HIST2F90: Money & Power in the Atlantic World

Winter Term Assignments

Second Term assignments

In second term, you are to choose from one of two assignments for your major project. Note "major project" - this assignment is worth 25 per cent of your final grade, a big chunk in a full-year course. These two assignments are very different, but both are designed both to draw together elements from across the course and to elevate your your skills in particular areas. 

The first assignment builds on the skills practiced in our fall-term mapping assignment while also asking you to integrate additional primary and secondary sources. It focuses on a small corner of a big story: British plans for the French settlers of Nova Scotia/Acadia in the 1750s. The second assignment has no specific topic, but a specific form of presentation: video. Make a video presenting a topic from of our second-term course lessons. 

These are very different assignments, but they both require the use of basic historical thinking practices. In both cases, these are exercises in using evidence, reading sources critically, organising that evidence, and presenting an argument. Think about your sources, both primary and secondary, and their perspectives. Both assignments also emphasise critical thinking about images. In the mapping option, you need to think about how to read and evaluate the maps (though also how to present them in your essay), in the video you need to think about how to present images effectively (though also how to evaluate them).
Option #1. Cartography and Empire

Historical background

The Seven Years War was one of the two or three major wars in modern world history. It shifted colonial relations across the globe, most notably marking the ascendancy of Great Britain as the most powerful country on the planet. In North America, it shifted the basic political arrangement, effectively removing France from the continent and compelling Indigenous nations to seek peace with their former enemy.

Nowhere was the human cost more evident than in Acadia/Nova Scotia where the British expelled the resident French population, over 12,000 people. Most lost their land (often land that had been worked for generations); most lost any wealth they possessed (cash, cattle, houses, farm buidlings); many lost their lives (at least 2000 drowned or died of ship-born diseases as they were moved around the North Atlantic world).

Acadia - roughly the modern Maritime provinces of Canada, plus sections of Maine and Quebec - had been a French colony located in Mi'kma'ki, the land of the Mi'kmaq. Over the course of the 17th and early 18th centuries, French settlers had built farms and a small resident fishery in what is today southern and southwestern Nova Scotia. In a war between Britain and France between 1710 and 1713, the British captured Acadia. The subsequent peace treaty - the Treaty of Utrecht, 1713 - carved up Acadia into two sections, one comprising what is today the mainland of Nova Scotia (which Britain kept) and the other comprising the "island of the Gulf of St Lawrence", i.e. modern day Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island (which the French kept).  And if you look at the maps for your assignment, that explains why these maps, unlike most other maps of the region, focus only on what today is the mainland of Nova Scotia - i.e. they're focussing on British territory.

Most of the French colonists lived in what became the British-held portion and so for a good part of the period between 1713 and the Seven Years War (over 40 years), the British were reluctant to take a firm stand on what to do with these aline (French, Catholic) people. That story is long and complex, but the short version is that they did nothing: they allowed the Acadians to stay, to continue to farm, and to continue to practice their faith. It wasn't so much tolerance as neglect, as Britain simply put few resources into its new possession. Indeed, the British did very little outside a few miles surrounding the capital, and the Acadian settlements prospered in their effective independence; trade with New England thrived, and their population tripled in the period of British rule. British neglect enabled Acadian communities to prosper, and the Acadians negotiated a kind of neutrality with their former enemies. Fishing boats and traders from New England sought Acadian wheat and cattle; Acadians purchased British goods. If based mostly in Britain's parsimonious neglect, it was a good relationship.

But it was precarious. Britain and France were at war almost continuously in these years and tensions would push Britain to seek ways to consolidate control over its territory. France tried to woo back the support of its former subjects and most Acadians felt pulled in very different directions. Most stayed in their villages, and continued to farm and trade. While some relocated to Ile Royale (Cape Breton) and Isle St-Jean (Prince Edward Island), most attempted to maintain their neutral place in the British colony. By the early 1750s, the French, the Mi'kmaq, and the British were all pressuring the Acadians to break their neutrality and align more clearly with one side or the other. The British threatened, as they had before, to expel the Acadians, and while most believed the British would back down increasing numbers sought security in French territory. Between 1752 and the beginning of the expulsion in June 1755 the population of Isle St-Jean more than tripled from about 1500 to about 5000 as refugees fled into French territory.

It's in this moment, just before the expulsion began, that our documents are based. Your primary evidence consists of three maps of Nova Scotia, each was British but made just before (1755) and just after (1765) the Expulsion of the Acadians, plus the report of the mapmaker, Charles Morris. Individually, each might be seen as simple cartographic illustrations of people and places. But, taken together and placed in their proper historical context, they can be seen to illustrate a kind cartographic illustration of the ethnic cleansing of Nova Scotia.

Quick theory bit via Harley: Maps are rarely neutral or objective. They tell stories; they are made to tell stories, to help construct narratives, to plan and thus to aid policies.  

Basic question: how do these maps help us to understand the actions of the British and colonial governments in mid-18th-century Nova Scotia/Acadie? 

This assignment asks you to use the following primary and secondary sources. You're free to make use of course materials as you see fit, but no additional research is required. 

Tip: the heart of this assignment is the maps. I want you to think about the meaning of the maps, and their value in helping us understand this story. The major events here - the Seven Years War, the Conquest of Acadia, the Expulsion of the Acadians - will be important in framing your essay, but they are not the subject of your essays. The subject should be the maps and their value as sources. 

3000 words (approx. 10 pages) - use proper Chicago-style references, and a bibliography. 

Maps and other primary documents (you should use the high-resolution versions available by clicking on the links - the details will be critical to understanding what's going on).

