Monday, 8 December 2014

The Kamloops Kid and Honda-San: Japanese Soldiers in Hong Kong

Earlier in this blog, I'd written about how the Canadians fighting in Hong Kong in WWII led to my reaching a greater awareness of Remembrance Day and its significance.

December 7, 1941, is a date that many of my readers would recognize: it was the day that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, officially launching the United States into WWII. However, this was not a singular attack. Pearl Harbor was part of a co-ordinated series of Japanese military assaults throughout the Pacific Theatre, including the British colony of Hong Kong. Due to time zone differences, the attack on Hong Kong is recorded as having started in the early hours of December 8, 1941; hard fighting for the colony ensued between the Japanese and the defenders (made up of British, Indian, Canadian and native soldiers, at least) until the surrender on December 25, 1941. The surviving Allied soldiers were held as Prisoners of War until the end of WWII in 1945, and the story of these POWs is what often comes to Canadians' minds when they think of Hong Kong at the time.

But my focus here is not on the Canadian soldiers just yet. With all these anniversaries coming around at this time of year, I feel that focusing too strongly on that can stir up old conflicts and resentments towards Japan and its people. Sounds far-fetched? Maybe. But I have seen and heard such comments in person in the past (including claims that Japan deserved the 2011 Tsunami due to the Imperial Japanese Army's actions in WWII) to know not to bring that up. Rather, I want to encourage you, my readers, to step back and look at the Japanese involved in this conflict as people. Who were they, and how did this affect their actions?

Fortunately, my examination of the Canadian role in Hong Kong during WWII has managed to unearth accounts of (at least) two very different cases: one that falls into the common image of Japanese atrocities, and one that completely contradicts it. Both men are still shrouded in mystery, but please allow me to share what I have found thus far.

Kanao Inouye: the "Kamloops Kid"

Kanao Inouye was commonly known as the "Kamloops Kid" due to his being, in fact, a second-generation Japanese-Canadian born in Kamloops, British Columbia. He appears in a number of Canadian POWs' accounts of their imprisonment as an interpreter with a sadistic streak. One interview recalls him giving a POW a severe beating for pointing out poor medical facilities in the camp to a Red Cross worker, while other accounts point at Inouye's taunts, prophesying a Japanese takeover of Canada, and threatening harm to the Canadian POWs' families in that event. After the war, he was identified by POWs in Hong Kong, and was ultimately tried and executed for treason.

Something like this would correlate with many accounts of Japanese atrocities committed during WWII. However, there is more to Kanao Inouye than initially meets the eye, and much of this depth lies upon his being a Canadian citizen at the time. Like the United States, Canada and its government took preemptive measures to prevent traitorous behaviour from its Japanese immigrant population by confining many of them to internment camps well away from the Pacific coast. This is a dark spot on Canadian history, as at the time, Japanese-Canadians had not shown any indication of disloyalty to Canada, and, like their American counterparts, often worked to actively show their loyalty to the Canadian government during this time. So the "Kamloops Kid", then, was an exception instead of an indication of the norm.

So why did he behave this way if he was a Canadian citizen? As it turns out, anti-Asian sentiment was not new to Canada, and Inouye believed himself to have been a victim of bullying during his childhood in Kamloops, British Columbia. Although it was circumstances that led to his being conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Army - he had been studying abroad in Japan there when war broke out - his post near a large group of Canadian POWs prompted a spirit of vengeance. The Canadians in Hong Kong confirm this, noting that Inouye would, in the midst of his harsh treatment of the POWs, make remarks such as, "Now where is your superiority, you dirty scum?"

In other words, Kanao Inouye cannot simply be taken as an example of Japanese soldiers acting cruelly during WWII. His story is also a warning to Canadians and Americans in the present day of the dangerous consequences of racism: in short, racism breeds more racism.

Honda-san: The Mystery Good Samaritan

There is less out there on this man, from what I have seen. I have found several accounts of a Japanese officer and interpreter with the surname Honda who seemed to treat POWs more kindly and humanely than many of his fellows, but, in fact, I do not even know if these accounts point at one man or two. So for our intents and purposes, I will simply call him "Honda-san" ("Mr. Honda" in Japanese).

One account comes from a Canadian officer, Captain S. Martin Banfill, who was captured during a Japanese attack on the Salesian Mission in Hong Kong on December 19, 1941. Prior to the surrender, many POWs were summarily executed, but Banfill was singled out from his men and spared, ending up at a POW camp at the instigation of Honda-san. Had it not been for this, it is likely that Banfill would have died. Attempts to find this mysterious Japanese officer after the war proved futile; a man fitting his description was seen in Nagasaki when the atomic bomb fell on August 9, 1945, but there is no way of knowing if this truly was him or, if so, whether he survived the blast.

A second account comes from Lieutenant C. Douglas Johnston, who was sent to a POW camp after the surrender of December 25. The account of his imprisonment, in full, can be found here. In this, he makes several references to a Sergeant-Major or Warrant Officer, also with the surname Honda, who he describes as "a real gentleman". This was someone who, although known for strict discipline, also engaged with the POWs in conversation and seemed to show genuine interest in them. After the events of the war, Johnston recalls that the Canadian POWs sought to protect him in particular, allowing him to stay at Hong Kong's Peninsula Hotel to keep him safe from any generic reprisals against the Japanese.

Are these two accounts speaking of the same man? It is hard to say based on such little evidence (note that Honda is not an uncommon surname in Japan). But, in my opinion, there is a part of me that would rather these be two different people and two completely separate stories of human decency in the chaos of war. Just like a bad apple could spoil the bunch, particularly good ones can leave behind a very positive impression.


"C. Douglas Johnston's Story." Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association. n.d. Web. 8 Dec 2014.

"Kanao Inouye." Wikipedia. 12 Jan 2014. Web. 8 Dec 2014.

"Remembering the Kamloops Kid." Veteran Affairs Canada. Government of Canada. 19 Nov 2014. Web. 8 Dec 2014.

Roland, Charles G. "Massacre and Rape in Hong Kong: Two Case Studies Involving Medical Personnel and Patients." Journal of Contemporary History. 32.1 (1997): 43-61. Print.

"The Kamloops Kid." WWII in Color. n.d. Web. 8 Dec 2014.

Image Credits

Photo (c) WWII in Color

Saturday, 6 December 2014

December 6: A Dark Day in Canadian History

Every nation has one: a date that looms large in the national consciousness as the anniversary of some disaster or tragedy. Oftentimes, there's no need to provide details; those in the know will recognize what happened just by the date. For example, think of how easily we recognize 9/11: no-one needs to explain what took place or why it's important, as it is now simply a part of our culture.

