canadian or Maritime colonies — why should they read Borealia? And more broadly, why should they pay attention to what was going on in Halifax, Kingston, and/or Québec? 
GRANT: I think I’d start by saying there is no early “American” or “Canadian” history (at least before 1776). Rather there are histories of Indigenous peoples, environments, Imperial powers, and cultures that aren’t easily contained by later national borders. And including Halifax or Québec (or, say, the West Indies) in narratives of Colonial or Revolutionary America show how contingent, rather than inevitable, the American story was. We could also add that there are so many “American” stories that begin or continue across the border; think of the Iroquois Confederacy, Loyalist refugees, or the Acadian diaspora, for just a few examples. Historiographically, this transnationalism goes the other way, too: histories of early Canada benefit from considering comparative, continental, or Atlantic approaches.

MCKIM: It’s been said that, “when America sneezes, Canada catches a cold.” Needless to say, due to the dramatic asymmetries that exist between the two countries in terms of size and clout, the reverse simply isn’t true. Still, paying attention to Canada can be beneficial, especially for historians of early America. For instance, picking up on Keith’s point about the usefulness of comparative scholarship, examining early Canada can shed light on the question of whether aspects of colonial America and the early republic were unique or, rather, symptomatic of broader phenomena evident elsewhere in North America.

JUNTO: Now, for those early Americanists convinced that they need to start paying attention to Canada, what advice do you have? What books, articles, archival repositories, conferences, and/or digital resources would you recommend as good starting points for early Americanists looking to become familiar with early Canadian history?

GRANT: Probably the best clearinghouse for primary sources and teaching links for Canadian history is hosted by The History Education Network. Be sure to check outElectronic New France, too. Early Canadian Online (a subscription service) and the onlineDictionary of Canadian Biography are also valuable. While not primarily focused on earlyCanada, readers should check out: NiCHE, a network of Canadian environmental historians; Active History, a site that specializes in historically-informed commentary on contemporary issues; and the blog for the journal of Atlantic Canada, Acadiensis.

Researchers interested in Canadian collections could start with Library and Archives Canada and the Archives Canada gateway.

There is not (yet) a conference dedicated to early Canadian history, though there would be sessions of interest at the annual Canadian Historical Association meetings, and at specialized events such as the upcoming Omohundro conference on Emerging Histories Of The Early Modern French Atlantic (we have plans to have a report from that one atBorealia!).

MCKIM: Keith’s compiled a thorough list of online resources, to which I have precious little to add! I might tack on a few lively blogs—specifically, Christopher Moore’sAndrew Smith’s, and Keith Mercer’s—that feature early Canadian content.

As for books and articles, illuminating works that situate early Canada in an expansive context that includes material familiar to early Americanists include: Elizabeth Mancke, “Another British America: A Canadian Model for the Early Modern British Empire,”Journal of Imperial & Commonwealth History 25, no. 1 (January 1997): pp. 1-36; Allan Greer, “National, Transnational, and Hypernational Historiographies: New France Meets Early American History,” Canadian Historical Review 91, no. 4 (December 2010): pp. 695-724; and Stephen J. Hornsby and John G. Reid, eds., New England and the Maritime Provinces: Connections and Comparisons (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005).