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Converging Histories: The Gulf of St. Lawrence as an Environmental History Space

Thu, March 30, 10:30am to 12:00pm, The Drake Hotel, Walton No.

Session Submission Type: Panel

Abstract

Most transnational spaces are defined by political boundaries. The Gulf of St. Lawrence is defined by geography. For over a millennia, its strategic location and rich marine resources have drawn a diverse range of interests. It has been destination and gateway, cockpit and crossroads, traversed by fishing fleets and military expeditions, explorers and missionaries, traders and travel writers. From Vinland the Good to the novels of L. M. Montgomery, the Gulf has haunted the Western imagination, making it a worthy subject for environmental history exploration, but until now it has not received dedicated attention from environmental historians. The papers in this panel expose some of the diverse aspects of the Gulf of St. Lawrence as a dynamic and revealing space for transnational environmental history.

Claire Campbell's paper plumbs the cultural reach of the Gulf by deconstructing the environmental history references in the work of internationally renowned author L. M. Montgomery. Suzanne Morton considers the transnational implications of the commodification of the lobster fishery in the southern Gulf in the latter decades of the 19th century, highlighting its transformative impact on marine ecology, local community, and the economic landscape. In tracking the Canadian element in the Gloucester fishing fleet, Matthew McKenzie challenges long-held assumptions about the nature of “national” fisheries, and raises important questions about the consequences of a work force that was particularly transnational in nature: Canadian fishers in American vessels relying on American capital, but fishing on the doorstep of their own homes in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

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