Because of Canada's more behind-the-scenes role in world history, I don't think we have anything that resonates quite so much as 9/11. However, I do believe that Canadians have their own "dark day": December 6.

Not many people talk about it (compared to 9/11 at least), not even in Canada itself. But I would posit this as a suitable candidate for one of the darkest days in Canadian history. Why? Because not one, but TWO tragedies took place on December 6.

December 6, 1917: The Halifax Explosion

Aftermath after the Halifax Explosion (Image (c) Library and Archives Canada; Photographer unknown)
It was, for many Haligonians (i.e. residents of Halifax, Nova Scotia), just a normal day. Yes, Canada was fighting the Great War (aka WWI), and Halifax was a major port city at the time, ferrying supplies and soldiers to and from Canada and Europe.

With such a bustling harbour, perhaps it was only a matter of time before something went wrong. On the morning of Dec. 6, 1917, a Norwegian ship, the S.S. Imo, was scheduled to leave Halifax after spending several days refuelling before heading on to New York. She had originally been scheduled for a Dec. 5 departure, but had been delayed due to anti-submarine nets being placed in the Halifax harbour in the evening. So, by the next morning, she was eager to be underway.

In order to do so, however, she must pass through a channel known as the Narrows. Harbour protocol dictated that ships were supposed to pass each other port-to-port, each taking the starboard side of the channel in order to keep traffic running smoothly. However, to avoid collision with a tug-boat coming into the harbour at the time, the Imo swerved and overshot her turn into the Narrows, ending up closer to the port side than was safe. This combined with her going above the proper speed limit sent her straight into the path of the French ship SS Mont-Blanc that was entering the harbour at the same time.

Map of Halifax Harbour on the morning of Dec. 6, 1917, showing the Imo and Mont-Blanc in their original positions before the Imo began her exit and the Mont-Blanc her entrance. (Image (c)
At 8:45 a.m., the two ships collided.

For all intents and purposes, the collision should have been a mild one. Both ships were travelling at low speed, and had already stopped their engines: it was their continued momentum in the time it took to stop that caused the accident. However, disaster was imminent due to two factors: the collision had caused a fire on the Mont-Blanc, and, being a cargo ship on her way to the European front, she was stocked full of explosives.

The Mont-Blanc's crew fled the ship, but the scene drew a crowd of spectators. It is understandable: on what was just a normal school and working day, a ship caught fire in the Halifax Harbour. It's the same sort of human behaviour that makes motorists slow down upon coming across an accident scene. So many Haligonians stopped what they were doing to go out to the harbour to watch, oblivious to the Mont-Blanc's cargo and what it meant. Even when the Mont-Blanc's crew tried to warn their rescuers about the imminent danger, they were not heard in the confusion.

At 9:04 a.m., the Mont-Blanc exploded, sending white-hot metal debris flying almost 300 metres into the air, which rained down on the city and its inhabitants. The shockwave destroyed the buildings within a 2.6 kilometre radius, but damage stretched far further to nearby communities and was felt in the other maritime provinces. On top of this, the explosion vaporized most of the water in the harbour, and the seawater rushing in to replace it swelled into a tsunami wave 16 metres high.

Halifax two days after the Explosion (Image in Public Domain, found via Wikimedia Commons)
All things told, 1,600 people were killed and 9,000 injured. Not only did this include dockworkers and sailors, but many civilians as well. Particularly horrific in hindsight is the fate of those who watched the Mont-Blanc's fire from their windows as the force of the explosion shattered the glass, blinding many people. The Halifax Explosion was the largest artificial explosion at the time, and would remain so until WWII and the development of nuclear technology. While Halifax has rebuilt itself since then and is now once again a major maritime city, the Halifax Explosion is still a major component of Canada's history: wartime and otherwise.

December 6, 1989: The École Polytechnique Massacre

Chances are, if there's one major Canadian disaster that took place on Dec. 6 that you'll be hearing about on the news, it's this one. Why? Because the events of the École Polytechnique Massacre led to December 6 now being memorialized in Canada as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Perhaps that name alone suggests where this is going, but in short: this is the deadliest school shooting in Canadian history.

The École Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec, as it appears today. (Photograph by MyName(Slp1) on Wikimedia Commons, Image used according to Creative Commons 3.0)
So what does a school shooting have to do with violence against women? It comes down to the shooter and his actions. On Dec. 6, 1989, Marc Lépine, aged 25, made his way to École Polytechnique, a post-secondary engineering school affiliated with the University of Montreal. There, he entered a classroom filled with approximately 60 students where a mechanical engineering class was in progress. This is where the violence against women aspect becomes apparent. After gaining control of the classroom, he ordered male and female students to opposite sides of the room. Then, after ordering the male students out of the room, he opened fire on the remaining 9 women, saying, "You're women, you're going to be engineers. You're all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists." Of his victims in that classroom, 6 were killed and the 3 others wounded.

After this, Lépine continued on through the school, aiming his attacks at classrooms, students in the corridors, and a cafeteria, before shooting himself in the head. In total, 14 women (13 students and one employee) were dead, and another 14 people (including 4 men) were injured.

Commemorative Plaque at École Polytechnique listing the names of the deceased. (Image in Public Domain, found via Wikimedia Commons)
In the aftermath of the massacre, a suicide note was found in which Lépine reiterated his anti-feminist rhetoric. His view was that through feminism, women would retain their existing benefits from society and the government as well as claiming those that also belonged to men. In other words, and in my opinion, he confused feminism with misandry, and felt that any woman who sought a higher education (such as these students) or a career outside of what was traditionally feminine was a radical feminist and would ruin his own opportunities in life.

It's no wonder then that the anniversary of the École Polytechnique Massacre has become a day for remembrance, then, as Canadians continue to raise awareness of violent acts against women in general. However, I wonder if Lépine realized the coincidence his choice of date was creating. December 6 was already an infamous day in Canada - and he made it even more so.


"École Polytechnique Massacre." Wikipedia. 6 Dec 2014.

"Halifax Explosion." Wikipedia. 6 Dec. 2014. 6 Dec. 2014.


