Dani Reimer and Keith Grant
Welcome to Borealia’s Spring 2020 roundup of forthcoming books on early Canadian history. The list is drawn from publishers’ catalogues and websites, featuring books scheduled for release between now and the end of the year.
What kinds of books made it into this preview? Works of historical scholarship on any region of what eventually became Canada, to about 1914. We have included books that place “Canada” in transnational studies, and books whose chronological coverage extends beyond 1914, as long as there is substantial discussion of the earlier period. Naturally, this is all quite subjective, and our survey has likely overlooked a few titles. So readers, authors, or publishers please use the comments below or the contact form to suggest additional titles.
The books are listed by month of scheduled release. All descriptions have been supplied by the publishers, unless otherwise noted.
Canada’s Legal Pasts: Looking Forward, Looking Back, edited by Lyndsay Campbell, Ted McCoy, and Mélanie Méthot (University of Calgary Press, May 2020).
“Canada’s Legal Pasts presents new essays on a range of topics and episodes in Canadian legal history, provides an introduction to legal methodologies, shows researchers new to the field how to locate and use a variety of sources, and includes a combined bibliography arranged to demonstrate best practices in gathering and listing primary sources. It is an essential welcome for scholars who wish to learn about Canada’s legal pasts—and why we study them. Telling new stories—about a fishing vessel that became the subject of an extraordinarily long diplomatic dispute, young Northwest Mounted Police constables subject to an odd mixture of police discipline and criminal procedure, and more—this book presents the vibrant evolution of Canada’s legal tradition. Explorations of primary sources, including provincial archival records that suggest how Quebec courts have been used in interfamilial conflict, newspaper records that disclose the details of bigamy cases, and penitentiary records that reveal the details of the lives and legal entanglements of Canada’s most marginalized people, show the many different ways of researching and understanding legal history.”
In Search of Almighty Voice: Resistance and Reconciliation, by Bill Waiser (Fifth House Publishers, May 2020).
“In May 1897, Almighty Voice, a member of the One Arrow Willow Cree, died violently when Canada’s North-West Mounted Police shelled the fugitive’s hiding place. Since then, his violent death has spawned a succession of conflicting stories — from newspaper features, magazine articles and pulp fiction to plays and film. Almighty Voice has been maligned, misunderstood, romanticized, celebrated, and invented. Indeed, there have been many Almighty Voices over the years. What these stories have in common is that the Willow Cree man mattered. Understanding why he mattered has a direct bearing on reconciliation efforts today.”
The Manitoulin Incident, by Alanis King (Fifth House Publishers, May 2020).
“The Manitoulin Incident is the first publication of the popular play by renowned Indigenous playwright Alanis King. Set in Manitoulin Island on Lake Huron, the play spans the stormy decades of the mid-19th century where title to the region was hotly debated between French, English and Ojibwe. Tensions grew over these years and finally culminated in what is known as “The Manitoulin Incident”, where armed government officials landed ashore to assert claims to the land through summons and expulsions. The resultant conflict and loss of life sent tremors across the country. Alanis King’s extraordinary play sheds light on one of North America’s most pivotal convergent points between Native, English and French interests, and provides better understanding of the often-forgotten events that have since shaped North America.”
Seven Absolute Rights: Recovering the Historical Foundations of Canada’s Rule of Law, by Ryan Alford (McGill-Queen’s University Press, May 2020).
“For 150 years, Canada’s constitutional order has been both flexible and durable, ensuring peace, order, and good government while protecting the absolute rights at the core of the rule of law. In this era of transnational terrorism and proliferating emergency powers, it is essential to revisit how and why our constitutional order developed particular limits on the government’s powers, which remain in force despite war, rebellion, and insurrection. Seven Absolute Rights surveys the historical foundations of Canada’s rule of law and the ways they reinforce the Constitution. Ryan Alford provides a gripping narrative of constitutional history, beginning with the medieval and early modern context of Magna Carta, the Petition of Right, and the constitutional settlement of the Glorious Revolution. His reconstruction ends with a detailed examination of two pre-Confederation crises: the rebellions of 1837-38 and the riots of 1849, which, as he demonstrates, provide the missing constitutionalist context to the framing of the British North America Act. Through this accessible exploration of key events and legal precedents, Alford offers a distinct perspective on the substantive principles of the rule of law embedded in Canada’s Constitution.”
The Storied Landscape of Iroquoia: History, Conquest, and Memory in the Native Northeast, by Chad L. Anderson (University of Nebraska Press, May 2020).
“The Storied Landscape of Iroquoia explores the creation, destruction, appropriation, and enduring legacy of one of early America’s most important places: the homelands of the Haudenosaunees (also known as the Iroquois Six Nations). Throughout the late seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries of European colonization the Haudenosaunees remained the dominant power in their homelands and one of the most important diplomatic players in the struggle for the continent following European settlement of North America by the Dutch, British, French, Spanish, and Russians. Chad L. Anderson offers a significant contribution to understanding colonialism, intercultural conflict, and intercultural interpretations of the Iroquoian landscape during this time in central and western New York. Although American public memory often recalls a nation founded along a frontier wilderness, these lands had long been inhabited in Native American villages, where history had been written on the land through place-names, monuments, and long-remembered settlements. Drawing on a wide range of material spanning more than a century, Anderson uncovers the real stories of the people—Native American and Euro-American—and the places at the center of the contested reinvention of a Native American homeland. These stories about Iroquoia were key to both Euro-American and Haudenosaunee understandings of their peoples’ pasts and futures.”
From Seminary to University: An Institutional History of the Study of Religion in Canada, by Aaron W. Hughes (University of Toronto Press, Jun. 2020).
