Posted by: hallnjean | June 7, 2013

Scraps of the Past:

Shipping News in Land-locked Red River Settlement:

wetPrinted in the Red River Settlement newspaper, The Nor’-Wester (15 March 1861), 4.


WreckLink to text of article, printed in The Nor’-Wester (28 December 1859), 2.


wreck of IndianLink to text of article, printed in The Nor’-Wester (28 January 1860), 3.


fearful gale

royal charter

screw steamer Indian

great eastern

fishing fortunr

“Miscellaneous Items,” The Nor’-Wester (14 February 1860), 1.


another expeditionLink to text of article, printed in The Nor’-Wester (14 February 1860), 1.


loss of eagleLink to text of article in The Nor’-Wester (14 February 1860), 4.


Donald Gunn‘s Description of Shipping Voyages from London to York Factory, transcribed from “How We Commenced Business,” Nor’-Wester (28 February 1860), 4.

“The navigation from London to York Factory is difficult and dangerous. After crossing the Atlantic, you meet with huge icebergs on the shores of Labrador, a collision with which, when the ship is running before the wind, would prove disastrous. And although the vessel should escape these icebergs without injury, she must encounter the pack-ice in the Straits, where some seasons she remains immovably fixed for weeks and is in the most imminent danger of being broken to pieces or sunk by the pressure of the huge floes. Nor is the danger over when the straits are passed. The ice in the Bay rushes from one quarter to another during the months of July and August, and when ships are so unfortunate as to become entangled in this drifting ice, they are so much retarded that their voyage from Britain becomes one of three or four months, seldom reaching York before the middle of August, and sometimes after the 24th of September. But notwith-standing all the danger here expressed and implied, we have no instances, during the last fifty years, of any ships having been lost on this voyaging, except one in the summer of 1819, and one (the Kitty) last summer. Almost all the property indented for, last year, by the settlers [at Red River], was on board the Kitty, amounting to nearly £10,000. Those who imported largely had their property insured, but few or none of the small importers had theirs.”

James Brow, “Notes on Community, Hegemony, and the Uses of the Past,” Anthropological Quarterly 63, no. 1 (January 1990): 1-6.

To open, Brow turns the anthropological lens back onto those who would be observers, to argue that ‘we’ and ‘they’ are/have been subject to similar social mechanisms. He states, for example:

While it is plausible to maintain that, having already happened, the past cannot be altered, it is equally evident that memory is less fixed. Moreover, it is clearly not only in so-called traditional societies that culturally constructed versions of the past are authorized to shape a people’s sense of identity. Representations of the past are an equally prominent feature of hegemonic struggle in modern industrial societies.

It is story-telling as a tool of hegemony that Brow sets out to tackle, laying out a “conceptual apparatus” – an ordered description of the hows and whys of group cohesiveness – “to facilitate the task of grasping the mechanisms and significance of these complex processes.”

He is careful about core terminology. For example, Brow notes that the term ‘community’ is often applied loosely to either a place or a collection of people. He uses it more precisely, limiting it to refer to “a sense of belonging together” (following Max Weber). He explains this subjective state includes both affective and cognitive components: a feeling of solidarity combined with an understanding of shared identity.

Working from that basis, Brow is able to define “communalization” as any pattern of action that promotes a sense of belonging together. He describes ‘pattern of action’ as a continuous process with two prominent characteristics that are in effect opposing tendencies.

  • The one suggests a communal relationship in which “the orientation of social action . . . is based on a subjective feeling of the parties . . . that they belong together.”
  • The other suggests an associative relationship in which “the orientation of social action … rests on a rationally motivated adjustment of interests or a similarly motivated agreement.”

Brow maintains that while most social relationships have the first communal characteristic,  it is usually determined (meaning decided/influenced) by the second’s associative factors. In his view, there is a “constant interweaving,” therefore, “of economic utility and social affinity.” (He is describing what in Marxist terms would be called a dialectic.)

