Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Book Notes: Watt on Fraser floods, Sweeny on Montreal

In the Fall 2016 Maisonneuve, just reaching subscribers, there is a terrifying, can't-put-down article by journalist Heather Ramsay on what's going to happen in the Fraser Delta of B.C. the next time the Fraser has a really serious flood. [Will add link to the article when the mag's website has it]

The article draws creatively on a work of history I'd not heard of: High Water: Living With the Fraser Floods, by historian K. Jane Watt, published in 2006. It is a study of the history of Fraser River floods from prehistoric experiences of the Sto:lo Nation through the major flood of 1894 to significant oral histories of the 1948 flood.

There was not exactly a major publisher behind High Water. It was published by the Dairy Council Historical Society of British Columbia.  But that year it won the Lieutenant Governor's prize for the best BC historical writing of 2006.  And judging by the material Ramsay draws from it, it has the goods on what a really big Fraser flood has done and will someday do again.
The Lower Mainland experienced the very worst the river had to offer in 1894.  The Fraser crested at an incredible 7.9 metres....
Counting Agassiz, Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Mission, Maple Ridge, Port Coquitlam, Pitt Meadows, Coquitlam, Surrey Delta, and Richmond, more than two million people could be affected by the coming flood. 
 Don't say we were not warned.

Meanwhile Urban History Review, via Erudit, via H-Canada, has a useful review of Robert Sweeny's Why Did We Choose to Industrialize? Montreal 1819-1849, published last year by McGill-Queen's.  It was hardly ignored  (won the 2016 CHA's John A. Macdonald Prize, only for the best book in Canadian history) but it never got much notice here, and the UHR review, by Dan Horner, give a good sense of what is so good about it.
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