Monday, 22 April 2013

Rebellion in Canada, 1837-1885


‘…extremely impressed by the range of your scholarship and the depth of your research; you seem to have read just about all the secondary literature in a variety of different fields, and you present your material in a clear, engaging style that is refreshingly jargon-free.’

In less than fifty years Canada experienced six major rebellions: in Lower and Upper Canada in late 1837 and 1838, the Fenian rebellions of 1866 and 1870 and the Pembina affair in 1871 and Louis Riel’s resistance at Red River in 1869-1870 and his rebellion fifteen years later in Saskatchewan. Each failed to achieve its aims and, in one sense, this book is a study of political disappointment. The rebellions revealed the draconian ways in which the state responded to threats to public order and legitimate authority. Yet it is the losers in 1837-1838 and 1885, though this is less the case for those in 1866 and 1870 who are now better and more positively remembered than the victors.

Canadian rebellions 1

The two volumes in Canadian Rebellion 1837-1885 are published in two formats. There are two printed volumes that were published in the latter part of 2012 and this single Kindle volume that contains both printed volumes.  I have taken the opportunity of adding references to the most recent research and have added colour illustrations that were nor included in the original print version. 

The Prologue considers the natures of liberty in the emergence of Canada from a colonial to continental state.  Chapter 1 examines the development of the two Canadas between the end of French Canada in 1760 and the turn of the century. Chapter 2 looks at the economic, social, political, ideological and cultural tensions that evolved from the 1790s and the largely unsuccessful attempts by the colonial state and politicians in London to find acceptable and sustainable solutions to populist demands for greater autonomy. Chapter 3 looks in detail at the rebellions in 1837 and 1838 and at their immediate aftermath. Chapter 4 examines the ways in which Canadian politics developed in the newly united Province of Canada in the years between 1841 and the creation of Confederation in 1867. 

Chapter 5 examines the Irish diaspora to North America during the nineteenth century and focuses especially on the demographic and political impact of the Famine in the 1840s and 1850s. Chapter 6 considers at the ways in which Irish nationalism maintained a strong political presence in the United States and Canada from the beginning of the nineteenth century and the emergence of the Fenian Brotherhood in New York in 1858. The political impact of this movement was both enhanced and restricted by the American Civil War between 1861 and 1865 yet the Fenians emerged in April 1865 as a powerful, if increasingly divided, force with concrete plans for the liberation of Ireland. Chapter 7 explores in detail at the three Irish-American Fenian incursions into Canada in 1866, 1870 and briefly and debatably in 1871, the impact that they had on Canadian and American politics and how this led to changes in Irish nationalism in the 1870s. Chapters 8 and 9 extend the story geographically beyond Quebec and Ontario across the continent to the unchartered and largely unsettled prairies of the North-West. They look at the impact of economic, social and political change on the Metis and the two rebellions of 1869-1870 and 1885 led by Louis Riel that sought, unsuccessfully, to protect the Metis from the impact of the incursion of largely Ontarian settlers and from the continentalist aspirations of the federal government. The importance of rebellion in state-building in Canada is considered in the final chapter.

There are a series of appendices and a bibliography.

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