Brow cites Weber’s observation that this interweaving of social pattern-making occurs at many scales of interaction — from “a religious brotherhood, an erotic relationship, a relation of personal loyalty, a national community, the esprit de corps of a military unit” to “the family.” He then notes “Marx, of course, emphasized the creation of communal relations on the basis of common class position as a crucial aspect of the transformation of a class-in-itself into a class-for-itself.”

Brow then turns to furnishing examples “largely concerned with the interplay among processes of communalization that emerge from different bases situated between the levels of the family and the nation, as these are conditioned by changes in the distribution of power within the capitalist world economy.” He describes Benedict Anderson’s  “much-cited definition of the nation as ‘an imagined political community’” as affirming that the sense of belonging together is an active process, while at the same time it “tacitly” accepts that people look to generating a sense of community in conditions where a feeling of solidarity is effectively absent, or appears elusive, because the community is too large for face-to face contact. Brow takes the argument a step further, however, to argue that communalization – no matter the scale — always contains an imaginative aspect. He then discusses vertical community ties (here he assumes the model of a hierarchically organized society applies). In his view, these are as important to consider as horizontal ties (meaning class). He takes issue with the idea (Marxist) that “communal relations are always exclusively horizontal.” Brow acknowledges that there may be instances of “communitas,” (egalitarian social organization) in which horizontal relations of equality are pronounced and the vertical dimension hardly exists. But, he implies that condition is really only an abstract, utopian ideal. He is more interested in arguing that in communities with a vertical dimension the experience of community transcends class, tying the lower to the upper:

The popular British identification with its royal family, for example, bears ample testimony to the persistent power of vertical solidarity even in class-divided industrial societies. Communal relations may, in other words, possess both egalitarian and hierarchical dimensions.

Thus Brow is able to regard nation as a larger community that contains separate relations to communities ‘nested’ within it.

[A this point in his description, Brow has stipulated so many potential scales of interaction that I have to wonder if community, as a word, is in fact useful in this discussion? Despite Brow’s attempt to limit its definition, like the words ‘power’ and ‘culture’ in academic texts (roughly 1960s into the 1990s), here ‘community’ seems to be applying to everything and anything, thus progressively moving towards becoming representative of nothing. I have an uneasy feeling that Brow has perhaps set up a distinction without a difference. (More worrisome yet: is the term ‘community’ really only functioning as a way to reference previous works on the basis of homonymic similarity? After all, the works cited do not necessarily share Brow’s definition. See notes on the Donnan and Wilson text below and the discussion of McGuffin-esque metonyms)]

Brow avers that “All communal relations are socially constructed.” He qualifies the statement, however, by observing “some communal relations are felt to be more deeply binding than others,” so much so that they “seem to flow more from a sense of natural . . . affinity than from social interaction,” and come to possess “an ineffable, and at times overpowering, coerciveness in and of themselves.” They seem to be, in essence, primordial (an innate drive) and therefore inevitable.

Brow is interested in delineating the political aspects of assuming “primordialization,” the term used to describe “the process whereby certain kinds of communal relations are promoted and experienced as if they possessed an original and natural inevitability.” This would be an instance of Boudeau’s “doxa”: where the culturally constructed world is “seen as a self-evident and natural order” that is “taken for granted” because opinions to the contrary have not been voiced; no one has chosen to consider alternatives.

In his present, Brow finds nationalism and ethnicism to be “pervasive and forcefully propagated forms of contemporary primordialization.” He lists among the components of nationalism and ethnicism: kinship, language, religion, locality, and “etc.”, all of which interact with one another “and with communalization on other bases, especially class, in extremely complex and varied ways.”

Brow then addresses story-telling about the past to remark:

Almost everywhere, it seems, the sense of belonging together is nourished by being cultivated in the fertile soil of the past. Even newly established collectivities quickly compose histories for themselves that enhance their members’ sense of shared identity, while solidarity is fortified by a people’s knowledge that their communal relations enjoy an historical provenance. Communalization is further strengthened by the conviction that what ties a group of people together is not just a shared past but a common origin. Anthropologists hardly need to be reminded that claims of descent from a common ancestor are among the most effective and commonplace means by which human groups forge bonds of community. But what gives kinship its special potency as a basis of community is that it can draw upon the past not simply to posit a common origin but also to claim substantial identity in the present. Kinship thus provides a standard idiom of community for collectivities ranging from the family, the lineage and the clan to the nation and the race, and is extended also to include religious brotherhoods, feminist sisterhoods, fraternal orders of all kinds, and even the whole family of nations.

