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National historic sites commemorate decisive moments in the making of Canada. But seen through an environmental lens, these sites become artifacts of a bigger story: the occupation and transformation of nature into nation. In an age of pressing discussions about environmental sustainability, there is a growing need to know more about the history of our relationship with the natural world and what lessons these places of public history, regional identity, and national narrative can teach us.
Nature, Place, and Story provides new interpretations for five of Canada's largest and most iconic historic sites (two of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites): L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland; Grand Pré, Nova Scotia; Fort William, Ontario; the Forks of the Red River, Manitoba; and the Bar U Ranch, Alberta. At each location, Claire Campbell rewrites public history as environmental history, revealing the country's debt to the power and fragility of the natural world, and the relevance of the past to understanding climate change, agricultural sustainability, wilderness protection, urban reclamation, and fossil fuel extraction. From the medieval Atlantic to modern ranchlands, environmental history speaks directly to contemporary questions about the health of Canada's habitat.
Bringing together public and environmental history in an entirely new way, Nature, Place, and Story is a lively and ambitious call for a fresh perspective on natural heritage.
Introduction: Historic Sites in Canada and the Place of Environmental History 3
1. Gateway to a New World: L’Anse aux Meadows 25
2. Idyll and Industry: Grand Pré 54
3. Wilderness, Lost and Found: Fort William 71
4. Variety, Heritage, Adventure, and Park: The Forks of the Red River 92
5. Nature’s Gentlemen and a Nation’s Frontier: The Bar U Ranch 109
Conclusion: What Were We, and What Shall We Be? 127
Claire Elizabeth Campbell is associate professor of history at Bucknell University.
"An extraordinary achievement. Campbell articulates how Parks Canada might use its national historic sites to write a new narrative of Canadian history – and then she writes that history. This is a landmark work of both public policy and environmental history."
– Alan MacEachern, University of Western Ontario and author of Natural Selections: National Parks in Atlantic Canada, 1935-1970