Canadian history on

 This is a list with outline information of Canadian history and Canadian Studies articles, chapters and essays by Ged Martin on, as of February 2020 (updated to May 2024). The material available here represents a selection of research and comment, both published and (more recently) written for the website. 
It is unlikely that this website will be around indefinitely. Anyone interested in any of the material is advised to copy the text for private study, of course respecting copyright.
For a full list of Ged Martin's publications, see  
John A. Macdonald
Favourite Son?: John A. Macdonald and the Voters of Kingston, 1841-1891 was published by the Kingston Historical Society in 2010. Most political careers are studied from the top down: the constituency that elects the public figure tends to be incidental to the main story. This study is unusual in attempting a "bottom up" approach, examining how Macdonald's relationship with Kingston was weakened by his rise to Dominion-wide prominence.
Chapters are listed on: 
The Preface and Chapter 1 set John A. Macdonald in the context of his home city.
"Preface: Names and Numbers, Sources, Abbreviations" 
1:  'Macdonald of Kingston' 
Chapters 2 to 5 explore the decline and partial revival of Macdonald's hold on the riding.
2: "'My Duty and My Interest', 1841-1857" 
3:  "'Kingston Had Not Been A Sufferer', 1857-1864" 
4:  "'Never Among Us', 1867-1874" 
5:  "'A Worn-Out Relic of Decayed Toryism', 1874-1891" 
Chapter 6 examines Kingston elections, exploring issues that may have some relevance beyond the city.
6:  "Voters and Voter Management" 
Chapter 7 reviews the reason why Kingston stagnated in the 19th century, and examines Macdonald's sometimes chaotic finances.
7:  "The Kingston Economy and the Finances of John A. Macdonald" 
"Conclusion" tries to do what Conclusions are supposed to do. 
"Macdonald and His Biographers" represented an early attempt to examine how Canada's first prime minister has been portrayed. 
first published in British Journal of Canadian Studies, xvi (2001), 300-19.
"John A Macdonald: Scotsman or Canadian?" was delivered as a Standard Life Lecture in Canadian Studies at the University of Edinburgh, October 2004. 
"Sir John Eh? Macdonald: Recovering a Voice from History" argues that Macdonald spoke with a Canadian accent, not the broad Scots attributed to him in docudramas. He even ended his sentences with "eh?".  
first published in British Journal of Canadian Studies, xvii (2004), 117-24.
"John A. Macdonald: Provincial Premier" looks at his unsuccessful period in office as premier of the province of Canada in 1857-8 – an interlude glossed over by biographers. 
first published in British Journal of Canadian Studies, xvi (2001), 99-122.
"John A. Macdonald, Alcohol and Gallstones" extends the study of his health beyond the issues first reviewed in "John A. Macdonald and the Bottle", Journal of Canadian Studies, xl (2006), 162-185. Macdonald's problems with alcohol need to be integrated with a wider understanding of his health.
"Mrs G. was practically his keeper: John A. Macdonald on Gladstone" reviews his attitudes to a leading British politician.
See also:   "Archival Evidence and John A. Macdonald Biography". Archival sources for the career of Macdonald are extensive, but that does not mean that the records tell us everything we might wish to know.  
first published in Journal of Historical Biography, i (2007), 79-115.
Canada as a bicultural nation
"French in the Canadian public sphere, 1763-1969" was offered as a tribute from overseas on the 50th anniversary of the Official Languages Act. The essay explores the language skills of major figures such as John A. Macdonald and Mackenzie King. I found it an affectionate way of creating an overview of the country that I have enjoyed studying for the past half century. 
"Two invocations of the Canadian Identity: Arthur Lower, Northrop Frye and the invisible French" takes a critical look at the way two notable English Canadian scholars attempted to evoke or conceptualise the country. Both seemed not merely to ignore Canada's French fact but even appropriated Quebec symbols without apology. 
The background to Confederation
"The Idea of British North American Union 1854-1864" challenges the notion that Confederation bubbled up out of nowhere in 1864. In the province of Canada, there had been useful discussions both of the principle and many of the problems and details. Consideration of the possibility in the Maritimes had been more generalised and declamatory, which may help to explain why many in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia found the practical implications of Union hard to swallow. 
first published in Journal of Irish and Scottish Studies, i (2008), 309-333.
"Fiction and Faction in Canada's Great Coalition of 1864" was delivered as the Winthrop Pickard Bell Lecture at Mount Allison University in 1991. It challenges the myth that Canada's warring politicians came together in 1864 in a unity government determined to create Confederation. Coalition politics rarely prove to be so simple.
"Time to retire Canada's Fathers of Confederation?" was an impertinent suggestion from an overseas historian that the idea of the "Fathers" had run its course.
Christopher Moore, for whose work I have the greatest respect, declared that I was "misleading and wrongheaded". 
The prairie provinces and the First Nations