Despite the rhetoric of kinship (“blood is thicker than water“), the power of the past to shape communal relations in the present is more a matter of culture than of nature. What is at stake is not genetic affinity or the inertia of habitual behavior but the moral authority of tradition, the maintenance of which requires continuous cultural work. Various means are available to bolster the authority of tradition, of which one of the most widely adopted is its sacralization, as Weber noted when he described the ideal-type of traditional authority as “resting on an established belief in the sanctity of immemorial traditions.”

Construction of an authoritative tradition that identifies all who accept it as members of the same political community is particularly prominent in the creation of nations and sub-nations. Tradition typically composes a version of the past that not only binds the members of the nation to one another, by proclaiming their shared descent and/or common experience, but also associates the nation as a whole with a particular territory that  –maintaining the domestic imagery of the family — is its homeland. Such renditions of the past establish the enduring character of the national community despite all the ruptures and vicissitudes of history.

Brow also observes that:

The essential continuity of the nation is often also represented in the figure of the countryman or peasant, doubtless because his way of life seems endlessly to reproduce that of ancestral generations, while his (less often, her) intimate connection with the land epitomizes the nation’s inviolable attachment to its territory.

[The point is interesting when applied to Métis constructions of community, given that originally connection to the land ‘from time immemorial was maternally conferred.]

Brow then outlines hegemony: the “state of `total social authority’ which, at certain specific conjunctures, a specific class alliance wins, by a combination of `coercion’ and `consent’, over the whole social formation.” Brow accepts as given the Foucaultian axiom that there are “intimate and intricate connections between knowledge and power.” So that

at any moment socially organized knowledge of the past both reflects and affects the distribution and exercise of power. Memory is thus an important site of political conflict, and contending versions of the past figure prominently in what it is useful to describe, in the sense opened up by Gramsci, as the struggle for hegemony.

The attainment of hegemony, according to Brow “is very rare.” [I would have said ‘exceptionally transient’ and then worried about scale again, and perhaps sought to define hegemony as a perception/imagining of condition (see Williams below)]. Brow, referencing Gramsci, describes the struggle for hegemony, as another continuous process “whereby the interests of other groups are coordinated with those of a dominant or potentially dominant group, through the creation of ‘not only a unison of economic and political aims, but also intellectual and moral unity’.” Communalization therefore, can be seen to be “an indispensable component of any hegemonic process.”

Brow cites Raymond William’s description of hegemony as continually “renewed, recreated, defended and modified . . . [but] also continually resisted, limited, altered, challenged by pressures not all its own” (another example of a dialectic). He then lays out William’s formulation in a way that suggests ‘hegemony’ too is a term that applies so much in the everywhere that it threatens to fizzle into defining nothing essential found anywhere: “the relations of dominance and subordination, in their forms as practical consciousness … in effect [saturate] … the whole process of living … to such a depth that the pressures and limits of what can ultimately be seen as a specific economic, political and cultural system seem to most of us the pressures and limits of simple experience and common sense.”

[Is this just a complicated way of repeating that ‘people are sheep’? Where is individual agency here? Do we opt to beco-erced‘ and ‘trapped’ in a system? Or is it an accident beyond our control? Do we just get “swept up in the times” (as Bayly put it)? Or do we pick sides? Is it really too much of one and the other happening simultaneously for us to know? I prefer to believe that the possibility of choice is ever-present. To plead a lack of awareness of the existence of choice is to feign innocence and deny personal responsibility for contributing by tacit agreement to outcomes. To my way of thinking, there are times when choosing one form of ‘common sense’ over another – and I would argue there is always another — is motivated by considerations other than logic, although it might still be ‘rational’ in that there is a rationale: a choice is a reasoned response. There is an aspect of self-preservation to choosing, and sometimes self-interest, but I believe people are capable of altruism – or at least learning to mimic it. Otherwise, the ‘might is right’ approach is ‘naturalized’ and personal responsibility goes out the window. The historical result of that social scenario, as Innis argued, is that people who en masse decide to be mighty and righteous, so far, haven’t hung on to their superior position indefinitely. ‘They’ seem always to have got their ‘come-uppance’ – and a pretty ancient assessment of the state of the human condition that one is – ‘the meek,’ if the  Beatitudes are to be read as any indication of ancient reflection/prediction, inevitably see roles reversed.]