All images used under Creative Commons 3.0, individual credits in the captions

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Six Months In: Things I've Learned as a Gallery Interpreter at the Royal Ontario Museum

In terms of my volunteer work at the Royal Ontario Museum, I have recently hit a personal milestone: I have completed my time as what's called a provisional Gallery Interpreter (i.e. a trainee volunteer) and am now officially an active member of the ROM's Department of Museum Volunteers. I do get some perks from this: best one being my own ID badge/key card so I don't need to trouble fellow volunteers to let me in each time I show up for a shift.

The ROM's famous Rotunda Ceiling mosaic. The text reads: THAT ALL MEN MAY KNOW HIS WORK
So what's a Gallery Interpreter, you ask? What we do is go out into the galleries with a small specimen or artifact that visitors could interact with. Engagements take the form of a short Q&A session, where we use guiding questions to offer information about both the object(s) we have, and the surrounding relevant museum displays. I myself spend most of my time in the two Canadian galleries at the ROM - the Daphne Cockwell Gallery of Canada: First Peoples; and the Sigmund Samuel Gallery of Canada - with one specimen each: a miniature replica birchbark canoe in the first, and a late 19th-century French-Canadian maple sugar mould in the latter.

A "period room" set up in the style of 16th century England in the Samuel European Galleries at the ROM. This is an example of one of my favourite parts of the museum, albeit not where I actually work.
Officially, I have only been a Gallery Interpreter since this past July, but before that, there had been more rigorous training where I had gone out into the galleries accompanied by a more experienced GI (as we're called for short), meaning that I have been out and about in those galleries for approximately half a year by this point. And in this half a year, I have learned a lot of valuable lessons along the way: things that I am sharing with you now as some of my favourite highlights thus far in my life as a Gallery Interpreter at the ROM.

1. Nothing quite beats working with historical objects.

Especially when said objects just happen to be particularly old, or beautiful, or relevant to your field of interest. I still remember when, in the early stages of my training (i.e. before I was even in the galleries), I was given a demo from an instructor on how one of these Q&A sessions would work. The gentleman had a piece of mosaic with him, and I was to pose as the "visitor". I knew going into the dialogue that the mosaic was used in the ROM's Ancient Roman gallery, but imagine my surprise when I discovered that the fragment I was handling was actually 2,000 years old, and a genuine artifact! And since our initial training included objects from both the ROM's Natural History and World Culture collections, I'm sure that's not even the oldest thing I handled by the time I was done.

2. The fascination applies to visitors as well.

I daresay some of the giddiness that comes from working with historical artifacts might seem to come just from my being somewhat of a history enthusiast. However, it's not just me or fellow museum volunteers and employers who get like that: the visitors do, too. For instance, while the miniature birchbark canoe I work with is a replica, I stand near some First Nations birchbark canoes that are well over a hundred years old. And people love it when I point that out!

One of the original First Nations birchbark canoes at the ROM. I work with a smaller, miniature version when I chat with visitors.
The same sort of thing happens with the maple sugar mould as well. Many visitors are fascinated by the fact that not only am I holding an artifact from the late 19th century, but that (with gloves and my supervision) they are welcome to touch it as well. GIs are trained to make sure that artifacts are handled with care at all times (for example: cupping our hands below the visitor's to catch any objects that might fall), so it's a fun and safe experience for everyone involved.

3. Some people just want to be taught.

I've seen this a number of times already in the past six months. The intent for the GIs is to engage with visitors in a conversation, and the Q&A idea stems from that. However, I have had several instances where visitors who are interested don't want the preamble. They'll come right up to me, point at what I'm holding, and ask, "What is that?" Depending on the overall tone of the conversation so far, I sometimes respond by asking for guesses, but it certainly has happened where I end up just telling them directly, and the visitor is very appreciative for the information. This happens a lot with the maple sugar mould in particular, since it's not as immediately recognizable an object as the birchbark canoe. I can see how trying to guess what it is can be rather intimidating, actually.

19th-century French-Canadian maple sugar moulds at the ROM.

4. Sometimes, I am the one who gets taught - and that's even better.

Just about every single GI has had an encounter like this: a visitor comes by who turns out to be an expert in the field relating to the object in question. I hear a lot of these stories coming from the Natural History sections of the ROM in particular, especially relating to children who are currently in their dinosaur/animal enthusiast stage.

I myself have had a similar experience with the miniature birchbark canoe. One woman I met turned out, in fact, to be First Nations herself (specifically Ojibway) and made similar miniature canoes as a hobby. So she was the one telling me a lot about the process she used: soaking the birchbark to make it pliable, sewing it with sinew (the ROM's replica uses thread), and even beading her canoes for decoration. That was definitely a rewarding experience, and I hope to have more in the future!

5. Being a GI can be a great chance for cultural exchange.
Folk musicians from the ROM's Polish Heritage Day in the summer of 2014, one of many such Heritage Days devoted to Canada's many ethnic communities as part of the ROM's summer activities.
 The ROM receives visitors from all over the world - and even if it didn't, Canada is a sufficiently multicultural nation for us to meet visitors from all sorts of ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. What this means is that some of the conversations I have had as a GI focus around comparisons between cultures: Canadian and the visitor's culture of origin.

Some such instances that come to my mind right now include a Swedish visitor talking about woodworking techniques while looking at the birchbark canoes, an East Asian family comparing the qualities of birchbark as a construction material compared to bamboo, a Brazilian family comparing the handiwork of Canada's First Nations peoples with their own indigenous crafts, yet another Brazilian visitor telling me about how rubber is made from tree sap harvested like Canada's maple sap is, and visitors from maple-producing parts of the United States giving me tips and pointers on some of the inner workings of the business.

And that's just scratching the surface!

6. Sometimes, the visitor's more interested in me than in the objects.

I've had cases where overseas tourists are more interested in sharing to me about their thoughts on their trip to Canada thus far than anything directly related to the objects I'm working with. And that's fine - if everyone is comfortable and at ease, I am more than willing to listen and, hopefully, provide further positive memories for them to bring home.

There's also been one occasion where I was in the First Peoples gallery with the birchbark canoe, and a visitor asked me if I was First Nations myself. I told him that no, I wasn't; I'm actually Chinese. He was surprised, since he thought that if I was working in a First Nations-related gallery, I would likely have to be First Nations myself. That's the sort of question that gave me pause to think for quite a long time afterwards.

7. Because, like it or not, politics does get involved sometimes.

Perhaps this is a lesson that's rather gallery-specific, as I have only had this sort of thing happen to me when I'm in the First Peoples gallery. Many visitors are genuinely curious about the place that the First Peoples have in Canada, and I, being a visible ROM worker, naturally become a magnet for those questions.

