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Sebastian Ross
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humanities 411 university of toronto quarterly, volume 72, number 1, winter 2002/3 has provided us with a strong framework on which to build further investigations. (JANICE DICKIN) John Clarke. Land, Power, and Economics on the Frontier of Upper Canada McGill-Queen=s University Press. xxxviii, 748. $75.00 This articulate, weighty tome consolidates John Clarke=s career studying the historical geography of Essex County, an agricultural area surrounding Windsor, Ontario. The process of transferring ownership of crown and private land before 1850 and the behaviour of surveyors, settlers, speculators , entrepreneurs, and politicians in this activity has consumed Clarke for more than thirty years. He is clearly enthralled with English conservatism, Toryism, protestantism, landed aristocracy, and their replication in his little corner of empire. The result is a splendid, and remarkably diverse, piece of scholarship. Land, Power, and Economics is a book of contrasts. Chapter 2 is biographical , chapter 5 statistical. >Quit claim,= >dower,= and >Pearson product moment correlation coefficient= share space in the glossary. Many pages read as a detective story of patronage and betrayal induced by greed for land. Clarke is a true sleuth, reconstructing from public records Land Board membership, voting patterns, concentrations of wealth and power, networks among friends and relatives, and more. Legal historians and whodunnit fans will follow with rapt attention the plight of Sarah Ainse, a worldly Native woman, seeking to crack the ingrained colonial power structure of the 1790s. Then, quite suddenly, we are served a mathematics seminar of rhos and sigmas. The cubic trend surface map will bemuse some readers by its technicality, but it is remarkably elegant and lucid. I marvel at how Clarke has blended disparate specialisms; he sets a basis for comparative study, and I encourage readers to apply his techniques elsewhere. Depth yields fresh thoughts. Wages for harvest labour exceeded those paid survey crews. Speculators were not necessarily non-resident; land transactions reinforced class distinctions. And Clarke=s depth allows for substantial integration, for instance interconnecting the lives of surveyors with each other and with the survey process, and discussing all reserves B crown, clergy, townsite, and Indian B at once. Chapter 4 contains a fine current statement of the land-acquisition process, densely detailed yet easier to read than Lillian Gates=s 1968 monograph, the old standby. Clarke=s is an exemplary reference work, the end-matter alone filling 280 pages. At times this monograph reads like an extended bibliographical essay: on approaches to power, on standard of living, or on mortgaging. At other times we hear the voice of the archivist, methodically explaining the nuances of land patent entries or the abstract index to deeds. This book should be on the reference shelf for every archivist and local librarian across the province. 412 letters in canada 2001 university of toronto quarterly, volume 72, number 1, winter 2002/3 It is easy to underrate a book like this. The map of the number of transactions for every farm lot in Essex, for example, must have taken months scrutinizing legal instruments and is truly innovative, but what shows is a map that looks very much like any other here, small and lacking the visual contrast necessary for rewarding reading. Clarke has wrung incontestable conclusions out of documents from seemingly every angle: that owning cleared, well-drained land was more important than access to it; or that speculators behaved rationally. Such findings are not surprising, however, nor is the statement that >connection in all its forms was important = in public life. Intuitively obvious results leave the reader feeling that Clarke has added little. But he has, by his depth. Such is the special contribution of this book, challenging readers to penetrate other pioneering situations in Ontario and beyond. In his final chapter Clarke is still asking questions instead of tying up the ends in a firm overarching statement. That=s a bit of a letdown, but allows me to conclude with a new thought in reference to the Canada Land Company, established in 1826. After years of ineffective management and absence of revenue, Clarke tells us that privatization of the Crown Reserves was the answer. How familiar that language sounds in 2002! Furthermore, he tells us that the...

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