Wednesday, 10 April 2013

‘Peaceable Kingdom’: Essays on Nineteenth Century Canada

I’m not sure when this book will finally be published but I’m hoping to complete it by August or possibly September.  While researching the Rebellions Trilogy and the two volumes of Rebellion in Canada, 1837-1885 I drafted a series of papers on Canadian history that contributed to the published work. This was part of the process of honing drafts of the books into a form that combined a narrative of the key events, their causation and consequences with a critique of that narrative by examining linkage and remembrance. This collection of essays brings together some of those jottings and has given me the opportunity to rewrite them in the light of further research.

Peaceable Kingdom

‘Canada is an unmilitary community,’ wrote C. P. Stacey, Canada’s pre-eminent military historian. ‘Warlike her people have often been forced to be, military they have never been.’ [1] There is a view that, unlike almost every other democracy, Canadians have not had to fight for their freedom. The rebellions in Lower and Upper Canada in 1837 and 1838 and Louis Riel's Red River ‘Resistance’ of 1869-1870 and the North-West Rebellion of 1885 are portrayed as little more than military skirmishes while describing the four-day action at Batoche as a ‘battle’ is seen as a serious over-dramatisation.

I’ve just completed an essay that explores the question of Russia and rebellion in Canada considering this less from the point of view of ‘rumour’, as previous historians have done but placing the Patriotes and Fenians and their calls for Russian support in the context of Russian foreign and diplomatic policy between 1837 and 1885.  What is now evident is that, although efforts to obtain Russian support ultimately failed, those efforts appear far less eccentric than previously thought and that Russian support, in part to destabilise Britain’s empire, was not as ridiculous as it often appears.

Other essays will examine populism and protest in 1837 and the deaths of Lieutenant Weir and Armand Chartrand and ask whether Papineau was to blame for the failure of rebellion in Lower Canada and whether Canada experienced ‘wars of religion’ in the nineteenth century.

[1] Stacey, C. P., Six Years of War: The Army in Canada, Britain and the Pacific, (Queen’s Printer), 1953, p. 3. Several years before Prime Minister W. L. Mackenzie King had stated: ‘We are fighting to defend democratic and Christian ideals [and] we have transformed one of the least military people on earth into a nation organised for modern war’, Hutchinson’s Pictorial History of the War, no. 1, Series 13, July-December, 1941, p. 199.

No comments: