20 August 2012

Book Review: Imperial Immigrants: Scottish settlers in the Upper Ottawa Valley, 1815-1840

Imperial Immigrants: Scottish settlers in the Upper Ottawa Valley, 1815-1840
Michael E. Vance
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Natural Heritage (Aug 20 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1554887569
ISBN-13: 978-1554887569
Cover price: CDN$ 32.99

Michael Vance, a Nova Scotia history professor, has been researching and writing about the Scots who settled in the Ottawa Valley in the early 19th century for 20 years. It shows in this recent book in which he argues that "their migration and settlement reveal as much about the depth of social conflict in the homeland and in the colonies as they do about preoccupations of the British imperial state."

Drawing on primary, contemporary and modern secondary sources documented in an eight page bibliography and nearly 40 pages of notes, the major part of the book comprises seven chapters any one of which could stand on its own. Together they form a mosaic that permits one to better appreciate the confluence of interests and influences surrounding the migration and settlement.

The first two chapters deal with the acquisition of the land from the native population and settlement by former soldiers, all to stabilize the area against possible future incursions from the United States following the war of 1812-14. Chapters three and four look at the circumstances that led to strengthening this presence through Scottish emigration from the Breadalbane estate in Perthshire from 1815 and of weavers and others from the area around Paisley from 1820. Chapters five and six focus on the settlers political and religious attitudes and the role of the church, with an emphasis on women's secondary status. The final chapter looks at personal journals articles and books that recall the settlers experience and their revealed perspectives.

In addition to line maps and the author's photographs the book is illustrated with reproductions of contemporary engravings which assists Vance, much as a Rorschach inkblot, in supporting the book's themes.

For the genealogist whose ancestors migrated to the upper Ottawa Valley, and particularly the area known as the Rideau Purchase (1819) around Perth, the book provides valuable context to their family history. I don't and feel jealous of those who can benefit from this detailed study.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I do have ancestors who settled near Almonte and Packenham ca 1820. I'm looking forward to reading the book.