Shaping the Upper Canadian Frontier: Environment, Society and Culture in the Trent Valley

Article excerpt

Neil S. Forkey, Shaping the Upper Canadian Frontier: Environment, Society and Culture in the Trent Valley (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2003), xv + 164pp. Cloth. $34.95. ISBN 1-5523-8049-1.

This is a study somewhat difficult to assess, and it is not obvious who might specifically benefit from reading it. These questions do not arise from any lack of scholarly endeavour: the extensive bibliography demonstrates a close attention to sources. As the subtitle indicates, themes of environment, society and, in a singular example, culture, are accorded prominence, but their careful delineation does not provide a clear-cut impression of the overall change and development of the region during the first three-quarters of the nineteenth century.

Perhaps this may be due to an emphasis on environmental factors. That settlers and settlement effected major change through efforts, often misguided, to exploit local conditions by means of experience gathered elsewhere, is certainly a topic that both requires and receives attention. But is this ecological emphasis enough? One learns from where the settlers came but less about the lives they subsequently led. Mid-nineteenth-century communities must surely have demonstrated more concern with matters of politics and religion than is indicated here - the more so since so many are indicated to have been 'anglo-Celtic migrants'. …