“This book provides the first historical examination of the study of religion in Canada. While secular departments of religious studies would not emerge in Canada until the late 1960s, the teaching of religion under the guise of divinity, theology, the Bible, and moral philosophy has been omnipresent for much of the country’s history. The gradual transformation from the teaching of religious truths at denominational theological colleges to the non-denominational and secular study of religion at universities was a lengthy and complicated one. From Seminary to University examines this transformation against a much broader backdrop. It is not simply the history of individual departments scattered across the nation. Instead, the story reveals the many non-academic forces that made those departments possible, such as the creation of the United Church of Canada, the adoption of multiculturalism, and the introduction of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In recounting this transformation, From Seminary to University illuminates an important part of Canadian history.”
A Great Revolutionary Wave: Women and the Vote in British Columbia, by Lara Campbell (University of British Columbia Press, Jun. 2020).
“Suffrage in British Columbia – and elsewhere in Canada – is best understood as a continuum rather than a clearly defined right “won” at one specific time. Although white settler women achieved the vote in 1917, after forty long years of activism, it would take another thirty years before the provincial government would remove race-based restrictions on voting rights. British Columbia is often overlooked in the national story of women’s struggle for political equality. A Great Revolutionary Wave challenges that omission and the historical portrayal of suffragists as conservative, traditional, and polite. Lara Campbell follows the propaganda campaigns undertaken by suffrage organizations and traces the role of working-class women in the fight for political equality. She demonstrates the intimate connections between provincial and British suffragists and examines how racial exclusion and Indigenous dispossession shaped arguments and tactics for enfranchisement. A Great Revolutionary Wave rethinks the complex legacy of suffrage by considering both the successes and limitations of women’s historical fight for political equality. That historical legacy remains relevant today as Canadians continue to grapple with the meaning of justice, inclusion, and equality. This book is for readers interested in women’s history, British Columbia history, or the history of women’s fight for political equality, including secondary school and university students. It will also find an audience among those concerned with gender equality and social justice.”
The New Race, by William H. H. Johnson and Jade Ferguson (Wilfred Laurier University Press, Jun. 2020).
“William H. H. Johnson’s The Life of Wm. H. H. Johnson, from 1839 to 1900, and the New Race (1904) is the only classical slave narrative in the black North American tradition published by a British Columbian. In his memoir, Johnson writes an account of his mother’s flight from Kentucky to Indiana while pregnant with him. During his youth, his family were “station masters” of the Underground Railroad in various towns in Indiana, helping blacks escape to freedom in Canada. Although Indiana was ostensibly a free state, the law allowed bounty hunters to recapture those who had freed themselves. Johnson’s family ultimately fled to Ontario. Johnson migrated west to British Columbia, where he worked as a varnish maker in the Vancouver neighbourhood of Mount Pleasant. There he wrote his life story. Johnson also wrote a tract called The Horrors of Slavery. Both works are included in this volume. Wayde Compton’s afterword puts Johnson’s life and writing in historical context, comparing his life to the lives of other enslaved people who escaped to BC, whose stories were told by others.”
Outsourcing Empire: How Company-States Made the Modern World, by Andrew Phillips and J C Sharman (Princeton University Press, Jun. 2020).
“How chartered company-states spearheaded European expansion and helped create the world’s first genuinely global order. From Spanish conquistadors to British colonialists, the prevailing story of European empire-building has focused on the rival ambitions of competing states. But as Outsourcing Empire shows, from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries, company-states—not sovereign states—drove European expansion, building the world’s first genuinely international system. Company-states were hybrid ventures: pioneering multinational trading firms run for profit, with founding charters that granted them sovereign powers of war, peace, and rule. Those like the English and Dutch East India Companies carved out corporate empires in Asia, while other company-states pushed forward European expansion through North America, Africa, and the South Pacific. In this comparative exploration, Andrew Phillips and J. C. Sharman explain the rise and fall of company-states, why some succeeded while others failed, and their role as vanguards of capitalism and imperialism. In dealing with alien civilizations to the East and West, Europeans relied primarily on company-states to mediate geographic and cultural distances in trade and diplomacy. Emerging as improvised solutions to bridge the gap between European rulers’ expansive geopolitical ambitions and their scarce means, company-states succeeded best where they could balance the twin imperatives of power and profit. Yet as European states strengthened from the late eighteenth century onward, and a sense of separate public and private spheres grew, the company-states lost their usefulness and legitimacy.
Atlantic Wars: From the Fifteenth Century to the Age of Revolution, by Geoffrey Plank (Oxford University Press, Jul. 2020).
“In a sweeping account, Atlantic Wars explores how warfare shaped the experiences of the peoples living in the watershed of the Atlantic Ocean between the late Middle Ages and the Age of Revolution. At the beginning of that period, combat within Europe secured for the early colonial powers the resources and political stability they needed to venture across the sea. By the early nineteenth century, descendants of the Europeans had achieved military supremacy on land but revolutionaries had challenged the norms of Atlantic warfare. Nearly everywhere they went, imperial soldiers, missionaries, colonial settlers, and traveling merchants sought local allies, and consequently they often incorporated themselves into African and indigenous North and South American diplomatic, military, and commercial networks. The newcomers and the peoples they encountered struggled to understand each other, find common interests, and exploit the opportunities that arose with the expansion of transatlantic commerce. Conflicts arose as a consequence of ongoing cultural misunderstandings and differing conceptions of justice and the appropriate use of force. In many theaters of combat profits could be made by exploiting political instability. Indigenous and colonial communities felt vulnerable in these circumstances, and many believed that they had to engage in aggressive military action—or, at a minimum, issue dramatic threats—in order to survive. Examining the contours of European dominance, this work emphasizes its contingent nature and geographical limitations, the persistence of conflict and its inescapable impact on non-combatants’ lives.”