Jacques-Nicolas Bellin [attributed], n.n. ca. 1745, Unnamed [Acadie, Isle Saint Jean et une partie de l'Isle Royale avec la Baye Françoise], Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center.

This is a map drawn by a French mapmaker of territory that was once a French colony, is still mostly populated by Mi'kmaw and French people, but held since 1713 by the British. 

Morris, Charles, (Surveyor), "A Chart of the Sea Coasts of the Peninsula of Nova Scotia", 1755.  Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center.

Same, but this time drawn by a British cartographer. Here, just before the Seven Years War and the Expulsion of the Acadians. 

Morris, Charles. "A chart of the peninsula of Nova Scotia", [1761], Library of Congress.

Same mapmaker, but after the Expulsion and just before the end of the Seven Years War.

[Charles Morris], "Description and State of the New Settlements in Nova Scotia in 1761 by the Crown Surveyor", transcribed in Report on Canadian Archives, 1904 (Ottawa, Dept of Agriculture, 1904), 294-301.

There are also some maps in this report that offer additional information, but they're really hard to read in the digital text. I couldn't in Covid-era conditions get these digitised properly but include here some crude images (made on my camera!!) that allow you to see some details of the first map and two of the second map. Given the dates, these maps are probably preliminary, or ancillary, maps to the finished version above dated 1761. You might use these as supplements to that map.

Jonathan Fowler and Earle Lockerby, eds., Jeremiah Bancroft at Fort Beauséjour and Grand-Pré (Halifax, Gaspereau Press, 2013), 57-75.

Bancroft was an ordinary soldier, an ensign, in the Massachusetts militia. He was recruited from his home in Reading, Massachusetts in March 1755. His regiment sailed in April to Fort Cumberland in Beaubassin, at the head of what is now the Bay of Fundy. The Seven Years War didn't begin, officially, until 1756, but this action, along with General Braddock's incursion against Indigenous and French positions in western Pennsylvania, were efforts by the the Governors of New York, Massachusetts and Nova Scotia to strike early blows in a war they believed imminent. Bancroft's diary records two major events: the attack on Fort Beausejour in the late spring and early summer of 1755 and the beginning of the removal of the Acadian population from the area around Grand-Pré in August and September. Your excerpt is of the second period.

An Act for the Quieting of Possessions to the Protestant Grantees of the Lands formerly occuppied by the French Inhabitants, and for preventing vexatious Actions relating to the same. (Nova Scotia, George II, 33, 1759).

Secondary sources

Barry M. Moody, ˜Delivered from all your distresses: The Fall of Quebec and the Remaking of Nova Scotia", in Phillip A. Buckner and John, G. Reid,, eds, Revisiting 1759: The Conquest of Canada in Historical Perspective (Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2012). 

Jonathan Fowler, "From Acadians to Planters in the Grand-Pré: an archaeological perspective", in Stephen Henderson and Wendy Robicheau, eds., The Nova Scotia Planters in the Atlantic World (Fredericton NB, Acadiensis Press, 2012),

Geoffrey Plank, An Unsettled Conquest: The British Campaign Against the Peoples of Acadia (Philadelphia, University Of Pennsylvania Press, 2003), 122-39.

Jeffers Lennox, “Nova Scotia Lost and Found: The Acadian Boundary Negotiation and Imperial Envisioning, 1750-1755”, Acadiensis (Fredericton) 40, 2 (2011), 3–31.

J.B. Harley, "New England Cartography and the Native Americans", in EmersonW. Baker, et al, eds., American Beginnings: Exploration, Culture, and Geography in the Land of Norumbega (Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 1994), 286-313.

Some biographies of notable people in the story:

Charles Morris

Alexander McNutt

Some questions: 

To be clear you are NOT expected to answer all these questions. They're simply prompts. As you write, you'll see that some are connected, and some not - it depends on the tact you choose. There's no checklist - use your judgement.

What did conquest and the expulsion of the Acadians mean for Nova Scotia? Why was it important for the British to expel the Acadian? To erase Acadia? What does conquest mean for our understanding of history before the conquest? How do maps, both historical and contemporary, help/hinder our abilities to understand those layers of history. Does this exercise help us think about imperial history? About Canadian history? What about Indigenous history? Can we see Indigenous history here? There are lots of geographical, or what we might call environmental, information in these maps. How does the landscape/environment help us to understand the history?  

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Option #2. Mini-documentary

Using the materials made available to you in one of your second-term lessons, make a 15 minute mini-documentary that presents that topic. It should be academically rigorous (you're historians - use good sources, well), intellectually engaging (aim at an intelligent but non-specialist audience), and visually interesting (make effective use of images/visuals, and you probably need to find some additional visual materials). 

This assignment, for obvious reasons, doesn't have any additional assigned documents. You already have them, and you can do some research to obtain more if you wish. I'm happy to offer advice and support there if it would be helpful.

Tip: ask a question. Don't simply present material, present the material as solving a problem. Aim for an interesting question. Think, for example, of our discussion of the agricultural revolution. An obvious question would be, what was the agricultural revolution? But as we know, a more interesting question would be, when was the agricultural revolution?

Tip #2: answer your question with an argument. Your documentary should make a point, not simply recount a tale.

The video will be graded on the following criteria: effectiveness as a piece of public history (clarity, accessibility, engagement), quality of the content/research, and presentation (i.e. that it looks good!).

Should you conduct additional research? You don't have to, but you can. But, to be clear, as indicated above, that's not the object of the assignment. The heart of your work should be the material you've been given in the course; supplement where/if you feel it necessary, but focus on presenting strong and interesting content more than a comprehensive view.


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