Brow moves on to note that “to bring into question and discussion what was previously unquestioned and therefore undiscussed is an act of political consciousness-raising. Conversely, primordialization, as an instance of what Bourdieu claims is the tendency of ‘every established order . . . to produce . . . the naturalization of its own arbitrariness’ is an act of political consciousness-reduction.”

[I remain leery of this shifting of responsibility off the individual. What a lazy bunch, who individually won’t be conscious – and will tacitly agree not to deride each other for said lazy unconsciousness.]

Brow introduces a new term: “Departicularization.” This he defines as “the process whereby historical discourses and practices are emptied of their local, concrete meanings and universalized, made the property of all who are incorporated within the hegemony. And he defines another process: “Idealization is the process through which the past is cleaned up and made the palatable embodiment of dominant values.”

[imho: Overseers of knowledge and its dissemination can be held as responsible for this – but agreement and acceptance of this domination is a choice.]

Brow winds up his construction of community as intrinsic to hegemony with a number of statements, notable among them:

Anderson’s remark that the nation is imagined as ‘inherently limited’ applies also to other kinds of community. Just as ‘no nation imagines itself as coterminous with mankind,’ so every community is defined in opposition to others. Communalization is, then, a process both of inclusion and of exclusion. At the same time differences among those who are incorporated within a community are often muted or obscured, while differences between insiders and outsiders are loudly affirmed. This pattern of polarization between communities and homogenization within them can then be fortified by appeals to the past that represent a cultural distinction as an original and essential difference.

None of these processes, however, is either uniform or unassailable. The contradictions and distortions within any hegemonic discourse, as well as the discrepancies between it and the popular understandings of common sense, leave it ever vulnerable to penetration, criticism, and refusal. The struggle for hegemony is always an open-ended process of contestation as well as incorporation, of negotiation and resistance as much as of accommodation and consent.

The political connection that Gramsci discerns ‘between common sense and the upper level of philosophy’ should be understood in the broadest possible sense. State officials and political parties are certainly among the major agencies that determine this relationship, but cultural, educational, and religious institutions, as well as the family and all kinds of voluntary organizations, are also fundamentally involved. As Williams stresses in the passage quoted earlier, the concept of hegemony looks at relations of domination and subordination … as in effect a saturation of the whole process of living — not only of political and economic activity, nor only of manifest social activity, but of the whole substance of lived identities and relationships.

In short, hegemonic struggle is ubiquitous in social life.

[Which is all very well, except, saying that community is apparently so much a part of hegemony and hegemony is so much a part of community (in modern industrial societies) that the two comprise a ‘natural’ (because indivisible) dialectic, Brow seems to be concluding that for the individual, the ‘sense of belonging together’ is in fact a primordial need — one so overwhelming that it compels people to group together and play power games? No matter what other conditions exist?]

Sources Brow cites:

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1977. Outline of a theory of practice. Cambridge University Press.

Foucault, Michel. 1980. Power/knowledge. New York: Pantheon.

Geertz, Clifford. 1973. The interpretation of cultures. New York: Basic.

Giddens, Anthony. 1979. Central problems in social theory. Berkeley: University of California Press.

——. 1984. The constitution of society. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Gramsci, Antonio. 1971. Selections from the prison notebooks, ed. Q. Hoare and G. Nowell-Smith. London: Lawrence and Wishart.

