The CHA Best Scholarly Book in Canadian History Prize
Tina Loo. States of Nature. Conserving Canada’s Wildlife in the Twentieth Century. Vancouver, University of British Columbia Press, 2006.
In a lively and admirable prose, Tina Loo describes the awakening of sensitivity towards wildlife conservation in Canada from the end of the 19th Century up to the 1970s. Through her examination of the way management and preservation of nature shifted from the “local” to the “national” level during this period, she identifies the major actors behind this movement and the values driving their discourse. The reading of States of Nature exposes clearly and in all their complexity the motivations and beliefs of the various participants. The increasing regulation of the state over the preservation of the species incited reactions from sports hunters, country people, workers and members of the First Nations, besides modifying the role of biologists, ecological organisations, associations and firms. With case studies carefully chosen, very well documented and chronologica2009-06-13ces and representations of nature intertwined and occasionally opposed each other. Be they resources to manage, images of a pristine world to preserve, places for integrating human and wild life, nature and fauna took various faces throughout the years and were sometimes invested with hard to reconcile values.
With remarkable skill, Tina Loo has managed to combine theoretical subtleties, profoundness of argumentation, and readability. Thanks to its style and to its disturbing topicality, her book will reach both a wide readership as well as historians concerned with rigor and innovative interpretation. States of Nature already stands out as a must in environmental history and comes out as the most significant contribution of the 2006 crop in Canadian history.
Donald Fyson. Magistrates, Police, and People. Everyday Criminal Justice in Quebec and Lower Canada, 1764-1837. Toronto, UTP, Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 2006.
Based on an impressive research, Donald Fyson’s Magistrates, Police and People gives a convincing reinterpretation of the history of criminal justice in Québec. Besides taking up again with a period of Québec’s history neglected in the recent past, this book examines the way criminal law and more particularly the local courts experienced the transition from the French to the British Regimes between 1764 and 1837. By analysing the structures, the depositaries of the law as well as those having recourse to it during this period, the author maintains that in its daily business, in the “everyday” cases, the criminal justice system has gone through a gradual adaptation instead of major breaks. To differentiate between radical change and stasis while avoiding the pitfalls of a Whig interpretation of law demands both skill and a solid knowledge of the documentation. Donald Fyson does not lack these two qualities. The inclusion in his analysis and in his narrative of dimensions relating to gender, class and ethnic belonging is remarkable as is the author’s ability to make the many qualitative and quantitative sources he used speak intelligently.
Far from just being a reinterpretation of Québec’s law, Magistrates, Police, and People, through its theoretical qualities and its awareness of British and North American realities, distinguishes itself also as a major contribution to the understanding of the State and of the everyday justice under the “ancien régime”.