In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

384 The Canadian Historical Review rurality; in far too many articles, the major criteria for rural seems to be 'not urban.' This is but one issue Canadian rural historians might tackle, and there are many more. Akenson says it is time to declare victory. This reviewer thinks not yet. DANIEL SAMSON Memorial University ofNewfoundland Winners: 150 Years of the Peterborough Exhibition. ELWOOD H. JONES. Peterborough: Peterborough Agricultural Society 1995. Pp. ix, 262, illus. $30.00 Books about agricultural exhibitions often resemble agricultural exhibitions. The same long lists of winners' names are to be found, paying tribute to the noble livestock, mammoth roots, plump grains, elaborate embroidery, tasty preserves, and all the other productions of town and country. They convey a great many facts, but in relative isolation : it is never quite clear what these animals and products stand for, or how accurately they represent the countryside. The typography, like some of the animals, is wont to stray from its usual confines. Such books are often produced by agricultural societies as an act of reverence , just as the exhibition itself is an act of reverence towards the community. Such a book is Elwood H. Jones's history of the Peterborough Exhibition, which was commissioned by the Peterborough Agricultural Society with the support of private sponsors. The society gave him a free hand, asking only for a history that 'the general public would find attractive and amusing.' Perusing the society's records for the last half century and old newspapers for the century before that, Jones chronicles the day-to-day and year-to-year life of Peterborough's exhibition, from its origins in cattle and fancy fairs to its continuing existence as one of Ontario's favourite annual shows. He records the administrative history of the fair: the decisions about where to stage it, which buildings to erect, and the strategems used to stave off an always imminent financial disaster. He also describes the visitor's experience of the fair, and loses himself in descriptions of its rich material life. The stock at the fair and the oddities to be found on the grounds are all affectionately described: from plough matches and horse races to rodeos and demolition derbies; from beautiful baby to dairy princess competitions; from Pawnees on bicycles ('black dodgers') and a 'Congress of Fat Ladies' to the modern midway that highbrow Robertson Davies dismissed as 'common.' This book is emphatically a work of local history that is rescued from antiquarianism because, as Jones remarks, 'Peterborough was Book Reviews 385 nearly always somehow Ontario's and Canada's average community.' It is also an institutional history that pays only token attention to such external influences as the rise of international exhibitions or the changing economic basis ofthe Peterborough community. Professional historians may be disappointed by the lack of context and of rigorous analysis. Most statements about the meaning of the fair are taken at face value. Terms like 'fair' are not adequately defined, while repetition makes it difficult to follow chronological developments. But a rigorously analytical and intellectual history of the fair would hardly do justice to it. Early organizers tried to make exhibitions intellectual, but financial considerations forced them to cater to popular taste by incorporating eclectic amusements. Winners not only describes but perpetuates within itself the complex, continuing dialogue between popular and professional culture. Jones's book successfully conveys both the benefits and the shortcomings of the conjunction of the popular, professional , and economic interests that resulted in the Peterborough fair. It also provides considerable insight into Ontario culture in the past and the present. E.A. HEAMAN Imperial College, London, England Divergent Paths: How Culture and Institutions Have Shaped North American Growth. MARC EGNAL. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press 1996. Pp. xvi, 300, $26.95 This is a daring work that tackles the daunting task of analysing the reasons for economic growth since 1750 in three major regions in two countries: Quebec and both the American Northeast and South. Today, few historians attempt to study economic growth, and scholars in any field rarely attempt regional comparisons among countries. From his specialized base of early America, Professor Egnal has presented an important comparative challenge to...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 384-385
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.