The Proceedings of the Joseph Howe Symposium, Mount Allison University


136 pages
ISBN 0-920852-36-X





Edited by Wayne A. Hunt
Reviewed by Richard Wilbur

Randall White is the author of Voice of Region: On the Long Journey to
Senate Reform in Canada, Too Good to Be True: Toronto in the 1920s, and
Global Spin: Probing the Globalization Debate.


The instant books spawned by symposia are usually a hodge-podge easily skimmed through and forgotten. This one, based on Murray Beck’s two-volume study of Joseph Howe, deserves closer scrutiny. Beginning with Beck’s own neat summation of “Howe, A Liberal but with qualifications,” it contains several other Howe articles, the best of which do more than paraphrase or praise Beck’s interpretation.

For instance, William Hamilton uses his own academic expertise to summarize Howe’s unsuccessful but influential role “to bring free common school education within the reach of all Nova Scotians.” Barry Moody’s “Joseph Howe, the Baptist and the College Question” shows how denominational rivalry was a vital catalyst and ploy behind much of the policies of early nineteenth century Nova Scotia, just as it was in the other British North American colonies.

The concluding article, by George Rawlyk, reminds us several times that he too has written about Howe and is as well familiar with Gramsci and Erik Erikson’s approaches. Without refuting Beck’s scholarship and general interpretation, Rawlyk deftly applies some of the ideas of the former to what Beck has written. He finds some areas that Beck might have elaborated upon — such things as Howe’s great fondness for and close attachment to his elderly father and his obvious distaste for his mother, or Howe’s “obsession with women,” a term applied by his contemporaries. Rawlyk predicts that while future Howe scholars might use the Gramsci and Erikson approaches, they “will never be free of the long shadow cast by Murray Beck.”

This small volume could be studied profitably before starting on Beck’s opus.


“The Proceedings of the Joseph Howe Symposium, Mount Allison University,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,