Canada: A Very Short Introduction, by Donald Wright (Oxford University Press, Jul. 2020).
“Canada is not one nation, but three: English Canada, Quebec, and First Nations. Yet as a country Canada is very successful, in part because it maintains national diversity through bilingualism, multiculturalism, and federalism. Alongside this contemporary openness Canada also has its own history to contend with; with a legacy of broken treaties and residential schools for its Indigenous peoples, making reconciliation between Canada and First Nations an ongoing journey, not a destination. Drawing on history, politics, and literature, this Very Short Introduction starts at the end of the last ice age, when the melting of the ice sheets opened the northern half of North America to Indigenous peoples, and covers up to today’s anthropogenic climate change, and Canada’s climate politics. Donald Wright emphasizes Canada’s complexity and diversity as well as its different identities and its commitment to rights, and explores its historical relationship to Great Britain, and its ongoing relationship with the United States. Finally, he examines Canada’s northern realities and its northern identities.”
Canada in the World: Settler Capitalism and the Colonial Imagination, by Tyler Shipley (Columbia University Press, Jul. 2020).
“An accessible and empirically rich introduction to Canada’s engagements in the world since confederation, this introductory textbook charts a unique path by locating Canada’s colonial foundations at the heart of the analysis. Canada in the World begins by arguing that the colonial relations with Indigenous peoples represent the first example of foreign policy, and demonstrates how these relations became a foundational and existential element of the new state. Colonialism—the project to establish settler capitalism in North America and the ideological assumption that Europeans were more advanced and thus deserved to conquer the Indigenous people—says Shipley, lives at the very heart of Canada. Through a close examination of Canadian foreign policy, from crushing an Indigenous rebellion in El Salvador, “peacekeeping” missions in the Congo and Somalia, and Cold War interventions in Vietnam and Indonesia, to Canadian participation in the War on Terror, Canada in the World finds that this colonial heart has dictated Canada’s actions in the world since the beginning. Highlighting the continuities across more than 150 years of history, Shipley demonstrates that Canadian policy and behaviour in the world is deep-rooted, and argues that changing this requires rethinking the fundamental nature of Canada itself.”
Colonialism’s Currency: Money, State, and First Nations in Canada, 1820-1950, by Brian Gettler (McGill-Queen’s University Press, Jul. 2020).
“Money, often portrayed as a straightforward representation of market value, is also a political force, a technology for remaking space and population. This was especially true in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Canada, where money – in many forms – provided an effective means of disseminating colonial social values, laying claim to national space, and disciplining colonized peoples. Colonialism’s Currency analyzes the historical experiences and interactions of three distinct First Nations – the Wendat of Wendake, the Innu of Mashteuiatsh, and the Moose Factory Cree – with monetary forms and practices created by colonial powers. Whether treaty payments and welfare provisions such as the paper vouchers favoured by the Department of Indian Affairs, the Canadian Dominion’s standardized paper notes, or the “made beaver” (the Hudson’s Bay Company’s money of account), each monetary form allowed the state to communicate and enforce political, economic, and cultural sovereignty over Indigenous peoples and their lands. Surveying a range of historical cases, Brian Gettler shows how currency simultaneously placed First Nations beyond the bounds of settler society while justifying colonial interventions in their communities. Testifying to the destructive and the legitimizing power of money, Colonialism’s Currency is an intriguing exploration of the complex relationship between First Nations and the state.”
Grossières indécences: Pratiques et identités homosexuelles à Montréal, 1880-1929, par Dominic Dagenais (McGill-Queen’s University Press, Jul. 2020).
“Après avoir cofondé la première revue homosexuelle canadienne, la poète Elsa Gidlow, 21 ans, décide de quitter Montréal en 1920, déçue par le manque de possibilités amoureuses que lui offre alors la ville. Le réseau d’amis masculins homosexuels qu’elle a intégré au cours des années précédentes ne manque toutefois pas d’occasions de trouver des partenaires. En effet, même si l’homosexualité est considérée comme un crime depuis l’époque coloniale, une culture gaie masculine, qui était pratiquement inexistante avant 1880, s’est largement épanouie depuis le début du siècle. Grossières indécences retrace les origines de cette culture clandestine complexe et fascinante. Dominic Dagenais a consulté à rebours des archives produites en grande partie par la surveillance et la persécution, soit des dossiers judiciaires, des articles de journaux, de la correspondance, des archives personnelles, des publications médicales et des dossiers d’enquêtes publiques pour mettre au jour le contexte répressif dans lequel les identités homosexuelles contemporaines se sont construites et pour découvrir les espaces publics investis par le monde homosexuel montréalais au tournant du XXe siècle. Dans une ville marquée par le fleurissement des loisirs commerciaux et les trépidations de son quartier chaud, des hommes, mais aussi quelques femmes, ont déployé diverses stratégies pour se rencontrer et pour nouer des relations. Des rencontres risquées surviennent ainsi dans les rues, ruelles, magasins, parcs, théâtres et toilettes publiques de la ville. Un monde homosexuel riche et diversifié prend forme à Montréal au tournant du XXe siècle, en dépit d’une surveillance policière de plus en plus élaborée et des lourdes sanctions pénales auxquelles s’exposent les individus se livrant à des rapports homosexuels, considérés alors comme une grossière indécence et comme le pire des vices. Ce livre documente son histoire inédite.”
Knowing the Past, Facing the Future: Indigenous Education in Canada, by Sheila Carr-Stewart (University of British Columbia Press, Jul. 2020).
