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Promoters, Patriots, and Partisans

Promoters, Patriots, and Partisans: Historiography in Nineteenth-Century English Canada

Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 294
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    Promoters, Patriots, and Partisans
    Book Description:

    During the nineteenth-century, the writing of history in English-speaking Canada changed from promotional efforts by amateurs to an academically-based discipline. Professor Taylor charts this transition in a comprehensive history.

    The early historians - the promoters of the title - sought to further their own interests through exxagerated accounts of a particular colony to which they had developed a transient attachment. Eventually this group was replaced by patriots, whose writing was influenced by loyalty to the land of their brith and residence. This second generation of historians attempted both to defend their respective colonies by explaining away past disappointments and to fit events into a predicitve pattern of progress and development. In the process, they established distinctive identities for each of the British North American colonies.

    Eventually a confrontation occurred between those who saw Canada as a nation and those whose traditions and vistas were provincial in emphasis. Ultimately the former prevailed, only to find the present and future too complex and too ominous to understand. Historians ssubsequently lost their sense of purpose and direction and fell into partisan disagreement or pessimistic nostalgia. This abandonment of their role paved the way for the new, professional breed of historian as the twentieth century opened.

    In the course of his analysis, Taylor considers a number of key issues abotu the writing of history: the kind of people who undertake it and their motivation for doing so, the intended and actual effects of their work, its influence on subsequent historical writing, and the development of uniform and accepted standards of professional practice.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7882-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-8)

    This book is about memory. Specifically, it is about the public memory that passes as history. Such memory is plural not singular. Theologians, natural scientists, and novelists, for example, will remember the past in different ways, use it to serve different purposes, and employ distinct methods to recall it. Each strand of memory will have its own anniversaries and cycles of events, and there is noa priorireason why these different strands should merge into a single image.¹ If one could identify all the diverse traditions of a nation through a given period of time, one would have something...

  6. 1 Promoters and the Decision to Write Canadian History
    (pp. 9-40)

    When Christopher Columbus reached America, it had no past - at least none recognizable to European historians. The extraordinary consequence was that the written history of the New World would occur entirely within the memory of modern man. Voyages of discovery and exploration, however remarkable in their own right, were not fabulous. Native peoples were extraordinary but not phantoms. Colonies were founded by all-too-human adventurers and the immigration of ordinary men and women, not by the likes of Romulus and Remus. Nothing was irrecoverable; all was comprehended. The ‘discovery’ of America, then, offered Europeans the opportunity both to make and...

  7. 2 The Patriot Reaction in the Maritimes
    (pp. 41-83)

    The first histories in English relating to the Maritime colonies were written by authors who thought of themselves primarily as British subjects living abroad. The patriotism averred by promoters and early colonists, no matter how hedged about it might be by personal concerns, was fundamentally British. Only with the growth of a generation of native Maritimers, particularly in Nova Scotia, was the nature of patriotism in the colonies altered. According to Joseph Howe (1804-73), the most famous member of this generation, it was the ‘unerring law of nature’ that the first-born of the colonies should transfer a priority in their...

  8. 3 The Anomaly of Quebec
    (pp. 84-115)

    The signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763 ratified the military conquest by Great Britain in 1760 of the extensive French possession in North America known as New France. A new colony called Quebec was created along the banks of the St Lawrence River when the ceded territory was reorganized by royal proclamation that same year. This new acquisition to the British empire already contained some 70,000 colonists, almost all of whom were French in language, culture, and law, and Roman Catholic in religion. The Proclamation of 1763 imposed upon these people English forms of government and law and...

  9. 4 Reform Challenge in Upper Canada
    (pp. 116-151)

    Prior to 1780 the peninsula that was shortly to become Upper Canada remained a wilderness inhabited by a few white and not many more native people. Within the short span of sixty years the same area was settled by several hundred thousand people, who brought with them the tensions of the social, technological, and ideological upheaval of the early and mid-nineteenth century. The first to arrive were the approximately six to ten thousand Loyalists dislocated by the American Revolution. After an indiscernible pause, many more thousands of apolitical American land seekers swamped the original Loyalists, before their immigration was curtailed...

  10. 5 A National Consensus
    (pp. 152-180)

    The DurhamReportrecommended, and nine years later the British ministry granted, a large measure of responsible self-government to the united province of Canada. Synchronic imperial legislation emasculated the system of Navigation Acts that was mercantilism made manifest. The combined effect of the British government’s proscription of certain of its own powers was to shift the locus of real authority over the future of domestic colonial affairs to the Canadas themselves. The need to influence British public opinion declined in direct proportion to the amplified prerogative of the provincial electorate. Governments, companies, and individuals continued to extol and defend the...

  11. 6 The Maritimes Opt Out
    (pp. 181-230)

    The consensus of the Canadas’ National school held few attractions for the patriot historians of the three Maritime provinces. They did not accept that responsible government was the principal theme of their respective histories; they did not believe that conflict was the engine of progress in their colonies; and they did not identify with the Canadian, particularly the French-Canadian, people. Maritime patriot historians instead focused on the moral and material progress of their colonies, believed that achievement came through the incremental efforts of generations of hard-working independent settlers, and saw in this process the basis of a distinctive identity. It...

  12. 7 Partisans and Pessimists
    (pp. 231-266)

    A National historian is one who expects that his countrymen will do great things together in the future and therefore believes that they have done great things together in the past. When Confederation failed to live up to the expectation of its advocates, when optimism in the country’s future waned, faith in the past as the buttress of progress diminished. The continuance of traditional regional, racial, religious, and political animosities, the inability to meet continental challenges, and the rise of new tensions in the western territories all combined to demoralize those who dreamed of a united and progressive nation state....

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 267-272)

    Throughout most of the nineteenth century English-Canadian historians primarily wanted to talk about the future. Indeed, initially there was little else to discuss. In the case of our first historians, the promoters, the future in question was their own. Rootless individuals on the make, they hid within the extensive effort being made to describe the New World to the Old. Their achievement, whatever their motives, was to explain away initial failure as that of men and measures, not the land, and then to civilize the wilderness by definition and illustration. Unfortunately, driven by hope of short-term gain, they overplayed their...

  14. Index
    (pp. 273-294)