Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Building Better Britains?: Settler Societies in the British World, 1783–1920

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Building Better Britains?: Settler Societies in the British World, 1783–1920

Article excerpt

Cecilia Morgan, Building Better Britains?: Settler Societies in the British World, 1783-1920 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2016), 232 pp. Cased. $55. ISBN 978-1-4426-0812-2. Paper. $24.95. ISBN 978-1-4426-0752-1.

Building Better Britains? is the fourth in a series of short books produced by the Canadian Historical Association to focus on broad international themes. In fact, it is the most ambitious volume in the series, in terms of both its geographical and its chronological reach. And therein lies the problem. The task set for Cecilia Morgan was to explore in 200 pages the creation of British settler colonies in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa over a century and a half. Given the scope of the book it is hardly surprising that the manuscript had to be sent to no fewer than six anonymous readers to prevent the author from making 'some embarrassing mistakes' (p. xi). Morgan undoubtedly did as good a job as can be done in the space allowed. But the end result was bound to be unsatisfactory since the author could not possibly do justice to the complex histories of the diverse settler colonies in the space she was given. For example, Morgan has to gloss over some of the critical turning points in the evolution of Canada. She is reduced to declaring that 'matters became so fraught that in 1837 armed rebellion erupted' (p. 57), a statement that gives us no real insight into how and why rebellions took place in the Canadas in 1837-8. Similarly, her treatment of the introduction of responsible government is rather cursory, given its importance in creating a series of self-governing colonies that would retain their ties with the Empire. …

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