“In 1867, Canada’s federal government became responsible for the education of Indigenous peoples: Status Indians and some Métis would attend schools on reserves; non-Status Indians and some Métis would attend provincial schools. The system set the stage for decades of broken promises and misguided experiments that are only now being rectified in the spirit of truth and reconciliation. Knowing the Past, Facing the Future traces the arc of Indigenous education since Confederation and draws a road map of the obstacles that need to be removed before the challenge of reconciliation can be met. This insightful volume is organized in three parts. The opening chapters examine colonial promises and practices, including the treaty right to education and the establishment of day, residential, and industrial schools. The chapters in Parts 2 and 3 are written alternately from within Indigenous and Western paradigms. Parts 2 focuses on the legacy of racism, trauma, and dislocation; Part 3 explores contemporary issues in curriculum development, assessment, leadership, and governance. At a time when decolonizing Canada’s education system remains a struggle, this innovative collection reveals the possibilities and potential pitfalls associated with incorporating Traditional Knowledge and Indigenous teaching and healing practices into school courses and programs.”
The Miramichi Fire: A History, by Alan MacEachern (McGill-Queen’s University Press, Jul. 2020).
“On 7 October 1825, a massive forest fire swept through northeastern New Brunswick, devastating entire communities. When the smoke cleared, it was estimated that the fire had burned across six thousand square miles, one-fifth of the colony. The Miramichi Fire was the largest wildfire ever to occur within the British Empire, one of the largest in North American history, and the largest along the eastern seaboard. Yet despite the international attention and relief efforts it generated, and the ruin it left behind, the fire all but disappeared from public memory by the twentieth century. A masterwork in historical imagination, The Miramichi Fire vividly reconstructs nineteenth-century Canada’s greatest natural disaster, meditating on how it was lost to history. First and foremost an environmental history, the book examines the fire in the context of the changing relationships between humans and nature in colonial British North America and New England, while also exploring social memory and the question of how history becomes established, warped, and forgotten. Alan MacEachern explains how the imprecise and conflicting early reports of the fire’s range, along with the quick rebound of the forests and economy of New Brunswick, led commentators to believe by the early 1900s that the fire’s destruction had been greatly exaggerated. As an exercise in digital history, this book takes advantage of the proliferation of online tools and sources in the twenty-first century to posit an entirely new reading of the past. Resurrecting one of Canada’s most famous and yet unexamined natural disasters, The Miramichi Fire traverses a wide range of historical and scientific literatures to bring a more complete story into the light.”
Taking to the Streets: Crowds, Politics, and the Urban Experience in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Montreal, by Dan Horner (McGill-Queen’s University Press, Jul. 2020).
“The 1840s were a period of rapid growth and social conflict in Montreal. The city’s public life was marked by a series of labour conflicts and bloody sectarian riots; at the same time, the ways that elites wielded power and ordinary people engaged in the political process were changing, particularly in public space. In Taking to the Streets Dan Horner examines how the urban environment became a vital and contentious political site during the tumultuous period from the end of the 1837-38 rebellions to the burning of Parliament in 1849. Employing a close reading of newspaper and judicial archives, he looks at a broad range of collective crowd experiences, including riots, labour demonstrations, religious processions, and parades. By examining how crowd events were used both to assert claims of political authority and to challenge their legitimacy, Horner charts the development of a contentious democratic political culture in British North America. Taking to the Streets is an important contribution to the political and urban history of pre-Confederation Canada and a timely reminder of how Montrealers from all walks of life have always used the streets to build community and make their voices heard.”
A Touch of Fire: Marie-André Duplessis, the Hôtel-Dieu of Quebec, and the Writing of New France, by Thomas M. Carr, Jr. (McGill-Queen’s University Press, Jul. 2020).
“Marie-André Duplessis (1687-1760) guided the Augustinian sisters at the Hôtel-Dieu of Quebec – the oldest hospital north of Mexico – where she was elected mother superior six times. Although often overshadowed by colonial nuns who became foundresses or saints, she was a powerhouse during the last decades of the French regime and an accomplished woman of letters. She has been credited with Canada’s first literary narrative, Canada’s first music manual, and the first book by a Canadian woman printed during her own lifetime. In A Touch of Fire, the first biography of Duplessis, Thomas Carr analyzes how she navigated, in peace and war, the unstable, male-dominated colonial world of New France. Through a study of Duplessis’s correspondence, her writings, and the rich Hôtel-Dieu archives, Carr details how she channelled the fire of her commitment to the hospital in order to advance its interests, preserve its history, and inspire her sister nuns. Duplessis chronicled New France as she wrote for and about her institution. Her administrative correspondence reveals her managerial successes and failures, and her private letters reshaped her friendship with a childhood Jansenist friend, Marie-Catherine Hecquet. Carr also delves into her relationship with her sister Geneviève Duplessis, who joined her in the cloister and became her managerial and spiritual partner. The addition of Duplessis’s last letters provides a dramatic insider’s view into the female experience of the siege and capture of Quebec in 1759. A Touch of Fire examines the life and work of an enterprising leader and major woman author of early Canada.”
Our Hearts Are as One Fire: An Ojibway-Anishinabe Vision for the Future, by Jerry Fontaine (University of British Columbia Press, Aug. 2020).