Hall, Stuart. 1980. Race, articulation and societies structured in dominance. In Sociological theories: Race and colonialism. Paris: UNESCO.

——. 1986. Gramsci’s relevance for the study of race and ethnicity. Journal of Communication Inquiry 10(2): 5-27.

Hobsbawm, Eric and Terence Ranger, eds. 1983. The invention of tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Laclau, Ernesto and Chantal Mouffe. 1982. Recasting Marxism: Hegemony and new political movements. Socialist Review 66 (12: 6): 91-113.

Williams, Raymond. 1977. Marxism and literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

——. 1980. Problems in materialism and culture. London: Verso.

Posted by: hallnjean | December 25, 2010

Wishing you all the best for the Holidays!

Upper Fort Garry in snow, 1858

Posted by: hallnjean | December 7, 2010

Victorian-era Winter Sea-scenes

Picking up the letter packet


At Anchor


Arriving for Dinner


Delivering a Pudding


Sea Legs & Pudding


Christmas Rescue


Christmas Ghost Ship and Pirates

George Seton, watercolour, “ Winter Travelling in Rupert’s Land,” dated 1857. Source: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1950-63-9.

C.A. Bayly, “The British and indigenous peoples” in Martin Daunton, and Rick Halpern, eds., Empire and others: British encounters with indigenous peoples, 1600-1850 (London: UCL Press, 1999), 19-41.

Editors Daunton and Halpern describe this collection of essays as designed to enlarge the scope of British and American history while retaining a coherent centre from which to examine the ‘European’ perspective. They seek to  ‘reintegrate’ history of colonial North America with imperial and British history in order to extend chronology and obtain a wider set of contact/conflict histories for comparative analysis. Aboriginal peoples worldwide are not the central subject scrutinized; rather their presence serves to define European subjects. Identity is meant to be viewed as a category for analysis in which recognition of multifaceted multiplicity has displaced essentialism.[1]

Bayly‘s essay, though not explicit about it, is in effect ethnicizing the British. As Bayly puts it, “historians have begun to expose the particular conjunctures of political and economic change which created both ‘the British’ and ‘native peoples’.”[2] He does not use the term ethnicity for the British, therefore, but describes the formation of a widely shared acceptance or consciousness of a distinct ‘identity’ at the national level.

This was an identity based on the perception that unity of purpose and strength in numbers could confer power and allow domination on a world scale. Such domination was seen as a means of assuring homeland security, comfort, and prosperity. Past British subjects appear to have been pretty much correct about all of this up to a point. The state’s position got much stronger and it is still the unit of national governance. The country was not destroyed by warfare. Empire didn’t pan out though, Britain did not sustain its position as leading economic or military power, nor did the British people turn out to be higher up the evolutionary ladder than everyone else.

In tracing the emergence of Britishers, Bayly notes that “far from being a given Britishness was a recent, fragile and contested ideology of power. The century between the accession of George III and Benjamin Disraeli’s first ministry witnessed the creation of a still friable sense of British identity and British statehood, overriding regional patriotisms and local particularism.”[3] He describes catalysts of identity formation as including domestic economic integration, international war, revival of strenuous Protestant Christianity, and reinvention of the British Crown, along with the experience of ‘empire’ (meaning empire building).

While he acknowledges that “during the century from 1760 to 1860, domestic economic expansion and the experience of empire were finally absorbing the ‘indigenous peoples’ of the British Isles themselves,”[4] Bayly’s discussion seems to refer to Scottish and Irish people very generically – the point that there were communities among them that included spouses and progeny whose heritage reflected indigenous origins in other parts of the world is not made. He does note, however, that “This pattern of assimilation was not a smooth one. It raised sharp conflicts about identity, language and control of local resources within Britain itself.”[5]

Of attitudes towards assimilation and peoples elsewhere, Bayly suggests that “Outside the British Isles, the years from 1760 to 1860 also saw the creation of a new concept of indigenous peoples. Eighteenth-century ideas about the unity of mankind and the diffusion through the world of the lost tribes of Israel were slowly being replaced by the vision of a ladder or hierarchy of development up or down which societies must pass.”[6] It is worth noting, however, that Canadian historian Olive Patricia Dickason, Myth of the Savage, traces the history of these ideas to much a earlier period.