"The British Government and the Red River, 1869-71" is based on a report commissioned by the Department of Justice ( Part 1 ( discusses the main issues, identifies the personalities and processes, and describes the context of events. Part 2 ( explores the attitude of the British government towards the Red River, drawing parallels with contemporary Ireland and New Zealand, and focusing upon the mental processes of the prime minister, W.E. Gladstone. Part 3 ( examines the drafting of the British North America Act of 1871. Part 4 ( argues that the concept of 'constitutionalizing' legislation was alien to British thinking at the time.
"How much did Canada 'pay' First Nations for the prairies?" attempts to estimate the sum the Dominion would have paid First Nations for the rights they possessed over Western land – if Canada had actually handed over any cash. The exercise involved capitalising various annual payments guaranteed in the Numbered Treaties, treating them as if they represented 4 percent interest on a notional purchase price. I do not expect either my methodology or my conclusions to command universal acclaim, but I do believe the exercise was worth attempting. Since Ottawa insisted it already "owned" the prairies, it did not pay out big bucks. 
"The Department of Indian Affairs in the Dominion of Canada budget, 1882" was an attempt to discover the priority given by Ottawa to expenditure upon Native people. This required me to do something I had never found necessary – to find out how the Dominion raised and spent its revenue. The answers were surprising – and Indian Affairs was a big spender. 
"Treaties and textbooks: how forgotten agreements with First Nations crept back into Canadian history" looks at the way the Numbered Treaties, negotiated between 1871 and 1877, simply vanished from the pages of Canadian history books.
"M.C. Cameron's indictment of Canada's Department of Indian Affairs, 1885-1891: the pitfalls of contemporary evidence" examines the 1884-5 criticisms by Ontario Liberal MP M.C. Cameron of Macdonald's handling of Indian Affairs. Cameron's strident outrage at the treatment of First Nations communities will command sympathy today, but his handling of evidence was wayward and irresponsible. 
New Brunswick
"Geography and Governance: The Problem of Saint John (New Brunswick) 1785-1927" is a long essay, written to explore how New Brunswick's (then) largest city fitted it to the wider province. The study is comprises two main sections, examining first locational and then political elements. The approach may perhaps form a model, if only of one to be avoided, for other work in urban history. 
"Fredericton versus Saint John: The New Brunswick Seat of Government, 1785-1882" tells the story of Saint John's occasional attempts to snaffle the provincial capital from its smaller upriver rival. It offers a window into provincial politics, with some amusing episodes.
"New Brunswick from Government House, 1848-1866" was a contribution to the Yorkshire Settlers in New Brunswick conference at Mount Allison University in 2000. 
Other articles and essays
"The appointment of Sir Francis Head as lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada in 1835" examines the legend that this controversial governor was appointed by mistake.
based on an article published in the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, iii (1975), 280-91.
"'The Workings of My Own Mind': Private Correspondence of the Governor-General of Canada, 1839-1867" argues that the unofficial channel of private letters between governors-general of Canada and colonial secretaries in London was at least as important in shaping British-Canadian relations as the formal exchange of despatches. 
first published in British Journal of Canadian Studies, xxi (2009), 63-86. 
"The Elgin-Grey Papers 1846-1852: A Triangular Correspondence" demonstrates that the well-known series of letters between Lord Elgin and the colonial secretary Earl Grey, published in 4 large volumes as long ago as 1937, was in fact a three-way exchange, with the prime minister, Lord John Russell, as the opinionated but unacknowledged third participant.
first published in British Journal of Canadian Studies, xxviii (2015), 63-86.
"1849: Year One in the History of British North America?" argues the case for seeing 1849 as the jumping-off point for modern Canadian history. Historians need new ways of thinking about the past, and this one should be fun to disagree with. The paper was given at the Edinburgh Centre of Canadian Studies annual conference in 1999. 
first published in D. Pollard and Ged Martin, eds, Canada 1849 (Edinburgh, 2001), 7-27.
"Gladstone and the limits of Canadian self-government, 1849: the Rebellion Losses Bill in British politics" suggests that the coming of responsible government in 1848-9 might be reconsidered as a "peace process", on the lines of attempts at institutional reconciliation in modern Northern Ireland and South Africa. It asks why the rebellions of 1837-8 apparently left so little long-term mark on the Canadian psyche, unlike divisive conflicts in other countries (e.g. Ireland in 1922-3). It also notes that the removal of the provincial capital from Montreal in 1849 seems to have caused the virtual disappearance of Canada's largest city from the subsequent narrative of its political history.
based on an article published  in the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, vi (1977), pp. 3-22.
"Gladstone, Canada and calibration: Part 1 of Gladstone and Canada" examines Gladstone's involvement with British North American issues throughout 60 eyars of his career:

"Gladstone Through the Looking Glass: Part 2 of Gladstone and Canada" builds upon the discussion of his attidues to Canada to suggest some interpretative themes.