“A vision shared. A manifesto. This remarkable work draws on Ojibway-, Ota’wa-, and Ishkodawatomi-Anishinabe world views, history, and lived experience to develop a wholly Ojibway-Anishinabe interpretation of the role of traditional leadership and governance today. Taking as his starting point the idea that Anishinabeg need to reconnect with non-colonized modes of thinking, social organization, and decision making in order to achieve genuine sovereignty, Jerry Fontaine (makwa ogimaa) looks to historically significant models. He tells of three great Ota’wa, Shawnee, and Ojibway-Anishinabe leaders – Obwandiac, Tecumtha, and Shingwauk – and of the N’swi-ish-ko-day-kawn Anishinabeg O’dish-ko-day-kawn (Three Fires Confederacy). These leaders challenged violent and aggressive colonial expansion that would shape the future of Manitou Aki (North America). In Our Hearts Are as One Fire, Fontaine recounts their stories from an Ojibway-Anishinabe perspective using Ojibwaymowin language and knowledge, woven together with conversations with elders and descendants of the three leaders. The result is a book that reframes the history of Manitou Aki and shares a vision of how Ojibway, Ota’wa and Ishkodawatomi-Anishinabe spiritual and cultural values, language, and legal and political principles will support the leaders of today and tomorrow. This work will speak to members of Ojibway-, Ota’wa-, Ishkodawatomi-Anishinabe and other Indigenous communities. More broadly, it offers a new vision for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and scholars of law, history, politics, and reconciliation.”
Transatlantic Upper Canada: Portraits in Literature, Land, and British-Indigenous Relations, by Kevin Hutchings (McGill-Queen’s University Press, Aug. 2020).
“Literature emerging from nineteenth-century Upper Canada, born of dramatic cultural and political collisions, reveals much about the colony’s history through its contrasting understandings of nature, ecology, deforestation, agricultural development, and land rights. In the first detailed study of literary interactions between Indigenous people and colonial authorities in Upper Canada and Britain, Kevin Hutchings analyzes the period’s key figures and the central role that romanticism, ecology, and environment played in their writings. Investigating the ties that bound Upper Canada and Great Britain together during the early nineteenth century, Transatlantic Upper Canada demonstrates the existence of a cosmopolitan culture whose implications for the land and its people are still felt today. The book examines the writings of Haudenosaunee leaders John Norton and John Brant and Anishinabeg authors Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, Peter Jones, and George Copway, as well as European figures John Beverley Robinson, John Strachan, Anna Brownell Jameson, and Sir Francis Bond Head. Hutchings argues that, despite their cultural differences, many factors connected these writers, including shared literary interests, cross-Atlantic journeys, metropolitan experiences, mutual acquaintance, and engagement in ongoing dialogue over Indigenous territory and governance. A close examination of relationships between peoples and their understandings of land, Transatlantic Upper Canada creates a rich portrait of the nineteenth-century British Atlantic world and the cultural and environmental consequences of colonialism and resistance.”
Detroit’s Hidden Channels: The Power of French-Indigenous Families in the Eighteenth Century, by Karen L. Marrero (University of Manitoba Press, Sep. 2020).
“French-Indigenous families were a central force in shaping Detroit’s history. Detroit’s Hidden Channels examines the role of these kinship networks in Detroit’s development as a site of singular political and economic importance in the continental interior. Situated where Anishinaabe, Wendat, Myaamia, and later French communities were established and where the system of waterways linking the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico narrowed, Detroit’s location was its primary attribute. While the French state viewed Detroit as a decaying site of illegal activities, the influence of the French-Indigenous networks grew as members diverted imperial resources to bolster an alternative configuration of power relations that crossed Indigenous and Euro-American nations. Women furthered commerce by navigating a multitude of gender norms of their nations, allowing them to defy the state that sought to control them by holding them to European ideals of womanhood. By the mid-eighteenth century, French-Indigenous families had become so powerful, incoming British traders and imperial officials courted their favour. These families would maintain that power as the British imperial presence splintered on the eve of the American Revolution.”
Hearing Enslaved Voices: African and Indian Slave Testimony in British and French America, 1700–1848, edited by Sophie White and Trevor Burnard (Routledge, Sep. 2020).
“This book focuses on alternative types of slave narratives, especially courtroom testimony, and interrogates how such narratives were produced, the societies (both those that were majority slave societies and those in which slaves were a distinct minority of the population) in which testimony was permitted, and the meanings that can be attached to such narratives. The chapters in this book provide valuable information about the everyday lives—including the inner and spiritual lives—of enslaved African American and Native American individuals in the British and French Atlantic World, from Canada to the Caribbean. It explores slave testimony as a form of autobiographical narrative, and in ways that allow us to foreground enslaved persons’ lived experience as expressed in their own words.”
The Idea of Europe and the Origins of the American Revolution, by D. H. Robinson (Oxford University Press, Sep. 2020).
“In The Idea of Europe and the Origins of the American Revolution, Dan Robinson presents a new history of politics in colonial America and the imperial crisis, tracing how ideas of Europe and Europeanness shaped British-American political culture. Reconstructing colonial debates about the European states system, European civilisation, and Britain’s position within both, Robinson shows how these concerns informed colonial attitudes towards American identity and America’s place inside – and, ultimately, outside – the emerging British Empire. Taking in more than two centuries of Atlantic history, he explores the way in which colonists inherited and adapted Anglo-British traditions of thinking about international politics, how they navigated imperial politics during the European wars of 1740-1763, and how the burgeoning patriot movement negotiated the dual crisis of Europe and Empire in the between 1763 and 1775. In the process, Robinson sheds new light on the development of public politics in colonial America, the Anglicisation/Americanisation debate, the political economy of empire, early American art and poetry, eighteenth-century geopolitical thinking, and the relationship between international affairs, nationalism, and revolution. What emerges from this story is an American Revolution that seems both decidedly arcane and strikingly relevant to the political challenges of the twenty-first century.”
Identifying as Arab in Canada: A Century of Immigration History, by Houda Asal (Columbia University Press, Sep. 2020).
