Canadian Migration Patterns: From Britain and North America

By Robinson, Guy M. | British Journal of Canadian Studies, September 2005 | Go to article overview

Canadian Migration Patterns: From Britain and North America


Robinson, Guy M., British Journal of Canadian Studies


Barbara J. Messamore (ed.), Canadian Migration Patterns: From Britain and North America (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2004), 300 pp. Paper. $24.95. £15.00. ISBN 0-7766-0543-7.

This book is a selection of the papers presented at a conference organised by the Centre of Canadian Studies at the University of Edinburgh in 1998. It contains eighteen contributions on the general theme of migration, primarily addressing historical perspectives and especially with reference to the nineteenth century. More recent migrations also feature in some of the final essays and the last chapter refers to the poetry of migration.

The editor sets the scene in her introduction by emphasising how emigration has given Canada a 'kinship with the world' and a tendency for Canadians to identify themselves according to their ethnic origins. She outlines the history of migration to Canada, from which the other contributors take their cue in essays addressing key issues in migration research. Marjory Harper then provides a historiographical survey of migration studies, which provides further context for the essays that follow.

Various themes are pursued herein, including attempts to debunk long-held myths in Canadian migration history. For example, Peter Marshall considers whether migrants from the United States between 1791 and 1812 can really be described as 'late Loyalists' whilst Ronald Stagg discusses the extent to which out-migration from Upper Canada after the failure of the rebellion in 1837 was really substantial. These are part of what may be described as revisionist histories represented in the collection. Other revisions include Bruce Elliot's new interpretations of the 'invisible' English immigrants to Canada in the nineteenth century, Wendy Cameron's contribution to this theme, in her analysis if parish-assisted emigration, and Terry McDonald's examination of English migrants' letters from the 1830s. Correspondence is used as a primary source in another four essays as Messamore says, 'enabling us . . . to enter into the world of the migrant' (p. 8). Kathleen Burke focuses on the experiences of two families migrating to Upper Canada; Duff Crerar looks at a Highland family's migration and 'quest for independence'; Joan Bryans considers internal migration, in the form of two sisters moving from Nova Scotia to British Columbia in the 1880s; and Donald F. Harris records the challenges facing a family from the Welsh Borders migrating to British Columbia at the end of the nineteenth century, notably dealing with the fewer social restraints experienced in their adopted home. …

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