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A FOSTERED DREAM: THE LURE OF THE PEACE RIVER COUNTRY 1872-1914

Leonard, David W. and Victoria L. Lemieux
Calgary, Detselig Enterprises, 1992.195pp, cloth, $29.95, ISBN 1-55059-044-8. CIP


Adult

Reviewed by John Harkness

Volume 21 Number 2
1993 March


At first glance this volume has all the appearance of a glossy coffee table book. The title, however, is obscure and, on further investigation, the material is much the same. Where is "the Peace River Country" located? Once labelled the "Last Great West," it is here described as part of the "great lone land" between Manitoba and the Rocky Mountains, more specifically the land lying east of the Rockies and west of Lesser Slave Lake.

In 1908 the land was described as a mixture of woods, swamps, lakes, parklands, prairies and hills, much of it unsuitable for agriculture. Yet many settlers were to find their various ways to it during the period covered in this book. This may be easy for some to picture, but not for this reviewer. I needed a map of Canada to show me this area in relation to the whole country. Though many maps and survey drawings are included throughout the book, that one map was missing.

The text of the volume is the result of detailed research in archives throughout Canada. Much of this text is made up of previously unpublished diaries, letters and government documents. The authors, both archivists from the province of Alberta, have included over 170 black-and-white and colour photographs, both archival and contemporary, many of which also have never been published before.

I feel this is a book with a limited appeal. A book by archivists for archivists? The geographical area and the time period covered are minimal. People who live in the Peace River country will no doubt find some fascination for this delving into the beginning of their homeland, and students of rural settlement in Canada will find items of interest. For the rest I fear it is rather a bore.


John Harkness teaches history at Emery Collegiate Institute in North 'York, Ontario
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