The Reluctant Land

Society, Space, and Environment in Canada before Confederation

Cole Harris

  • Published: 2008. Paperback 2009
  • Subject Listing: History
  • Bibliographic information: 464 pp., 61 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: US rights only
  • Distributed for: UBC Press
  • Contents

The Reluctant Land describes the evolving pattern of settlement and the changing relationships of people and land in Canada from the end of the fifteenth century to the Confederation years of the late 1860s and early 1870s. It shows how a deeply indigenous land was reconstituted in European terms, and, at the same time, how European ways were recalibrated in this non-European space. It also shows how an archipelago of scattered settlement emerged out of an encounter with a parsimonious land, and suggests how deeply this encounter differed from an American relationship with abundance.

The book begins with a description of land and life in northern North America in 1500, and ends by considering the relationship between the pattern of early Canada and the country as we know it today. In between, chapters on Canada and Acadia during the French regime, Newfoundland, the Maritimes, Lower and Upper Canada, the northwestern interior, and British Columbia treat changing regional relationships among society, economy, and environment. Intended to describe and explain the background of modern Canada, The Reluctant Land will interest students, scholars, and the reading public.

"Written by Canada's preeminent historical geographer, The Reluctant Land represents a milestone in pre-Confederation Canadian history. Cole Harris offers a sweeping history of the processes by which a string of European settler societies on the margins of North America evolved to become Canada. This book is certain to become a classic."
-Margaret Conrad, co-author of Atlantic Canada: A Region in the Making and History of the Canadian Peoples

"Cole Harris offers a new and immensely important interpretation of early Canada. The subject matter is nothing less than the character of Canada. The narrative is exhilarating and the conclusions are significant."
-Gerald Friesen, author of The Canadian Prairies: A History and Citizens and Nation: An Essay on History, Communication, and Canada

1. Lifeworlds, circa 1500
2. The Northwestern Atlantic, 1497-1632
3. Acadia and Canada
4. The Continental Interior, 1632-1750
5. Creating and Bounding British North America
6. Newfoundland
7. The Maritimes
8. Lower Canada
9. Upper Canada
10. The Northwestern Interior, 1760-1870
11. British Columbia
12. Confederation and the Pattern of Canada

"Trial lawyers attending on Aboriginal claims will find this text usefully covers the history from 1500 forward, showing the changes from an Indigenous populated land to one organized on European terms."
-Ronald F. MacIsaac, The Barrister, Issue No. 89, September 2008