Saint John: Scenes from a Popular History

Description

80 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography
$12.95
ISBN 0-919380-44-1

Publisher

Year

1984

Contributor

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.

Review

This is a deliberately tantalizing book by a competent American historian who made good use of his time and skills while a brief resident of New Brunswick. Well-documented and supported with superb illustrations, this brief study spans Saint John’s earliest years, when it was an Indian encampment, to its often stormy contributions to the World War I effort. The author candidly admits that his readers will find only sketches: “the full story is yet to come” — a reference to a full-scale history he was completing for a different publisher as part of Saint John’s contribution to mark New Brunswick’s bicentenary.

Schuyler’s “Five Moments in the Life of Saint John” reflect, it seems to me, a preoccupation with the violent side — especially clashes between militant Orangemen and Catholics and between trade unionists and their employers. By contrast, the “Great Fire of June 1877,” the worst such disaster to hit any Canadian city since Confederation, gets seven lines. Again, in the fifth and final section, “A Changing City 1900-1918,” the author spends eight of the eleven pages on labour clashes both before and during the war. The rest contains a fascinating glimpse into what he calls “Women: A Comparative Equality.”

Though the themes are arbitrarily chosen, Schuyler has come up with a lively and authoritative introduction. It should entice Saint Johners to learn more about their fascinating city than the Loyalist dogma and myths they have been subjected to over most of this century.

Citation

Schuyler, George, “Saint John: Scenes from a Popular History,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 17, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/37639.