Modern-art sculpture inspired by the traditional Plains First Nations eagle feather headdress: the wapaha.
 This is especially the case since the history of Canada's First Peoples is a painful one: one that is based on what once was a form of cooperation between Native Peoples and Europeans, but that degenerated into oppression and discrimination before now steadily working towards some form of reconciliation and recognition. So it's understandable that some visitors are concerned, for instance, that the ROM is presenting a colonialist view on the history - particularly since so many of our artifacts come from 19th and early 20th century European donors. Other times, however, I am met with surprise that the First Peoples and their cultures have survived through the tribulation into the present day: their view was that this had all been in the past, but the ROM is careful to show the First Peoples in the present as well.

In both cases, I respond the same way: acknowledge the questions and comments, but encourage the visitors to direct them to the actual ROM curators, who could give more thorough answers than me. Particularly in the former case, things can get very touchy, very fast; and as a GI, I'm not in the position to actually discuss the ROM's political stance. So I pass it on, and hope for the best.

I will, however, reveal this much: the First Peoples gallery at the ROM was designed with the input of many First Nations advisers, and the ROM has been careful to make sure that all the current interpretations and commentaries shown are actually from a Native perspective.

Six months in, and I've already learned so much. Who knows where I'll be after another six!


All photographs from the Royal Ontario Museum, taken by Kita Inoru

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The Canadians in Hong Kong: Giving Me My Remembrance Day

WWII Canadian Recruiting Poster referencing Hong Kong
When I was a kid, I didn't care about Remembrance Day.

Sure, in my head, I knew what it was about: every year, November 11 was set aside for Canadians to remember those who had given their lives for the country in WWI, WWII, and subsequent wars since. I'd attend the ceremonies, I'd wear the poppy, I'd recite In Flanders Fields, I'd observe the moment of silence.

But in my heart, I felt nothing.

Perhaps, if you understood where I was coming from, I would not seem so callous. It's not that I didn't appreciate the sacrifices made by our armed forces. I knew what they were fighting for, and supported it as wholeheartedly as the next kid in the classroom. My indifference to Remembrance Day didn't come from some overarching anti-war sentiment. It wasn't anything that noble. No. Little elementary-school-aged me simply thought there was nothing in Remembrance Day to remember. I wasn't born in Canada. My parents weren't born in Canada. I was just a little Chinese immigrant girl from Hong Kong who thought that this was all "white people's stuff".

You could, I suppose, pin some blame on the educational system for this. Because I know now that Canada's military history is, in fact, my military history. Not just because my views have become broader (although they have), but because of something that my school teachers had neglected to tell me: Not only was Hong Kong involved in the World Wars, but Canadians fought there, too.

Troops of C Force en route to Sham Shul Po Barracks, Hong Kong, 16 November 1941.
So how did I find out about this? I did so on my own, seemingly by chance. During an eighth-grade school trip (the same one to Quebec City I'd mentioned in previous blog posts), we had made a stopover in Ottawa before moving on to Quebec. One of our destinations was the Canadian War Museum, where we were given some time to explore at will. I don't remember how I'd wound up separated from the group of classmates I was with when we were in the section devoted to WWII (although I do remember something about them looking at Hitler's car). But regardless of how it happened, I was, for several minutes, alone, having gone deeper into the exhibition hall than anyone else.

And that's when I saw him.

Sounds creepy, yes, but in fact, it was. I've become quite used to seeing models and mannequins in museums by this point, but back then, aged 14, I wasn't. Besides, I was on my own in a museum exhibition about the Canadians in WWII: it was dim, quiet, and just a bit eerie to begin with. The last thing I was expecting to see out of the corner of my eye was the figure of a tall, dirty, Caucasian man, shirtless and clad only in a pair of ragged khaki shorts, standing with his head bowed and his hands stretched out in front, holding a small bowl.

Again, in my head, I must have known that this was simply a model, but that didn't stop me from both being scared out of my wits, and inexorably drawn to him. I knew that I shouldn't be going deeper into the exhibition - I'd get in a good deal of trouble if it was discovered that I was alone, separated from the group and unsupervised. But I did anyway. I wanted to find out who this man was, and why he looked the way he did. After all, I was expecting to see figures of men in uniform, not something so pathetic as this.

And it's at this moment when Remembrance Day for me changed forever. I couldn't bring myself to look at the man directly for very long, but I gleaned enough to discover that he was a representation of the Canadian POWs who had been captured after losing to the Japanese in Hong Kong in December 1941.
Canadian and British prisoners-of-war liberated by the boarding party from HMCS Prince Robert, Hong Kong, August 1945.
It was years later before I tried to look up the events in any amount of detail, and perhaps that is a story best saved for another day. In short, Canadian troops were sent to defend Hong Kong, a British colony at the time, from the encroaching Imperial Japanese Army. On December 8, 1941, at the same time as the attack on Pearl Harbor (on December 7, 1941 - timezone differences), the Japanese began their offensive against Hong Kong in earnest. Along with other British Commonwealth troops, the Canadians tried to push them back, but ultimately conceded defeat and surrendered on December 25, 1941.

If anyone here is surprised to find out that either Hong Kong or Canada were involved in the Pacific Theatre in WWII, I don't blame you. That is, after all, what I thought until I was 14. Since then, I've both come to a better understanding of what Canada's forces did all over the world, not just in Hong Kong, and Remembrance Day has become closer to my heart in more ways than one. Perhaps too close, and not always in ways relating to the military, but still: close.

So today, on November 11, 2014, I want to say this to those Canadian soldiers who fought in Hong Kong all those years ago, and their descendents: Thank you. Not only did you do your utmost to defend my land and my people, but you have also helped to shape me into the Canadian that I am today, over 70 years later.

Image Credit

WWII Poster (c) Canadian War Museum

Photographs (c) Library and Archives Canada

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Walker at the Château Ramezay, Montreal

As a volunteer at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, I know that sometimes, finding out the true information about an artifact is easier said than done. This is particularly the case once the curators start working with donated items: things that sometimes come with stories attached to them which might be intriguing - and sound very, very cool! - but might not actually be the historical reality. Family heirlooms, objects acquired by collectors who lived and died centuries before the date of acquisition (and oftentimes with shoddy record-keeping habits)...all of these could potentially lead historians to come away with more questions than answers.

