Books  General Natural History  Environmental History 

Civilizing the Wilderness: Culture & Nature in Pre-Confederation Canada & Rupert's Land

By: AA den Otter(Author)

520 pages, maps

University of Alberta Press

Paperback | May 2012 | #212559 | ISBN-13: 9780888645463
Availability: Usually dispatched within 2-3 weeks Details
NHBS Price: £41.99 $54/€46 approx

About this book

In this collection of essays, A. A. den Otter explores the meaning of the concepts 'civilizing' and 'wilderness' within an 1850s Euro-British North American context. At the time, den Otter argues, these concepts meant something quite different than they do today. Through careful readings and researches of a variety of lesser known individuals and events, den Otter teases out the striking dichotomy between 'civilizing' and 'wilderness,' leading readers to a new understanding of the relationship between newcomers and Native peoples, and the very lands they inhabited. Historians and non-specialists with an interest in western Canadian native, settler, and environmental-economic history will be deeply rewarded by reading Civilizing the Wilderness.

"Enhanced with the inclusion of an extensive bibliography, footnotes, and a comprehensive index, Civilizing the Wilderness is an erudite and impressive work of seminal scholarship making it very highly recommended [...] "
- The Midwest Book Review, July 12, 2012

"den Otter uses [Henry] Budd's poignant story and those of his Anishinaabe Methodist contemporaries Henry Bird Steinhauer (Sowengisik) and Peter Jones (Kahkewaquonaby) as parables to illustrate the dual cultural identities produced by the civilizing crusade and its pernicious hypocrisy."
- Heather Robertson, Canada's History, February-March 2013

"The notion of 'civilization' that he explores is one that involved not only the 'civilizing' of aboriginal peoples, but also taming of the 'wilderness.' [Otter] examines the recorded views of individuals like missionaries William Mason and Robert Rundle and aboriginal converts Henry Steinhauer, Henry Budd, and Peter Jones in exploring how 'civilization' and 'wilderness' were mostly perceived in pre-Confederation Canada as binaries defined through conflict and tension [...] Drawing on not only history but also Canadian literature, this is a thoughtful discussion of Native-newcomer relations and the transformation of the environment and economy in western Canada in pre-Confederation Canada. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above."
- B.F.R. Edwards, First Nations University of Canada, Choice Magazine, March 2013

"The greatest strength of Civilizing the Wilderness is its rich and diverse selection of primary sources. Den Otter conducts a chorus of voices, mostly lesser-known figures that articulate varied perspectives on the 'civilizing-the-wilderness mandate.' Chapters often pair subjects: two sisters, two missionaries, two Native American preachers – with contrasting views of civilization and wilderness. Their accounts weave back and forth across decades, intersecting in locations and events [...] Civilizing the Wilderness is a solid work of original scholarship that deserves to be on the shelf with any collection dealing with Canadian history or the history of North American settlement and the frontier. It is also profitable for those with an interest in environmental, economic, and social history."
- Shelly Sommer, Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research, May 2013 [DOI:]

"In this collection of essays, den Otter (emeritus, history, Memorial University) draws on primary source accounts to investigate how the British in pre-Confederation Canada defined and understood concepts of civilization and wilderness, and how these conceptions affected missionaries' and traders' drive to civilize Natives and the wilderness. The essays profile specific figures and incidents such as William Mason and Robert Rundle, Bishop Anderson, the Sayer Trial, Governor George Simpson's civilizing mission, the 1857 Parliamentary Select Committee, and the Red River Métis."
- Book News Inc., 2013


- Introduction - America's First Nations
- Discovery, Exploration and Colonisation
- Revolution and Independence
- The Young Republic
- Jefferson and the Democratic Republic
- The Age of Jackson
- The West (Pre-Civil War)
- Sectional Conflict
- Civil War and Reconstruction
- The West (Post-Civil War)
- The Gilded Age and Imperial America
- Populism, Progressivism and the Great War
- Boom, Bust and the New Deal
- World War II and the Origins of the Cold War
- Post-war America: The Fifties and Sixties
- Retrenchment: The Seventies and Eighties
- Post-Cold War America: Cold War Ends, War on Terror Begins
- Index

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