Promise of Eden: The Canadian Expansionist Movement and the Idea of the West, 1856-1900 by Doug OwramPromise of Eden: The Canadian Expansionist Movement and the Idea of the West, 1856-1900 by Doug Owram

Promise of Eden: The Canadian Expansionist Movement and the Idea of the West, 1856-1900

byDoug Owram


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Through the last half of the nineteenth century, numbers of Canadians began to regard the West as a land of ideal opportuniy for large-scale agricultural settlement. This belief, in turn, led Canada to insist on ownership of the region and on immediate development.

Underlying the expansionist movement was the assumption that the West was to be a hinterland to central Canada, both in its economic relationship and in its cultural development. But settlers who accepted the extravagant promises of expanionism found it increasingly difficult to reconcile the assumption of easstern dominance with their own perception of the needs of the West and of Canada.

Doug Owram analyses the various phases of this development, examining in particular the writings - historical, scientific, journalistic, and promotional - that illuminate one of the most significant movements in the history of nineteenth-century Canada.

Doug Owram is Deputy Vice Chancellor and Principal at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan.
Title:Promise of Eden: The Canadian Expansionist Movement and the Idea of the West, 1856-1900Format:PaperbackDimensions:264 pages, 9 × 5.95 × 0.56 inPublisher:University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0802073905

ISBN - 13:9780802073907

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Rated 4 out of 5 by from A great read for those interested in externalist intellectual history in Canada This is a great read. Owram takes a primarily English stance in describing the Western expansionist movement in Canada in the nineteenth century. He doesn't discount the other interpretations - such as French Canadian, Metis, and American, but he makes it clear that despite being only a uni-lingual movement, it had a profound effect on Western intellectual tradition, and the geopolitics of the Manitoba region. His book is organized succinctly into nine chapters and a conclusion - the last chapter in particular, which focuses on contemporary historiography, is very useful. By tracing some of the dominant intellectual themes of the period, he manages to successful illustrate the transformative nature of an intellectual movement. It might seem ridiculous reading that a fur-trading post became one of the most sought after lands in all of Canada, but Owram leads his readers through the journey convincingly. The one complaint I have is that it is not clear whether this is a regional or a national history. Both types of history have their weaknesses, so Owram's pragmatism is not inappropriate. However, by categorizing Ontario as a homogeneous body of intellectual and popular discourse, he overlooks some of the nuances that existed at the time in the Ontario region. To an extent, much of the country was undergoing some kind of nation-building regimen at the time, and these movements took various forms, and advanced at various rates. For instance, the morality expressed in A.B. MicKillop's A Disciplined Intelligence, or the nationalism and "Canadian Imperialism" of Carl Berger's Sense of Power, were all at play. To an extent, Doug Owram covers all of his bases with his book - he emphasizes a nearly religious belief in the West, and a desire to become an influential power that perhaps rivalled the British Empire. However, I got the impression that within English Canada, this movement was nearly unanimously supported, and when disillusionment with the West began to circulate, everyone became disillusioned. There seemed to be a lot more opposition even among those who would categorize themselves similarly, in other intellectual works like those listed above. I'm not knowledgeable in this field (I'm more British South African imperial history and popular news media in the British Isles), but it struck me as being a little odd that this movement seemed to be so nearly unanimous. Dr. Owram, please forgive me if I am incorrect.
Date published: 2015-02-23