The story I'm about to tell you is a long one, with considerable historical background needing to be explained beforehand, so please bear with me. It is also, in fact, not from the Royal Ontario Museum. Instead, it features a little historical mystery that I've recently come across on a recent trip to Montreal and Quebec City. (Yes, the so-long-desired research trip that I'd talked about in an earlier post has finally come.) While I was in Montreal, I had the opportunity to visit the Château Ramezay in the historic part of the city.

View of the Chàteau Ramezay from across the street
The Château Ramezay (lit. "Castle Ramezay" in French) does not look like a very grand, imposing building - at least not when compared to similar "castles" elsewhere in the world. But in terms of French Canada, a place like this was already quite luxurious. The property was first owned by the Ramezay family, who were part of the colonial administration in 18th-century Montreal during the French regime; they were, in other words, part of the elite. After this, the building was occupied by a trading company, before becoming the official residence for the British Governor of Quebec whenever he was in the city.

Occupants of the Château Ramezay over the years; immediately relevant to us are the first four entries.
But it is the fourth entry, "Armée des États-Unis 1775-1776" that I am going to focus on here. From the fall of 1775 until the fall of 1776, the Continental Army in what is now the United States attempted to invade Quebec. The details of that campaign and how they played out would be better saved for another day, but for our intents and purposes, the Americans successfully took and occupied the city of Montreal from November 1775 to June 1776, when the British finally drove them back.

During this occupation, there was, in fact, a delegation sent to Montreal from the Continental Congress. Their hope was to be able to draw up support for their cause from the local French-Canadian population, but by the time they arrived on April 29, 1776, a winter's worth of increasingly sour relations between the French-Canadians and their (mostly) English-American occupiers meant that this attempt was doomed from the beginning. By the end of May, the entire delegation (and then some) had left Montreal for the American colonies to continue their efforts elsewhere - and ultimately help pave the way towards the Declaration of Independence in July that same year.

So where do "Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Walker" come into all of this? A lot of it can be seen in this document held at the Château Ramezay, which served as the Continental Army's headquarters during the occupation:

Letter dated to May 11, 1776, at the Château Ramezay, written by delegates to Montreal from the Continental Congress
The text may be hard to decipher, but fortunately, the curators at the Château Ramezay included a transcription in the display:

Montreal, 11th May 1776

Dear Sir,

We desire that you will shew to Mrs Walker every civility in your power and facilitate her on her way to Philadelphia, the fear of cruel treatment from the enemy on account of the strong attachement to, and zeal of her husband in the cause of the united Colonies induces her to depart precipitately from her home; & to undergo the fatigues of a long and hazardous journey. We are sorry for the occasion of writing this letter & beg your attention to alleviate her distress; your known politeness and humanity, we are sensible, without this recommendation from us, would prompt you to perform the friendly office. We are with great esteem & sincere regard for yourself & family.

Your affectionate hum. Servts,

Samuel Chase
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
B. Franklin

(And, if anyone is wondering, yes, "B. Franklin" is who you think he is! Chalk that up for something cool: a 1776 document written by Benjamin Franklin held in Montreal - and I saw it firsthand.)

Now, safe passage, as this document asks for on behalf of Mrs. Walker, was certainly needed. As implied, Thomas Walker had been, ever since he first arrived in Montreal from Boston in 1763, a strong supporter of what he held to be the proper rights of British subjects. What this meant is that he was an advocate for the presence of elected government and other benefits that many American colonists had become accustomed to by the 1760s. Ultimately, this led to considerable friction between Walker and the British colonial administration: Walker was strongly opposed to the Quebec Act in 1774 (which, while granting a variety of civil liberties to the Catholic French-Canadians, also firmly denied the request of English-Canadian merchants like Walker for an elected assembly) and, by 1775, was openly in favour of the Patriots fighting in the Thirteen Colonies. He was not only vocal in his opinions, but took various modes of action: meeting with other American sympathizers in the city, urging Canada to join in the Continental Congress, and ultimately recruiting members of the local population to fight for the Patriots against the British. It was Thomas Walker, in fact, who hosted the delegation from Congress in his house during their stay in the spring of 1776, and he left along with them - the reason why the letter speaks of Mrs. Walker specifically is because Mr. had already gone the night before!

With such a fascinating story to tell (just the idea that Canada was, in some way, involved in the American Revolution might be news to some), it's no wonder that, in 1905, the Château Ramezay received a pair of portraits from a donor who believed them to be depictions of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Walker.

That's all fine and dandy - and, again, it makes for a great story - but when I saw these two portraits together with a placard giving a short spiel about Thomas Walker's involvement in the American Revolution, I was skeptical. Unconvinced, if you will. I don't doubt the veracity of the historical events described - I had seen them in enough sources whilst working on my Hetalia fanfiction years ago to know they were true - but I'm not convinced these two portraits are of the Walkers at all. Or, at least, not the Walkers the Château Ramezay wanted.

There area few reasons for my skepticism. First of all, the Château Ramezay said that Thomas Walker lived from 1717 to 1788, although it did not offer any such dates for Mrs. Walker (née Jane Hughes, by the way). Even allowing for a slight margin of error on the date of birth, this means that by 1775/1776, we would be dealing with a man well into middle age, at least. Of course, these portraits could be of the Walkers in their youth, but that leads to an even greater problem, as far as I am concerned. From everything that I could see - the style of painting, the subjects' appearances (dress, hairstyle, etc.) - these two portraits look to me to be from the early 19th century instead of the mid- to late 18th.

All this means that this one small corner of the Château Ramezay left me with far more questions than answers. Are these posthumous portraits? That's certainly plausible. I could imagine, say, a descendant wanting an image of his/her ancestors several decades down the road. But if not, then who are this couple - and how did the donor of these paintings come to not only believe they are Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Walker, and how did he convince the curators of the Château Ramezay of such?

The thing I love about historical mysteries is that they can be a lot of fun to pursue. If the time and opportunity arose for me to do that with these two paintings, I certainly would. In the meantime, if anyone reading this is interested, perhaps you'd like to let me know some of your ideas. Who knows? Maybe you'll have the answers after all!

Image Credits

All photographs (c) Kita Inoru

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Story in My Mind - "Research" Trips

Me on Bunker Hill looking down towards Charlestown during a "research" trip to Boston in October 2011.'s been a long time since I've posted anything to this blog. You can all blame real life for that. Know that I *am* currently working on something that would be a bit more educational in nature and hope to have that posted soon, circumstances permitting.