“While ‘Arabs’ now attract considerable attention – from media, the state, and sociological studies – their history in Canada remains little known. Identifying as Arab in Canada begins to rectify this invisibilization by exploring the migration from Machrek (the Middle East) to Canada from the late 19th century through the 1970s. Houda Asal breathes life into this migratory history and the people who made the journey, and examines the public, collective existence they created in Canada in order to understand both the identity Arabs have constructed for themselves here, and the identity that has been constructed for them by the Canadian state. Using archival research, media analysis, laws and statistics, and a series of interviews, Asal offers a thorough examination of the institutions these migrants and their descendants built, and the various ways they expressed their identity and organized their religious, social and political lives. Identifying as Arab in Canada offers an impressively researched, but accessibly written, much-needed glimpse into the long history of the Arab population in Canada.”
A Bounded Land: Reflections on Settler Colonialism in Canada, by Cole Harris (University of British Columbia Press, Oct. 2020).
“Canada is a country of bounded spaces – a nation situated between rock and cold to the north and a political border to the south. In A Bounded Land, Cole Harris seeks answers to a sweeping question: How was society reorganized – for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike – when Europeans resettled this distinctive land? Through a series of vignettes that focus on people’s experiences on the ground, Harris exposes the underlying architecture of settler colonialism as it grew and evolved, from the first glimpses of new lands and peoples, to the immigrant experience in early Canada, to the dispossession and resettlement of First Nations in British Columbia. In the process, he explores how Canada’s settler societies differed from their European progenitors and, more theoretically, how colonialism managed to dispossess. At a time when Canada is seeking to overcome the legacies of colonialism, A Bounded Land is essential reading. By considering the whole territory that became Canada over 500 years and focusing on sites of colonial domination rather than on settler texts, Harris unearths fresh insights on the continuing and growing influence of Indigenous Peoples in Canada and argues that country’s boundedness is ultimately drawing it toward its Indigenous roots.”
Captain Cook Rediscovered: Voyaging to the Icy Latitudes, by David L. Nicandri (University of British Columbia Press, Oct. 2020).
“Captain James Cook is inextricably linked to the South Pacific in the popular imagination, his voyages satisfying our fascination with so-called Polynesian exoticism. But his crowning navigational and scientific achievements took place in the polar regions. Captain Cook Rediscovered is the first modern study to orient Captain James Cook’s career from a North American vantage. Recognizing that Cook sailed more miles in the high latitudes of all of the world’s oceans than in the tropical zone, this book gives due attention to his voyages in seas and lands usually neglected, such as South Georgia in the far southern Atlantic and the Alaskan sub-continent, whose dimensions Cook first delineated. David L. Nicandri acknowledges the cartographic accomplishments of the first voyage but focuses on the second- and third-voyage discovery missions in the icy latitudes near the poles, where Cook pioneered the science of iceberg and icepack formation. This groundbreaking book upturns an area of study that has been typically dominated by the “palm-tree paradigm.” Nicandri replaces that stereotype with a balanced account of Cook’s travels – resulting in a truly modern appraisal of Cook for the climate change era. This fascinating account will appeal not only to students of environmental history, naval history, and polar studies but also to Cook enthusiasts and readers with an interest in exploration history, science, and the North.”
Jeannie’s Demise: Abortion on Trial in Victorian Toronto, by Ian Radforth (Between the Lines, Oct. 2020).
“August 1, 1875, Toronto: The naked body of a young woman is discovered in a pine box, half-buried in a ditch along Bloor Street. So begins Jeannie’s Demise, a real-life Victorian melodrama that played out in the bustling streets and courtrooms of “Toronto the Good,” cast with all the lurid stock characters of the genre. Historian Ian Radforth brings to life an era in which abortion was illegal, criminal proceedings were a spectator sport, and coded advertisements for back-alley procedures ran in the margins of newspapers. At the centre of the story is the elusive and doomed Jeannie Gilmour, a minister’s daughter whose independent spirit can only be glimpsed through secondhand accounts and courtroom reports. As rumours swirl about her final weeks and her abortionists stand trial for their lives, a riveted public grapples with questions of guilt and justice, innocence and intent. Radforth’s intensive research grounds the tragedy of Jeannie’s demise in sharp historical analysis, presenting over a dozen case studies of similar trials in Victorian-era Canada. Part gripping procedural, part meticulous autopsy, Jeannie’s Demise opens a rare window into the hidden history of a woman’s right to choose.”
Mapping an Atlantic World, circa 1500, by Alida C. Metcalf (Johns Hopkins University Press, Oct. 2020).
“Beginning around 1500, in the decades following Columbus’s voyages, the Atlantic Ocean moved from the periphery to the center on European world maps. This brief but highly significant moment in early modern European history marks not only a paradigm shift in how the world was mapped but also the opening of what historians call the Atlantic World. But how did sixteenth-century chartmakers and mapmakers begin to conceptualize—and present to the public—an interconnected Atlantic World that was open and navigable, in comparison to the mysterious ocean that had blocked off the Western hemisphere before Columbus’s exploration? In Mapping an Atlantic World, circa 1500, Alida C. Metcalf argues that the earliest surviving maps from this era, which depict trade, colonization, evangelism, and the movement of peoples, reveal powerful and persuasive arguments about the possibility of an interconnected Atlantic World. Blending scholarship from two fields, historical cartography and Atlantic history, Metcalf explains why Renaissance cosmographers first incorporated sailing charts into their maps and began to reject classical models for mapping the world. Combined with the new placement of the Atlantic, the visual imagery on Atlantic maps—which featured decorative compass roses, animals, landscapes, and native peoples—communicated the accessibility of distant places with valuable commodities. Even though individual maps became outdated quickly, Metcalf reveals, new mapmakers copied their imagery, which then repeated on map after map. Individual maps might fall out of date, be lost, discarded, or forgotten, but their geographic and visual design promoted a new way of seeing the world, with an interconnected Atlantic World at its center.”
