Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Book Notes: Where Newfoundlanders Stood

University of Regina Press kindly sent me a copy of Where Once They Stood: Newfoundland's Rocky Road towards Confederation. by Raymond Blake and Melvin Baker.  Well, I guess they oughta: there's my blurb on the back cover, starting with "A lively history..."

It's actually both confederations they deal with. Blake and Baker are equally concerned with 1869 and 1949. In neither case, they argue, were Newfoundlanders ill-informed, illiterate dupes swayed by demagoguery, as has often been alleged. (The authors offers some pungent examples in their introduction.)

Blake and Baker's case is that Newfoundlanders gave confederation appropriate consideration in 1869 and quite reasonably concluded it was not right for them.  Equally, they insist, confederation got a fair trial in 1949, and Newfoundlanders had good reason to vote for, rather than against, confederation that time.

Part of their case, all massively documented, involves an argument about "political" and "social" citizenship. In 1869 voting was largely concerned with political and national identity, and there was no identity of interest between the fish-exporting and eastward-oriented Newfoundland and the new Canada. By 1949, what the authors call social citizenship had developed, and the social benefits of confederation were understood by Newfoundlanders to far outweigh the possible political satisfactions of independence.

This week Blake and Baker are doing a number of promotional events in Newfoundland, it says here.
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