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 Featured Title
The Reluctant Land
Society, Space, and Environment in Canada before Confederation
Cole Harris  

$97.00 Hardcover
Release Date: 5/7/2008
ISBN: 9780774814492    

$36.95 Paperback
Release Date: 1/1/2009
ISBN: 9780774814508    

512 Pages


About the Book

Winner, 2008 K.D. Srivastava Prize for Excellence in Scholarly Publishing, UBC Press

The Reluctant Land describes the evolving pattern of settlement and the changing relationships of people and land in Canada from the end of the fifteenth century to the Confederation years of the late 1860s and early 1870s. It shows how a deeply indigenous land was reconstituted in European terms, and, at the same time, how European ways were recalibrated in this non-European space. It also shows how an archipelago of scattered settlement emerged out of an encounter with a parsimonious land, and suggests how deeply this encounter differed from an American relationship with abundance.

The book begins with a description of land and life in northern North America in 1500, and ends by considering the relationship between the pattern of early Canada and the country as we know it today. In between, chapters on Canada and Acadia during the French regime, Newfoundland, the Maritimes, Lower and Upper Canada, the northwestern interior, and British Columbia treat changing regional relationships among society, economy, and environment. Intended to describe and explain the background of modern Canada, The Reluctant Land will interest students, scholars, and the reading public.

About the Author(s)

Cole Harris is a professor emeritus of geography at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of The Resettlement of British Columbia and Making Native Space, and general editor of The Historical Atlas of Canada, Volume 1: From the Beginning to 1800.

Table of Contents


1. Lifeworlds, circa 1500
2. The Northwestern Atlantic, 1497-1632
3. Acadia and Canada
4. The Continental Interior, 1632-1750
5. Creating and Bounding British North America
6. Newfoundland
7. The Maritimes
8. Lower Canada
9. Upper Canada
10. The Northwestern Interior, 1760-1870
11. British Columbia
12. Confederation and the Pattern of Canada



Written by Canada's preeminent historical geographer, The Reluctant Land represents a milestone in pre-Confederation Canadian history. Cole Harris offers a sweeping history of the processes by which a string of European settler societies on the margins of North America evolved to become Canada. This book is certain to become a classic.
-- Margaret Conrad, co-author of Atlantic Canada: A Region in the Making and History of the Canadian Peoples

Cole Harris offers a new and immensely important interpretation of early Canada. The subject matter is nothing less than the character of Canada. The narrative is exhilarating and the conclusions are significant.
--Gerald Friesen, author of The Canadian Prairies: A History and Citizens and Nation: An Essay on History, Communication, and Canada

Trial lawyers attending on Aboriginal claims will find this text usefully covers the history from 1500 forward, showing the changes from an Indigenous populated land to one organized on European terms.
- Ronald F. MacIsaac, The Barrister, Issue No.89, September 2008

The professor emeritus has taken four years to integrate 40 years of study and geography teaching at UBC for The Reluctant Land, an impressive overview of the character and experience of Canada before Confederation. This is a welcome antidote to the simplistic renderings of early Canadian history we are exposed to in high school social studies courses, political speeches and CBC mini-series. […] Harris has crafted a deeply insightful account of the history of what would become Canada. […] The Reluctant Land will be used in historical geography courses for many years to come – but it’s more than that, because Harris set himself the task of writing a scholarly book accessible to the general reader. […] Encountering The Reluctant Land is like listening to a series of articulate public lectures, organized on a regional basis, allowing for an exploration of each part of the country, in turn.
- Raymon Torchinsky, BC Bookworld, Vol.23, No.1, Spring 2009

Sample Chapter

Front Matter and Chapter Two

Related Topics

Other Ways To Order

In Canada, order your copy of The Reluctant Land from UTP Distribution at:

UTP Distribution
5201 Dufferin Street
Toronto, Ontario
M3H 5T8

Phone orders: 1(800)565-9523 or (416)667-7791
Fax orders: 1(800)221-9985 or (416)667-7832

Ordering information for customers outside Canada

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