Beaver, Bison, Horse: The Traditional Knowledge and Ecology of the Northern Great Plains, by R. Grace Morgan (University of Regina Press, Nov. 2020).
“Beaver, Bison, Horse is an interdisciplinary account of the ecological relationships the Indigenous nations of the Plains had to the beaver, bison, horse, and their habitat prior to contact. Morgan’s research shows an ecological understanding that sustained Indigenous peoples for thousands of years, with critical information on how the beaver manage water systems and protect communities from drought in the Northern Great Plains. Morgan’s work is a game-changer. For the first time in print, her important research now appears with a foreword by James Daschuk, bestselling and award-winning author of Clearing the Plains, and an afterword by Cristina Eisenberg, author of The Carnivore Way and The Wolf’s Tooth.”
Doodem and Council Fire: Ashinaabe Governance Through Alliance, by Heidi Bohaker (University of Toronto Press, Nov. 2020).
“Combining socio-legal and ethnohistorical studies, this book presents the history of doodem, or clan identification markings, left by Anishinaabe on treaties and other legal documents from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. These doodems reflected fundamental principles behind Anishinaabe governance that were often ignored by Europeans, who referred to Indigenous polities in terms of tribe, nation, band, or village – classifications that failed to fully encompass longstanding cultural traditions of political authority within Anishinaabe society. Making creative use of natural history, treaty pictographs, and the Ojibwe language as an analytical tool, Doodem and Council Fire delivers groundbreaking insights into Anishinaabe law. The author asks not only what these doodem markings indicate, but what they may also reveal through their exclusions. The book also outlines the continuities, changes, and innovations in Anishinaabe governance through the concept of council fires and the alliances between them. Original and path-breaking, Doodem and Council Fire offers a fresh approach to Indigenous history, presenting a new interpretation grounded in a deep understanding of the nuances and distinctiveness of Anishinaabe culture and Indigenous traditions.”
French Connections: Cultural Mobility in North America and the Atlantic World, 1600-1875, edited by Andrew N. Wegmann, Robert Englebert (Louisiana State University Press, Nov. 2020).
“French Connections examines how the movement of people, ideas, and social practices contributed to the complex processes and negotiations involved in being and becoming French in North America and the Atlantic World between the years 1600 and 1875. Engaging a wide range of topics, from religious and diplomatic performance to labor migration, racialization, and both imagined and real conceptualizations of “Frenchness” and “Frenchification,” this volume argues that cultural mobility was fundamental to the development of French colonial societies and the collective identities they housed. Cases of cultural formation and dislocation in places as diverse as Quebec, the Illinois Country, Detroit, Haiti, Acadia, New England, and France itself demonstrate the broad variability of French cultural mobility that took place throughout this massive geographical space. Nevertheless, these communities shared the same cultural root in the midst of socially and politically fluid landscapes, where cultural mobility came to define, and indeed sustain, communal and individual identities in French North America and the Atlantic World. Drawing on innovative new scholarship on Louisiana and New Orleans, the editors and contributors to French Connections look to refocus the conversation surrounding French colonial interconnectivity by thinking about mobility as a constitutive condition of culture; from this perspective, separate “spheres” of French colonial culture merge to reveal a broader, more cohesive cultural world. The comprehensive scope of this collection will attract scholars of French North America, early American history, Atlantic World history, Caribbean studies, Canadian studies, and frontier studies. With essays from established, award-winning scholars such as Brett Rushforth, Leslie Choquette, Jay Gitlin, and Christopher Hodson as well as from new, progressive thinkers such as Mairi Cowan, William Brown, Karen L. Marrero, and Robert D. Taber, French Connections promises to generate interest and value across an extensive and diverse range of concentrations.”
Ours by Every Law of Right and Justice: Women and the Vote in the Prairie Provinces, by Sarah Carter (University of British Columbia Press, Nov. 2020).
“Many of Canada’s most famous suffragists – from Nellie McClung and Cora Hind to Emily Murphy and Henrietta Muir Edwards – lived and campaigned in the Prairie provinces, the region that led the way in granting women the right to vote and hold office. Manitoba enfranchised women in January 1916, and Saskatchewan and Alberta quickly followed in March and April. In Ours by Every Right and Justice, award-winning author Sarah Carter challenges the myth that grateful male legislators simply handed western women the vote in recognition that they were equal partners in the pioneering process. Suffragists worked long and hard to overcome obstacles, persuade doubters, and build allies. But their work also had a dark side. Carter situates the suffragists’ struggle in the colonial history of the region, a period when Indigenous people were being cleared from the Plains and marginalized on reserves to make way for permanent settlers. Even as they pressured legislatures to grant their sisters the vote, settler suffragists often accepted and approved of that same right being denied to “foreigners” and to Indigenous men and women. This powerful and passionate account of prominent suffragists and their lesser-known allies shows that the right to vote meant different things to different people – political rights and emancipation for some, domination and democracy denied for others. This book is important reading for anyone with an interest in Canadian women’s history or the history of colonialism in Prairie Canada and on the Great Plains. It will particularly appeal to students of Canadian or political history.”
Past and Prologue: Politics and Memory in the American Revolution, by Michael D. Hattem (Yale University Press, Nov. 2020).
