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On His Majesty’s service: George Heriot’s Travels through the Canadas Denny, Carol Elizabeth


George Heriot's, Travels Through The Canadas, Containing a Description of the Picturesque Scenery on some of the Rivers and Lakes; with an account of the Productions, Commerce, and Inhabitants of those Provinces to which is Subjoined a Comparative View of the Manners and Customs of Several of the Indian Nations of North and South America, was first published in London in 1805. Presenting the Canadas in a documentary and picturesque mode, Heriot's Travels since its publication has been valued as an important source of data and information. It has thus participated in and formed part of the received notions concerning Canada and its peoples in the 19th century. My thesis explores how Heriot's Travels constructs and represents Upper and Lower Canada and the diverse inhabitants of these regions. I argue that the text and its illustrations far from providing an objective description, in fact give form to contemporaneous perceptions and values and to aesthetic criteria that had colonialist implications. In particular the thesis examines how the visual material within the publication functions to reinforce or contradict the text's agenda. My contention is that Heriot's aims are much broader than those to which he admitted. For his readers the representation of Canada was tied to prospects of vast expansionist possibilities for British capital, technology, commodities and systems of knowledge. The unacknowledged aims of the book, as elaborated in my thesis were: to confirm the superiority of British rule in comparison to the earlier French administration in Canada; to define the British by a comparison to others, thus marking out existing inhabitants, specifically the French Canadians and First Nations peoples, as simple, indolent and inferior; to tame and commodity Canada through the use of the picturesque, thus ordering and civilizing the landscape for a British audience and would-be immigrants; and, finally, to reinforce Britain's economic claims in British North America. As in other travel writing of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Heriot employs in his representation of Canada the discursive languages of science, taxonomy, technology and ethnology. The picturesque descriptions in text and image work in conjunction with these and serve to demonstrate the role of art and aesthetics in maintaining an established order, and in asserting its classificatory regimes and exclusions. iii

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