"Alexander Campbell (1822-1892): The Travails of a Father of Confederation" was of course written before I decided to call for the abolition of the term. Campbell had always been overshadowed by his ally John A. Macdonald. It came as something to surprise to discover that he had to deal with disability, marital breakdown and bereavement. 
first published in Ontario History, cv (2013), 1-18.

Consideration of the early career of Alexander Campbell is extended by "Alexander Campbell (1822-1892): his career to 1864"

"The Naming of British Columbia -- and Queensland" tells the story of Queen Victoria's botched attempts to name the new Pacific coast colony in 1858.
based on an article published in Albion, x (1979), 257-53.

"'Our Lady of the Snows': the Canadian context and reactions to Kipling's poem of 1897" is a discussion of the origins of Rudyard Kipling's poem hailing the Fielding tariff of 1897, which cut import duties on British goods. Kipling misunderstood a political manoeuvre as an imperial gesture.  The poem memorably captured Canada's relationship with Britain in the couplet: "Daughter am I in my mother's house / But mistress in my own". In later years, politicians made convoluted attempts to update Kipling's imgery. It finally died in the aftermath of the 1956 Suez crisis. The most surprising aspect of Canadian reaction to Kipling's well-meant if patronising verse was the widespread protest against his apparent assumption that Canada was a land of eternal winter.
"W.L. Mackenzie King: Canada's Spiritualist Prime Minister" is an entertaining (I hope) excursion into the private world of one of Canada's wackiest leaders. Most of the information available to historians about King's excursions into the afterlife came from his own diaries. This account is based on the records of a London medium. 
first published as "Mackenzie King, the Medium and the Messages" in British Journal of Canadian Studies, iv (1989), 109-35.
"Income tax in Canada before 1917" is a spin-off from my exploration of the 1882 budget. It is generally assumed that it simply was not worth the effort to collect income tax in Canada before 1917. But income tax was levied by many municipalities, and by the province of British Columbia.
"Canadian economic history in a South African context: Pietermaritzburg, 1992" was a keynote address delivered to a conference at the University of Natal as South Africa was emerging from apartheid and academics were rebuilding overseas links. It was an attempt by a "generalist" consumer of Canadian history to review some of the main issues discussed by economic historians, to present them in a context of South African history and suggest comparisons and contrasts. My discussion made no claim to deep insights, but is presented as a contribution to the historiography of the time.
"Documentary film in Canadian Studies" has its origins in University of Edinburgh Canadian Studies teaching. The essay discusses three classics from the National Film Board of Canada: The Champions, Journey Without Arrival and Flora: Scenes from a Convention. 

"Sovereignty and Independence in the Dominions" was a paper delivered at a conference held at the University of Edinburgh in March 2000 to mark the inauguration of a devolved parliament for Scotland the previous year. It was published in H.T. Dickinson and Michael Lynch, eds, The Challenge to Westminster: Sovereignty, Devolution and Independence (East Linton, 2003), 91-101. Since nobody could be sure how devolution might develop in Scotland, it was a wide-ranging discussion which can only be of marginal interest to Canadian historians. 
"That is just what we do not want': Exploring the Canada-New Zealand comparison" was a
keynote lecture delivered at the joint conference of the British Association for Canadian Studies and the New Zealand Studies Association at Canterbury, Kent in 2005. The quotation from Macdonald indicates that the two countries developed on different tracks. The lecture primarily set out to explain New Zealand to a predominantly Canadian Studies audience. 
first published in I. Conrich, D. Allessio and I. Sachdev, eds, Small Nations, Big Neighbours: New Zealand & Canada (Nottingham, 2011) 5-34.
"Carnarvon Diaries: Camden Series, volume 35. Comments and Corrections" included some points about Canada-related entries in the Camden Series edition of the diaries of the Earl of Carnarvon, who was colonial secretary in 1866-67, at the time of the passage of the British North America Act.
"Waterford: Ireland's Canada County" was an attempt to encourage heritage tourism in the county of my adoption. Waterford is not just about Newfoundland.
"Father Michael O'Donel: The Newfoundland Adventures of a Clashmore County Waterford Parish Priest" follows the cleric who was – as his tombstone at Clashmore states – the nephew of the first Roman Catholic bishop of Newfoundland, J.L. O'Donel. 
Book reviews on Canadian topics can be traced through
Other books, essays and journal articles are listed on