Monday, March 04, 2019

Book Notes: Quebec Conference of 1864

McGill-Queen's recently sent me a copy of its handsome new essay collection The Quebec Conference of 1864, edited by Eugénie Brouillet, Alain-C Gagnon and Guy Laforest, which includes my essay "A Big Group in a Small Room: Parties and Coalitions at the Quebec Conference." The book is the English-language equivalent of La Conference de Québec de 1864: 150 Ans Plus Tard, published in 2016 by Presses de l'Université Laval. Both are the fruits of an impressive conference held in Quebec City in the fall of 2014, with a large attendance of  francophone and anglophone scholars of confederation, of which I was happy to be one.

Does this happen much: conference papers published in both English- and French-language editions, with all the papers translated for one or the other? Anyway, the papers reflect an impressive diversity of views among the participants: including Confederation as "the completion of a conquest," as the project of London financiers, or as virtually "an imperial fiat," to assertions of and attacks upon the Macdonald/Creighton centralizing vision, to assertions of Canadian autonomy vis-a-vis London, of provincial autonomy vis-a-vis Ottawa, and of confederation of a multicultural "union without fusion."

Publishing note: each press sent me the usual academic press contract, which I would paraphrase as "the contributor surrenders all conceivable rights in perpetuity throughout the universe, in exchange for which the press promises to do whatever it pleases with the work." In each case, I sent back a note stating that I declined those terms, but was glad to permit the press to publish this work in this specific edition.

Neither press responded, but both included my essay -- carefully edited, and with Laval going to the trouble of having it skillfully translated, for which I am most grateful. I have long been puzzled by the willingness of scholars to surrender their works on almost any terms, and mention my experience here only to hint how it suggests that academics could transform the terms of academic publication any time they chose to.
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