- Crossing Borders, Changing Worlds: Eighteenth-Century Nova Scotia’s Atlantic Connections
At the dawn of the eighteenth century, “Nova Scotia” was little more than a name on a map. On the ground, the colony was l’Acadie to the French, or Mi’kma’ki to the region’s most powerful inhabitants, the Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik. By the end of the century, the British had secured Nova Scotia by expelling most of the region’s French inhabitants, welcoming thousands of loyal subjects who fled the rebelling American colonies, and overpowering the local Mi’kmaq. This shift occurred during a truly Atlantic period in Nova Scotia’s history. Cis-Atlantic history, described by David Armitage as “the history of any specific place … in relation to the wider Atlantic word,” including “the local effects of oceanic movements,” provides an excellent framework for investigating this era (2002, 22–23). Nova Scotia/l’Acadie, a place whose changes were so great and whose history is so intertwined with the complex shifts of America, France, Britain, and Mi’kma’ki, offers rich ground for the Atlantic world historian.
Recent works are questioning the sustainability of the Atlantic world framework. Historians attracted to global perspectives are calling for a more encompassing approach to historical investigation: Linda Colley has argued that “the future of the Atlantic past must now be in some doubt,” anticipating Atlantic history’s [End Page 213] incorporation into world history (2006 , 45); Alison Games recently suggested that “though historians may limit themselves to a single oceanic basin, inhabitants of the early modern world did not” (2006 , 692; see also Wigen et al. 2006); John Reid takes issue with Atlantic history’s exclusion of Aboriginals (2005); and finally, an upcoming symposium entitled “British Asia and the British Atlantic, 1500–1820: Two Worlds or One?” will no doubt raise concerns about the framework’s limitations. The four monographs reviewed here suggest, however, that there is still much to be learned about the Atlantic world. As demonstrated by N.E.S. Griffiths, John Mack Faragher, Simon Schama, and Elizabeth Mancke, Nova Scotia in the eighteenth century was influenced by distinctly Atlantic connections that demand historical attention.
In her sweeping and meticulously researched narrative of the pre-Expulsion Acadian experience, N.E.S. Griffiths explores the social, religious, and political world of one of North America’s first European settler populations. From Migrant to Acadian: A North American Border People, 1604–1755 draws from a distinguished career of bilingual research and writing to provide what should become the definitive history of Acadia. Griffiths argues that the Acadian expulsion resulted not from their Catholicism or their possession of the best lands in Nova Scotia, but because they failed to swear an unconditional oath of allegiance to the British Crown and raise arms in its defence (2005, 387). Griffiths argues that the Acadian expulsion was different from other forced removals in the Atlantic World—including the English from Newfoundland in 1697, the French from St. Kitts in 1702 and from Newfoundland in 1715, and the Highland Scots from Scotland after 1745—for three reasons: the number of years it remained a proposition, the influence of neighbouring Massachusetts, and the Acadians’ ability to retain...