Welcome to the latest blog post detailing the Canadian collections at the IHR. In this installment we explore the wide variety of sources available in the library for the study of Canadian immigration history. Throughout the nineteenth century publishers and booksellers in London printed almanacs and handbooks in order to seduce travelers and emigrants to Canada. Several examples of these guides dating from the middle decades of the 19th century survive in the IHR’s colonial holdings. Smith’s Canadian Gazette (London: W.H. Smith, 1846) is a directory of “desirable and useful information for the man of business, traveler, or emigrant” including distances between towns in the Canadian interior and listings of Crown Lands then on the market. It also includes detailed fold-out maps. Henry Chesshyre’s Canada, A Hand Book for Settlers (London, 1864) is more propagandistic in nature and includes a list of 10 reasons to emigrate (including its accessibility and proximity to the UK) as well as advice on how to construct settlements and trap wild animals. Another handbook, S. W. Silver’s Handbook to Canada: A guide for Travellers and Settlers (London, 1881) contains detailed histories of the locations it describes as well as useful economic information including mining and trade figures.
The library continues to grow its collection of published correspondence and settler journals composed by European immigrants to western Canada in the 18th and 19th centuries. These sources were written by men and women of different social backgrounds and often focus on the hardships of life in frontier communities, particularly during the winter months. The letters of English immigrant Catherine Parr Stickland Traill (1802-1899), collected under the title Canada and the Oregon: the backwoods of Canada (London, 1849), document life in provincial Ontario on the eve of the Upper Canada Rebellion (1837). Traill wrote extensively about her new country including observations of its people, the land, and the seasonal extremes in climate. Traill landed in Montreal in 1832 shortly after the outbreak of a devastating cholera epidemic in which the city’s poor immigrants were especially hard hit. Traill’s reflections upon the potential fate of her less fortunate shipmates stand in stark contradiction to the optimistic image of British America found in contemporary emigrant handbooks. On the streets of Quebec and Montreal, Traill noted, “meet together the unfortunate, the improvident, the helpless orphan, the sick, the aged, the poor virtuous man, driven by the stern hand of necessity from his country and his home, perhaps to be overtaken by sickness or want in a land of strangers” (37).
Map in ‘Smith’s Canadian Gazette’
Like Catherine Traill’s letters, many of the early published journals and personal diaries housed in the library record the authors’ impressions of Canadian cities, the American landscape and the customs of the continent’s native inhabitants. James Colnett’s (1753-1806) late 18th-century diaries of his fur trading voyages to Vancouver Island are among the earliest English descriptions of the land and people of the Pacific Northwest. Colnett is notable for having accompanied Captain James Cook on his Pacific voyages. Nova Scotia-born surveyor George Mercer Dawson (1849-1901) recorded his observations of the flora, fauna and geology of the Rocky Mountains while on a surveying mission for the Canadian government in 1883/84.
Other letter collections and journals written by immigrants and settlers include :
The library houses many sources relevant to the study of ethnicity and immigration to Canada. These sources include a wide selection of passenger lists from ships sailing between British ports and North America. These lists often indicate the ethnicity of passengers on-board, either explicitly, as in the case of many American sources from the late 18th century onwards in which the nationality of passengers is listed alongside their names, or implicitly (e.g. ethnic background as suggested by the listed surname and port of origin). The IHR collections also contain studies of ethnic identity among immigrant groups in modern Canada, as well as source collections of letters in which immigrants discuss the often painful process of adaption to life in their new country.
Welcome to the introductory entry in a series of blog posts aiming to promote the rich North American collections at the IHR library. This month we focus on the highlights from our often overlooked Canadian holdings beginning with a selection of four works published before the British conquest of Canada in 1759/60. These books, all printed in France between 1681 and 1751, detail the early history of New France as well as the lives of several figures central to the establishment of the early religious and charitable institutions of 17th-century Quebec.
Marie de l’Incarnation (Marie Guyart), 1599-1672. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The first – and rarest – of the four is a 1681 Paris edition of Marie Guyart’s Lettres de la Venerable Mere Marie de L’Incarnation. It is one of two copies of this book housed in UK libraries (the other is held in the national collection at the British Library). The work is a collection of letters written by Marie Guyart (1599-1672) the first Mother Superior of the Ursuline Convent of Quebec. Born into an aristocratic family and widowed at 19, Guyart devoted her adult life to the service of the Catholic Church, becoming a member of the Ursuline Order of Tours in 1633. In 1639, Guyart, now Marie de L’Incarnation following her ordination as a nun, sailed to Quebec with several companions in order to reinforce the missionary efforts of the Jesuits in the colony. Upon arrival, they founded a convent for the purpose of educating Huron girls in the teachings of the Church. In its early years, the convent educated Indian women from the vicinity of Quebec and Montreal but gradually expanded its remit in the century after Guyart’s death to include girls from the settler community of New France. Many graduates went on to establish religious orders and institutions throughout Canada, including the convents of Trois Rivières and Roberval. Though, like many of Quebec’s buildings, the convent was damaged during Wolfe’s bombardment of the city in 1759, the order and the school survived the province’s transition to English rule. The school established by Guyart and her peers exists now as the École des Ursulines, a girls’ primary school attached to the original convent.