“How American colonists reinterpreted their British and colonial histories to help establish political and cultural independence from Britain. In Past and Prologue, Michael Hattem shows how colonists’ changing understandings of history shaped the politics of the American Revolution and the origins of American national identity. Between the 1760s and 1800s, Americans stopped thinking of the British past as their own history and created a new historical tradition that would form the foundation for what subsequent generations would think of as “American history.” This change was a crucial part of the cultural transformation at the heart of the Revolution by which colonists went from thinking of themselves as British subjects to thinking of themselves as American citizens. Rather than liberating Americans from the past—as many historians have argued—the Revolution actually made the past matter more than ever. Past and Prologue shows how the process of reinterpreting the past and creating a new historical tradition played a critical role in the founding of the nation.
Stand on Guard for Whom?: A People’s History of the Canadian Military, by Yves Engler (Black Rose Books, Nov. 2020).
“We Stand on Guard for Whom? is the first book to present a history of the Canadian military from the perspective of its victims. In his eleventh book, Yves Engler, the prolific author and critic of Canadian politics, exposes the reality of Canadian wars, repression, and military culture despite the mythologies of Canada as an agent for international peacekeeping and humanitarianism. Originating as a British force that brutally dispossessed First Nations, the Canadian Forces regularly quelled labor unrest in the decades after Confederation. It would go on to participate in military occupations or invasions in Sudan, South Africa, Europe, Korea, Iraq, Serbia, Afghanistan, and Libya, as well as Canadian gunboat diplomacy and UN deployments that have ousted elected governments. As the federal government department with by far the greatest budget, staff, PR machine, and intelligence-gathering capacities, this book shows how the Canadian military is a key developer of military technology, including chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. It also has an immense ecological footprint and a toxic patriarchal, racist, and anti-democratic culture. However, as this book shows, Canadian militarism has always been contested, as early as opposition to conscription during World War I and as especially during peace activism against the US war in Indochina. More recently, city councils have declared themselves nuclear weapons free zones and prevented hosting of weapons bazaars and, in 2003, antiwar activists stopped Prime Minister Jean Chrétien from leading Canada into the US-led invasion of Iraq. This book reveals the hidden militarism in Canadian life and reminds us that the first step to contest it is to recognize its pervasiveness and power.”
The Fabric of Empire: Material and Literary Cultures of the Global Atlantic, 1650-1850, by Danielle C. Skeehan (Johns Hopkins University Press, Dec. 2020).
“A history of the book in the Americas, across deep time, would reveal the origins of a literary tradition woven rather than written. It is in what Danielle Skeehan calls material texts that a people’s history and culture is preserved, in their embroidery, their needlework, and their woven cloth. In defining textiles as a form of cultural writing, The Fabric of Empire challenges long-held ideas about authorship, textuality, and the making of books. It is impossible to separate text from textiles in the early modern Atlantic: novels, newspapers, broadsides, and pamphlets were printed on paper made from household rags. Yet the untethering of text from textile served a colonial agenda to define authorship as reflected in ink and paper and the pen as an instrument wielded by learned men and women. Skeehan explains that the colonial definition of the book, and what constituted writing and authorship, left officials blind to non-alphabetic forms of media that preserved cultural knowledge, history, and lived experience. This book shifts how we look at cultural objects such as books and fabric and provides a material and literary history of resistance among the globally dispossessed. Each chapter examines the manufacture and global circulation of a particular type of cloth alongside the complex print networks that ensured the circulation of these textiles, promoted their production, petitioned for or served to protract the rights of textile workers, facilitated the exchange of textiles for human lives, and were, in turn, printed and written on surfaces manufactured from broken-down linen and cotton fibers. Bringing together methods and materials traditionally belonging to literary studies, book history, and material culture studies, The Fabric of Empire provides a new model for thinking about the different media, languages, literacies, and textualities in the early Atlantic world.”
The Shattered Cross: French Catholic Missionaries on the Mississippi River, 1698-1725, by Linda Carol Jones (Louisiana State University Press, Dec. 2020).
“In The Shattered Cross, Linda Carol Jones explores the lives and work of five priests of the Séminaire de Québec, the first French Catholic missionaries to serve along the Mississippi River between 1698 and 1725. Using an array of archival holdings in Québec and France, Jones provides deep insight into the experiences of these pioneer priests and their interactions with regional Native peoples and cultures. Encounters between early French Catholic missionaries and Native peoples were always complex, often misunderstood, and typically fraught with an array of challenges. As Jones demonstrates, these priests faced a combination of environmental, personal, economic, and leadership difficulties that, along with cultural misunderstandings and poorly designed strategies, made their missionary work arduous. Nevertheless, their efforts led, in some instances, to assimilation of select Christian elements into Native cultures, albeit through creative, mutual adaptation, not solely through Catholic efforts. … Expectations of Séminaire leaders in Québec and Paris meant that those with the best chance for success on the Mississippi were internally driven, acknowledged a sense of calling to be a part of the overarching mission of the seminary, and adhered to the advice of its leadership. The missionary experiences of these five men—their varied encounters with Native peoples, Jesuit missionaries, and French coureurs de bois—align and diverge in unexpected ways, presenting a mosaic that adds to our understanding of both the tribulations French Catholic missionaries faced and the consequences of their efforts along the Mississippi River in the early eighteenth century.”
Dani Reimer is an M.A. student in history at Queen’s University, studying the Gouzenko affair, newspapers, and the cultural history of the Cold War.
Keith Grant is an Assistant Professor of History at Crandall University in Moncton, New Brunswick, teaching courses on early North American and religious history. His current book manuscript, Enthusiasms and Loyalties: How Emotions Made and Unmade Religion and Politics in British North America, is under contract with McGill-Queen’s University Press. He is a founding co-editor of Borealia, and can be found on Twitter at @KeithSGrant.
Continue the conversation ...