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Canada and Slavery in Print, 1789-1889

Bird, E L (2018) Canada and Slavery in Print, 1789-1889. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

The dominant national narrative for Canadians today is that Canada was an antislavery haven for formerly enslaved people from the United States in the nineteenth century. However, there were black and First Nations enslaved people in Canada, in New France before 1763 and then under the British until the early nineteenth century. George Elliott Clarke argues that the image of Canada in antebellum American slave narratives has obscured earlier narratives of slavery in Canada. In this thesis I look at newspapers and slave narratives to explore textual representations of Canada and slavery in print. My research question is: given that Canada is popularly understood as an antislavery haven, how can we use printed texts to produce a more complicated account of Canada’s relationship with slavery? I interrogate this in three case studies. In Chapter One I examine the textual presence of enslaved people in Canada in Canadian newspapers 1789-1793. In Chapter Two I explore how Canada appears in the classic American slave narrative after fugitive slaves cross the border into Canada. In Chapter Three I examine how slave narratives about American slavery were recirculated in Canada. In Chapter Four I suggest that Broken Shackles, a little-known slavery narrative published in 1889, most probably in Canada, can be best understood in the light of the three case studies. Through the case studies I interrogate the idea of Canada as an antislavery space. I argue that Canada could think about itself as antislavery and also hold enslaved people; it could see itself as beneficent and be exploitative; and recirculated American slave narratives in Canada could give moral capital to Canadians and benefit the white privileged reader. Collectively, the chapters show that the textual circulation of Canada and slavery presents a more nuanced account of Canada’s relationship to slavery.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > School of English (Sheffield)
The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Ms E L Bird
Date Deposited: 16 Aug 2018 13:37
Last Modified: 06 Aug 2019 00:18
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/21008

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