Like the Ursuline Convent, the Hôtel-Dieu of Quebec was an important institution in the new colony run primarily by women. The IHR library owns a rare copy of Jeanne-Françoise Juchereau’s four volume Histoire de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Quebec (Montauban [France], 1751). The Histoire de l’Hôtel-Dieu details the founding of the hospital and its role in the social welfare of New France during the colony’s turbulent early years. Juchereau was the Mother Superior of the Hôtel-Dieu from 1683 to 1707. She was heavily involved in colonial and imperial politics as a result of her position and found herself battling provincial governors and her Parisian superiors in her quest to secure money and resources for the hospital. She was renowned for her selfless commitment to her patients during the 1688, 1703 and 1711 influenza and measles epidemics. The hospital’s role in the treatment of the sick and destitute during these periods of crisis feature heavily in the Histoire. Along with the Lettres of Marie Guyart, the Histoire reveals the centrality of women in the establishment and maintenance key social institutions in 17th-century Quebec.
Finally, the IHR owns two early histories of French Colonization in North America. The first, the Histoire de l’Amerique Septentrionale (Paris, 1722) by Claude-Charles Bacqueville de la Potherie, examines the history and culture of the Iroquois Indian Nation and its relationship with French settlements along the St. Lawrence river. The second work, Pierre-Francois-Xavier de Charlevoix’s Histoire et description générale de la Nouvelle France (Paris, 1744), also describes the history of New France, though it places greater emphasis on the environmental factors that shaped colonial development. Charlevoix emphasizes the natural resources of territories of Canada and Louisiana, often with an eye on their usefulness for Europeans. Charlevoix was a Jesuit priest who travelled extensively throughout North America in an unsuccessful mission to reach the Pacific Ocean via intercontinental waterways. Interestingly given the works discussed above, he was moved to write a biography of Marie Guyart as an act of thanksgiving following the wreck of his ship off the coast of Florida in 1722. Based upon notes from Charlevoix’s extensive travels as well as twenty years of research in Paris, the Histoire et description générale represents an early attempt to synthesize a description of the natural resources and ecology of the North American interior with a history of New France.
The next blog entry, due out next week, will focus on immigrant experiences in 19th-century Canada and will examine a varied selection of sources from the library including handbooks for travelers and emigrants, published letter collections and immigrant journals. I look forward to sharing the stories of these men and women with you. À la prochaine fois!
Welcome to the inaugural blog post in a series promoting the American history resources available at the IHR. In this post I would like to take the opportunity to introduce myself. My name is Benjamin Bankhurst and I have recently joined the School of Advanced Study as the Postdoctoral Fellow of North American History.
Before taking up this position I held teaching appointments at the LSE, King’s College London and Canterbury Christ Church University. In 2009 I was the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Fellow in Early American Religion at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. My research interests include the history of religion and ethnicity in the 18th-century Atlantic World. My Ph.D. thesis, completed in 2011, examined Irish migration to the Appalachian frontier during the era of the Seven Years’ War (1754-1763). Specifically, it focused on how news from the war-ravaged colonial backcountry and the arrival of American Presbyterian relief missions in Ireland collapsed emotional and spatial distance and produced a sense of transatlantic empathy among Ulster Presbyterians for their beleaguered kin across the ocean. This research forms the basis of my first book, Ulster Presbyterians and Scots Irish Diaspora, 1750-1763 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).
I am also interested in library and book history and look forward to applying my past expertise in these fields to promote the rich colonial and American collections in the IHR and Senate House libraries. As a member of the research team on the AHRC-funded project ‘Private Books for Educational Use – the Formation of the Northern Congregational College Library’ (February 2012 and March 2013), I examined the provenance and individual object histories of 2,500 books once owned by various dissenting academies in the north of England during the 18th and 19th centuries. This results of our research (including a searchable list of former owners and examples of user annotation) are now integrated into the Virtual Library System on the Dissenting Academies Online. In my first few weeks at the IHR I have uncovered interesting provenance in the colonial collections relating to the early benefactors of the library. I look forward to sharing my findings on this subject on this blog in the months to come. Watch this space!
I am very excited to join the teams at the IHR and Senate House libraries and look forward to promoting American studies across the School of Advanced Study over the next two years. I am currently preparing several North American collection guides for the IHR and will be blogging about the highlights from our holdings throughout the year. I will begin later in the week with a few posts highlighting our Canadian resources.