Bayly mentions that the question of whether North American Métis were ‘indigenous’ or not was asked, but he does not elaborate on where or when. Overall his commentary on the “debate about origins” of peoples is loose — he comments that it has “considerable resonance today, at a time when United Nations and other agencies are targeting economic resources at ‘indigenous peoples’, often very narrowly defined,” but does not delve deeply into whether such debates are solely about origins, or in what sense. Is he speaking of geographic, cultural, or biological arguments? By what measurement are arguments judged to be narrow?[7]

George Seton, watercolour, “Indian Dog Feast. Ruperts Land 1857.” Source: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1950-63-1.10R.

In the context of the book’s collection of essays, it is acceptable for Bayly to argue “that the period from 1760-1860 was a critical one in the epistemological and economic creation of ‘indigenous peoples’ as a series of comparable categories across the globe … also … that a consideration of the nature of British imperial expansion and of British intellectual history is central to an understanding of the invention of these ‘indigenous peoples’.” Nevertheless, the lack of a balancing North American perspective presents problems. One of the first difficulties I had with the text was the seeming — and rather heavily seeming — implication throughout most of the piece that being indigenous was somehow a British invention that other peoples had no deliberate part in (Bayly reserved for the essay’s end a comment that “Non-European societies were not, of course, passive victims of these material pressures or ideological constructs,” they “fought back against, ‘wrote back’ against and creatively negotiated the advances of colonial rule”).[8] Even in his acknowledging that there is a need to “locate the voices of the marginalized in a broader context” Bayly persists in maintaining a centric position that places ‘them’ on his margins – which the language of the entire text suggests are ‘our’ margins.[9]

My biggest problem with Bayly’s historical assessment lays in the tendency to make rather sweeping statements about North America that don’t seem to recognize how big a place it was/is, how greatly varied its peoples, and how time matters when it comes to instancing. For example his observation that “In North America, the new rifles of the  American and British forces came into the hands of American Indians who used them with great effect against the European invader,” apparently refers to 1750. But, which ‘Indians’? Where? And ‘came into the hands’ does not adequately take agency into account — were these guns bought and paid for? Nor is any explanation given as to how access to French guns might have figured in conflict.[10]

George Seton, watercolour, “Buffalo Hunters of the Far West, 1858.” Source: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1950-63-1.8R.

I am even less comfortable with Bayly’s handling of the ‘prevalent idea’ that “indigenous peoples were to be subject to stricter controls, and if possible exploited as a labour pool.”[11] Though this was definitely a British idea, at a practical level it was not always possible to implement — in the vast territory of Rupert’s Land for example. And, once again, if  the agency of the ‘other’ is considered — as numerous North American historians have done — ‘exploitation’ seems, at times, to have been a two-way arrangement. Further to the matter of ‘stricter controls’ it seems to me that Bayly’s description of historical patterns is likely to foster a misapprehension. He cites Elizabeth Mancke as recently pointing out:

the role of the domestic British state and of its military and naval forces in what became Canada had long been much more obtrusive than it was further south in the Thirteen Colonies. … After 1783, British territorial expansion into central and north-western Canada and treaty-making with native peoples continued to be driven forward by rivalries with the Americans and Russians and by the need to secure revenues to pay for an exaggerated military presence. These concerns continued to influence the nature of Canadian political culture until well into the nineteenth century. In Mancke’s words, ‘the red coats of the army, rather than the red coats of the North West Mounted Police preceded British settlement’ in nineteenth-century Canada.” [12]