But in the meantime, how about something a bit more fun and lighthearted? I'd mentioned in one of my earlier blog posts that I would like to foray into historical fiction writing someday and am already brainstorming/researching for character and plot ideas. Given that, I thought I'd take this time to share a bit about something that, time and finances permitting, I like to do with my story-writing projects: "research" trips.

Note the quotation marks. See, I seldom have the luxury or the connections that would permit me to go someplace to really formally research: accessing archives, academic sources, etc. Most of the "research" trips I've taken in the past have, in fact, just my taking advantage of any existent family vacations to glean what little I can that would be useful for my writing. What that means is that I very rarely ask that we go somewhere directly relevant to my story development - the onus is not on the rest of the party (who may or may not actually be interested in what I want to do) to accommodate me, but on me to keep my eyes and ears open anywhere we go. Vacations are a lot more enjoyable that way, I've found ;)

Since I've started dabbling in historical fiction writing - Hetalia fanfiction and otherwise - I've really only gone on two real "research" trips so far. (I've gone on more family trips than that, but not necessarily to places that'd be directly relevant to what I want to write.)

The first was in October 2011 to Boston, Massachusetts; at the time, I was working on my Hetalia piece Brother of Absalom, which was set before and during the American Revolutionary War. While my immediate focus was on Canadian history - and the Continental Army's invasion of Quebec from 1775-1776 in particular - I really wanted to milk an already-planned trip to Boston for all its worth.

A historical interpreter/tour guide dressed as a British soldier on the Freedom Trail in Boston; photo taken in October 2011 during a "research" trip.
The only time that I overtly looked at and did stuff for my writing was walking Boston's famous Freedom Trail, which took me to sites like Bunker Hill (pictured above), Paul Revere's house, and the site of the Boston Massacre. Otherwise, I made do with taking pictures of relevant art and artifacts in the museums, and dogging my hosts in Arlington (a suburb of Boston) for historical information about the neighbourhood. (That's how I found out, for instance, that the British had passed through where I was staying on their way to Lexington and Concord that fated April 19, 1775.)

Historical buildings near Covent Garden, London; photo taken during a "research" trip in May 2014.
More recently, I had the chance to go to London earlier this year - and for this trip, I was definitely very excited. My re-working of my older Hetalia stories to suit a broader historical fiction context meant that I had to do more involving 18th century London than ever before. So I was definitely looking forward to seeing what I could. This time around, to be honest, I didn't get to do or experience everything that I would have wanted - I had originally planned to visit the Handel House Museum to be able to get a glimpse inside a middle-class mid-18th century residence, for example, but ran out of time. However, the trip was by no means not a waste. It was amazing to see what I did manage to see - and experience what I got to experience.

1727-1728 Period room reproduction at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; photo taken during a "research" trip in May 2014.
For instance: I broke one of the biggest "tourist" rules in the book and opted not to wear my very comfortable running shoes whilst out and about. Instead, I opted for a pair of black leather shoes with a chunky low heel. Those of you who are familiar with historical footwear should get where I'm going with this; for everyone else, know that I often try to - safely! - simulate as much as I could of what my characters might end up going through in order to write them properly. Now, I want to say that usually, those black shoes are very comfortable: they're my favourite for work/school wear, for instance. However, my relatively sedentary 21st century self was NOT prepared for the amount of beating they'd take on London's streets - especially any part of the streets and sideways were made up of cobblestones! So every night, I'd get back to the hotel nearly limping and with callouses developing on the soles of my feet, go to bed asking why I'd put myself through something like this...and then, upon looking at those black shoes up next to my running shoes the next morning, put them on again anyway. Lesson learned? My characters must have been many times tougher than me!

Historical interpreters drilling at Fort Henry, Kingston, Ontario in May 2013. Not an official "research" trip, as they were 19th century interpreters, but I did get the chance to hold one of their replica 1867 rifles afterwards and get a feel for its weight.
I've built up a good deal more anecdotes than what I've already shared: both from my two "official" "research" trips, and from countless others where little gems pop up along the way (one instance pictured above). So what's next for me? Lord willing, Quebec City. This, more than any other place on the planet, is the central locus of my writing. Given that, it's hard to believe that, since this whole process started, I have not been there even once. I did go to Quebec City as a small child, and once on an eighth-grade school trip, but those times were different. Case in point, here's an excerpt from a travelogue I kept on the latter trip - and you'll see how it was anything but a research trip:

We were pretty much dead on our feet by the time we rendezvoused at the gate. That's when they told us: we were going to La Citadelle, which meant a whole ton more walking! Well, we got there, we were divided by our buses again, and were taken on a tour. It was really kind of boring. They kept on mentioning the Battle on the Plains of Abraham. I was really finding this annoying, and besides, who brags about LOSING?!?!

Um...yeah. Forgive me if I end up cringing whenever I think back to how flippant I was about my own country's history as a 14-year-old. Said teenaged self would probably have never imagined that I'd be where I am now: completely fascinated by the events of 1759 and desperately wanting to go back to Quebec City for a proper "research" trip. It's about time I did it justice, after all!

Image Credits

All photos (c) Kita Inoru

Friday, 15 August 2014

Book Review: Savages within the Empire: Representations of American Indians in Eighteenth-Century Britain by Troy Bickham

Note: This is an edited version of a piece I wrote early in 2014, under a different name, as a course assignment where I was to read and review a book that focused on Western social and political thought on race and/or empire. I hope, since I am the author of this, that it does not go against any rules of academic ethical conduct for me to post this here, seeing as I did not intend to actually submit this for formal publication. Also, I am very well aware that "American Indian" is an offensive term in reference to the First Nations nowadays in Canada, but both Bickham and I are using it as a part of the historical context, and no offense is intended.

