Term Paper: Canadian History

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Canadian History

Interpreting the Slant of History

The three articles: Ramsay Cook, "1942 and All That: Making a Garden out of Wilderness"; Alan Gordon, "Heroes, History, and Two Nationalisms: Jacques Cartier" and Ken Coates and William Morrison, "Winter and the Shaping of Northern History: Reflections from the Canadian North" have several commonalities, including the theme that history is slanted by the bias of the historian. Historians cannot help but be influenced by their own biases and it shows in their writing. Sometimes it is purposely slanted to suit the needs of the time: public, political or personal. While history is always filtered through the biases of the writer, it is sometimes even written to accomplish a particular purpose. Our modern culture places a high value on objective reporting, but the culture of the 17th and 18th centuries placed an even higher value on entertainment. Thus the many exaggerations of the writers of the time often went unnoticed and unchallenged.

In 1942 and All That: Making a Garden out of Wilderness, Ramsay Cook shows how historians and clergy shows how early settlers and other visitors to the Canadian North failed to adjust to it, because they brought along their own notions of the superiority of European culture and technology to the indigenous first nations people.

Many clergy and historians of religious persuasion saw the indigenous populations as inferior, because they had not developed technology. What they failed to note was that the first nations people, in this case the Micmac, actually had very good lives before the Europeans arrived. They had everything they needed for safety and comfort by working about 15 hours per week. Historians of the time also blamed the life style of the Micmac for the disease which ravaged and decimated the population. Cook states that Europeans could not see the value of the native ways, and assumed they were unhappy, since they neither cultivated nor build permanent homes.

Other misconceptions of the then current historians were that the evils of polygamy caused the heathen to be punished for their sins. What they did not see was that plural marriage had sustained the population in a wilderness which was difficult to survive, even for the Micmac. Europeans of the time wanted to civilize the Micmac to save their souls and improve their lives. The historians of the time romanticized the "noble svage" on the one hand and deplored the fact that even with the most devout teaching, the Micmac reverted to their original way of life as soon as the settlers turned their backs.

The Micmac were characterized as savage and heathen, while the settlers killed wildlife indiscriminately, taking more than could possibly be consumed. The settlers lived in the environment while the Micmac were a pert of it. The historians constantly compared gardens to heaven and wilderness to hell, Micmac to evil savages and their benefactors to saints. The free life style of the natives was seen both as a sign of their evil and its cause. The settlers had dreams of turning New France into a biological and spiritual garden. They wanted to push back the wilderness and "civilize" the land and its people.

The second article: Heroes, History, and Two Nationalisms: Jacques Cartier by Alan Gordon shows us how historians and politicians and other leaders can twist or even rewrite history about people to serve as heroes. The public identifies with heroes, so they become extremely useful to mold public opinion. The people of Quebec, both English and French, were united by the heroic depiction of Jacques Cartier, who was portrayed as the Catholic missionary to the pagan natives and the parallel to Christopher Columbus for Canada. He was neither of these, but history was rewritten with the useful slant they needed. Celebrations were created and Jacques Cartier became a hero and part of every… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Canadian History.  (2006, September 28).  Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/canadian-history/44504

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"Canadian History."  Essaytown.com.  September 28, 2006.  Accessed May 25, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/canadian-history/44504.