Some definition, of which manifestation of ‘Canada’ is being referred to and at what particular time, is needed here — especially to explain how one can argue that British naval ships, soldiers, and coastal settlements were not all preceded by fishing sailors and their shore stations. Or, to take an inland example: If the above quote is meant to include Lord Selkirk’s Red River Colony begun in 1812, where a small settlement already existed, then the first red coats bent on control appeared in 1816 and were worn by North West Company [NWC] Métis, who had previously fought for the British against the Americans (in the War of 1812), but who were at that time antagonistic to that particular version of the settlement. The next militaristic regiment to appear was a mixed assemblage of mercenaries primarily made up of de Meuron’s retired Swiss regiment (also from the war of 1812) hired by Lord Selkirk as soldier/settlers. Selkirk was taken to court in Montreal over having deployed them against the NWC post at Fort William while enroute to Red River, and found guilty of unwarranted trespass in 1818. His ‘troops’ failed as farmers and deserted the settlement by 1826. The original Métis settlers continued to pursue their own interests as they had from the outset. An actually British military contingent appeared in 1846, led by John Ffolliett Crofton, ostensibly slated to somehow handle the Oregon Territory problem much further west. They did not stay long in North America — apparently Crofton saw no point in being there — but were replaced by a small band of Chelsea pensioners in 1848.[13] These generated complaints from settlers for being drunk, some were arrested, and then most went home (though throughout Red River’s history there were individuals who had arrived with various groups, opted to integrate with the community, and remained as settlers). Settlement continued in Red River without any official military presence until 1857 when a contingent of Royal Canadian Rifles arrived (in black coats) — once again finding there was nothing much to do, though Major George Seton created a number of sketches of the settlement, some of which illustrate this post. The Canadian Rifles departed in 1861.[14] Another temporal gap occurred until Canadian militiamen from Ontario and Quebec arrived with Colonel Wolseley as the Red River Expeditionary Force in 1870 — with the promise of 160 acres of crown land apiece if they remained as settlers. It was at this time that the control of life in the Canadian West was radically altered, and not by red coats’ soldiering, but by an inundation of settlers from Ontario, supported by the expansionist program of the new Dominion of Canada.

George Seton, watercolour, “ Fort Garry, Rupert’s Land,” dated 19 March 1858. Source: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1950-63-1.19R.

I find very little of what Bayly goes on to say about such things as ‘garrison mentality’, ‘military imperialism’, or forestry concerns meshes well with Canadian historiography, simply because very little is done to specify where or when in North America over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries his comments are meant to apply. I found the lack of precision distracting to the point that I have to admit failure when it comes to appreciating his argument — though perhaps the real problem is my unwillingness as a reader to suspend my own sense of place and assimilate to a perspective generated an ocean away.

George Seton, watercolour, “Men’s Barracks from the Officers Messroom Window, Fort Garry, Winter of 1857-1858.” Source: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1950-63-1.12R.

Additional reading:

See Sharron A. Fitzgerald, abstract, “Hybrid Identities in Canada’s Red River Colony,”

Frances Ann Hopkins, oil on canvas, “The Red River Expedition at Kakabeka Falls,” dated 1877, with inscription: “”This picture represents a portage on the ‘Red River Expedition’ commanded by Colonel G.J. Wolsely (afterwards F.M. Viscount Wolsely). It was painted for him by Mrs. Edward Hopkins. Colonel Wolsely is on a very low seat in the boat with Union Jack and has a puggaree on his hat. Louisa, Dowager Viscountess Wolsely presented it to the Dominion of Canada in 1917, in memory of her husband.”  Source: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1989-400-1 In memory of Viscount Wolsely.

[1] Martin Daunton, and Rick Halpern, “Introduction: British identities, indigenous peoples and the empire,” in Empire and others: British encounters with indigenous peoples, 1600-1850 (London: UCL Press, 1999), 1-18.


[2] Bayly, in Empire and others, 19

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, 20.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid, 21-22.

[8] Ibid, 22.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid, 24.

[11] Ibid, 25.

[12] Ibid, 26. According to the end notes, Bayly is referring to Mancke, “Another British America. A Canadian model for the early modern British empire,”  Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 25, no. 1 (1997): 1-36.

[13] On red coated Chelsea pensioners see

[14] See Charles N. Bell, “Some Red River Settlement History,” Manitoba Historical Society Transactions Series 1, No. 29 (Read 29 April 1887),

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