With the outbreak of violence in 1754 that led to the Seven Years' War, the British Empire’s attention has been on the state of affairs in North America where it remained until the culmination of the American Revolutionary War in 1783. While a significant amount of that focus was on the French and English colonists themselves, there was also a focus on the American Indians in the public discourse of the period. In his book, Bickham seeks to lay out an account of the American Indians within the British colonial context of the latter half of the 18th century. This is not a strict historical survey of events, but focuses more on how the Indians were represented to, and perceived by, the metropolitan British in Europe. The result, therefore, is a claim that the British primarily viewed the American Indians in terms of their effects on colonial policy of the period; and any significant encounters and dealings with the Indians also took place within a broader context of British colonial interests. The American Indians, Bickham argues, went from being seen as an exotic Other in the beginning of the 18th century to a symbol of barbarism and brutality by the end. In addition, he holds that any concessions made by the British government to the American Indians, such as the 1763 Proclamation or the 1774 Quebec Act, had as their primary objective the cementing of Crown control in the colonies and were not, in fact, born of humanitarian motives.
Bickham’s book is divided into four main parts, each of which is broken down further into chapters. While the parts are arranged in some semblance of chronological order, there is also a notable thematic distinction between them. Part One gives an overview of the ways in which Britons engaged with American Indian cultures during the 18th century, with an emphasis on the period prior to and during the Seven Years War. The first chapter here focuses on visible and physical encounters, including visiting delegations from the Thirteen Colonies as well as the collection and trade of cultural artifacts in museums and auction houses throughout the country. The second chapter shifts gears to look specifically at print descriptions of the American Indians, and it is here that Bickham’s preference for newspapers and periodicals over other written sources first becomes apparent. Having established this, in Part Two, Bickham continues his historical survey. The book’s third chapter examines how British policy towards the American Indians was affected by the events of the Seven Years War, while the fourth continues with an analysis of the specific implementation and implications of a new colonial policy that took Britain’s expanded territory into account. After this, in Part Three, Bickham shifts his focus to some of the significant intellectual movements of the 18th century. The fifth chapter, then, addresses the Scottish Enlightenment, examining how the thinkers therein perceived the American Indians in light of their own theories and conjectural histories. Following this, the sixth chapter looks at Anglican missionary efforts among the American Indians, noting especially a relative pessimism that led to many missionaries shifting their focus to the English colonists. Finally, Part Four consists of a single, final chapter that emphasizes the British perception of American Indians during the American Revolutionary War, and it is at this point that the full evolution is now clear.
To conduct his historical survey and analysis in this book, Bickham draws upon a wide variety of sources, with a preference for primary documents. Over the course of his research, Bickham has used newspaper and periodical articles, official and private correspondence, and travelogues and memoirs in order to access the ways in which 18th century Britons came across descriptions of the American Indians. His primary objective here has been to utilize as wide a variety of sources as possible: “After all, few, if any, Britons relied on just one account to form their views of Indians; in fact, to do so would have been rather difficult” (64). This is a commendable choice and rationale; as a reader, I am given the impression that Bickham’s analysis will be thorough and will not deviate from what is readily apparent in the primary source evidence. From either the stance of historical analysis or socio-political thought, it is appropriate to draw on period documents to allow the evidence to speak for itself within its original context.
Not only does he favour primary sources in his research, but Bickham also endeavours to pinpoint which types of sources played a more significant role in the formation of a public image of the American Indians. As far as this study is concerned, Bickham sets himself apart as from his fellow historians, and is, in fact, very critical of their approach. For example, he notes that a number of earlier studies on the subject of the American Indians in the 18th century relied heavily on memoirs written by traders and white colonists who had survived Indian captivity. These accounts, he says, should not be used as the main source of information due to what he has found to be the memoirs’ relatively small influence on the lives of ordinary Britons (59). Instead, Bickham is a vocal advocate of the newspaper and periodical press, using as the basis for his claim the fact that, from a statistical perspective, more people in Britain had access to the newspapers than books, memoirs, museums, and public displays of visiting Indians (68). While I cannot fault him for the rationale behind this choice, I find some of his remarks relating to his fellow historians to be excessively antagonistic:
Despite historians’ tendencies to rely on these texts for insights into British perceptions of Indians, the case for treating such specialized works as representative of wider eighteenth-century British attitudes towards American Indians is not a good one. (57)
Bickham himself writes that a wide variety of sources and contexts would more accurately reflect the diverse range of sources actually available to 18th century urban Britons (64). Given this, while a preference for some media over others is understandable, particularly when it is supported with statistical evidence, it is contradictory on Bickham’s part to discount any particular type of primary evidence as insignificant in light of the nature of his study.
In its entirety, Savages within the Empire is a very thorough account of the developing image of American Indians in the public consciousness of 18th century Britain. Bickham tries to cover a wide variety of historical contexts in his work, and also succinctly supports his arguments with examples from his primary sources. By presenting his ideas in a generally chronological order, he is able to show a steady evolution of the popular perceptions of American Indians. For example, he begins with the exoticized displays of visiting Indian delegations in the early 18th century, where a number of them were initially shown as being equivalent in culture and appearance as peoples from the Middle East (26-27), and then shows a shift in the mid-18th century to a more authentic and accurate representation of later delegations in terms of cultural symbols and modes of dress (31). By the time I have finished reading the book with its culmination in the fear the Britons had of the American Indians during the time of the American Revolutionary War, the impression has undergone a series of ups and downs: sometimes improving, sometimes souring. This would not have been as readily apparent in the use of any other order or organization, and thus substantially helps Bickham to convey his main argument to the reader.
However, thorough as this book is, it comes across to me as more a historical survey than a seminal text on socio-political thought of the period. While there is no doubt that Bickham’s goal has been to describe the evolution of perceptions of American Indians rather than to chart a series of historical events, there is little here that actually grounds his arguments in the existing socio-political thought on race and colonialism of the period. This can be attributed in part to an assumption on his part that the reader would already be well-read in 18th century colonial philosophy. For instance, he makes a passing reference to Locke: “Neither the British public, nor the government for that matter, took much interest in the Lockean position that Indians’ failure to adequately ‘improve’ their lands through European-style agriculture precluded them from claiming legitimate ownership” (88). Bickham simply refers to the idea as the “Lockean position”; although he does offer a brief reiteration of Locke’s idea, it appears that this note was meant more as a reminder than an explanation. The reader is meant to recognize, upon reading the words “Lockean position”, what is meant by Locke and his ideas. For scholars in socio-political thought, or even in the 18th century Enlightenment, this is an appropriate assumption to make. However, for those who are reading this text out of an interest specifically in British colonial history or the American Indians in particular, a more thorough reiteration of Locke’s core ideas would be helpful.
Later, he also utilizes Rousseau’s conception of the noble savage. The concept of the noble savage, in fact, predates Rousseau. Bickham traces it back to Tacitus’ description of the Germanic tribesmen in the Roman Empire, but does concede that it is Rousseau’s definition that had the greatest influence in the 18th century (93). However, he argues that this did not feature prominently, and was even publically dismissed, by the 1760s due to the events of the Seven Years War (93). There is substantial historical evidence to suggest this, which Bickham lays out in detail in his text, suggesting that the Britons’ conception of American Indians as romanticized Others with inherently noble characteristics changed dramatically once news of their violent tactics in warfare against British regular soldiers and American colonists reached Britain itself (93). This, he argues, is related to the fact that portraying the American Indians, many of whom were allied with the French against the British, as villainous savages was useful in generating patriotic fervour and enthusiasm in the Seven Years War, and it is an attitude that persists throughout the rest of the 18th century. Because of this historical pattern, Bickham downplays Rousseau’s theory of the noble savage, preferring instead to examine the role that British colonial policy had to play in representations of the American Indians. These two instances – the incorporation of Locke and Rousseau into his argument – serve as clear indications that Bickham is writing for an audience that would already be familiar with socio-political thought of the 18th century. Yet they are two of only a few instances where Bickham directly mentions the socio-political theorists that form the foundation for his study. As previously stated, the tone and approach in his study lean more towards a historical survey of the description of the developments in Britons’ perceptions of the American Indians. 
However, there is a key exception to this pattern: Part Three of the book, where Bickham directly addresses the Scottish Enlightenment and the implications that the American Indians’ situation had on the thinkers of the movement. Given this, he is very thorough in his explanation of the significant ideas from the Scottish Enlightenment, with a focus on conjectural history. For example, Bickham notes that unlike “Locke, Hobbes, and Rousseau, who all started their examinations of society with the ‘condition of nature’”, the Scots began with a primitive version of man that already had the beginnings of a social structure (178). By using this as the beginning of their progressive model, the Scottish Enlightenment thinkers situated the American Indians at a similar point in temporal space to the Ancient Celts that were their own ancestors (185). Bickham expresses concern at the implications of this outcome, reflecting that even if the Scots themselves did not espouse racist ideologies – “the association of these works with any sort of proto-racism in the modern sense is tenuous at best” – their ideas could easily be used for such ends by others (197-198). Granted, in his analysis of the Scottish Enlightenment, Bickham acknowledges that ideas that would now be called racist did exist at the time, and that the Scottish Enlightenment had its own responsibility for portraying the American Indians as living in an earlier stage of human development (199). More importantly, he points out that an unfortunate implication of this mode of thinking has been the assumption that the American Indians were already so far behind Europeans in their development that no feasible means of closing the gap through civilizing means could be found (200).
Note, however, that in spite of this implication in the Scottish Enlightenment philosophies, Bickham argues against labelling the movement itself as “proto-racism”, as he terms it. Writing from a 21st century perspective in a post-colonial time, it is certainly tempting to portray European thinkers from the time of British imperialism as backward racists who called for the wholesale appropriation of indigenous land. In contrast, Bickham is able to see the risks in viewing 18th century philosophies through solely 21st century eyes that have been influenced by political correctness and post-colonialism. It is clear in his style and manner of prose that Bickham is attempting to maintain a neutral stance on this particular subject. In his descriptions of Enlightenment thinkers’ thoughts on American Indians’ place in human civilization and development, for example, he adopts a matter-of-fact tone that befits his handling of an unpleasant and potentially controversial subject. He does not shy away from the fact that these ideas placed the American Indians at a distinct disadvantage compared to their European counterparts, forever relegating them to the realm of primitive savagery. In fact, Bickham is cautious about stepping too far into presenting the American Indians in terms of the relatively positive and sympathetic stereotype of the noble savage, criticizing those other scholars who adopt this route:
Unfortunately scholars have exaggerated eighteenth-century attempts to portray Indians either as noble savages or at least sympathetically. This has resulted primarily from their tendency to concentrate on a narrow range of travel accounts and novels, in which Indians are often treated positively, as representative of British sentiments as a whole. (92)
The reason for this stance on more sympathetic interpretations of 18th century thinkers is that Bickham holds that they would not fit into the historical context with which he is working (197). 
There is, in Bickham’s argument, no denying that the British policy towards the American Indians rested entirely upon their role in the political and military stability of the Empire. The ideology behind colonial policy of the 18th century, therefore, lies not in grandiose ideas about race, but in the usefulness either sympathy with or hostility towards the colonized peoples had in serving the needs of the imperial powers that be at home. However, this is not to say that Bickham discounts racial difference entirely in his argument: it does appear in his approach, but in a subtle way that hints at a greater complexity. For instance, in his discussion of the British perceptions of American Indians during the American Revolutionary War, Bickham provides evidence that, compared to the Seven Years War twenty years prior, the British public was reluctant to see their government deploy Indian allies against the rebels (258). This he attributes to feelings of sameness and otherness in the Britons’ perspective, with the American rebels being more similar to themselves than any of Britain’s traditional rivals from the Seven Years War (271). Because of this feeling of similarity, the British public held the use of Indian modes of warfare, already linked with indiscriminate violence against soldier and civilian alike in their minds, upon those who would fight against the Empire from within. It is a break from Bickham’s previous argument focused on imperial efficiency and expediency, but serves to further highlight the negative turn opinions on the American Indians had taken since the days of their depiction as noble savages in the early 18th century.
Overall, Savages within the Empire by Bickham is a fitting example of an in-depth examination of the development of an imperial society’s views of the Other. His argument and explanation is conducted using clear language, with many examples to support his ideas. In addition, his strong emphasis on and firm foundation in primary sources can only help his argument. Each time he uses examples, he is sure to provide a thorough analysis, and his reasoning does not seem exaggerated or far-fetched. While his insistence on favouring newspaper and periodical evidence over memoirs, novels, travelogues, and museum and private collections can come across as unnecessarily pedantic – and even unscholarly – to some readers, it does offer him the opportunity to utilize less conventional avenues for his evidence. This, in terms of the broader field of the study of American Indians and British colonization of North America, is a fruitful endeavour that can potentially offer a broader perspective through its use of a more widely prevalent source of information.
However, as a text for those interested in socio-political thought and philosophy, Bickham falls short in his portrayal of the ideas prevalent in the 18th century. It is my impression, having read this text, that a theoretical analysis is not his primary objective. Instead, Bickham chooses to operate on the assumption that his readers would already be familiar with the ideas of philosophers such as Locke, Rousseau, and the Scottish Enlightenment thinkers. In addition, the majority of his book is not focused on socio-political thought in and of itself, but on the depictions and representations of American Indians in 18th century Britain from which such philosophies could be inferred by those knowledgeable in the intellectual movements of the era. The information and data are provided in very clear detail, but the reader is left to ask themselves how 18th century philosophies figured in popular perceptions, if at all.

Bickham, Troy. Savages within the Empire: Representations of American Indians in Eighteenth-Century Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Print