UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Political economy and higher education in the nineteenth century Maritime Provinces Darville, Richard Tulloss


This study in the sociology of knowledge investigates how intellectual practices, especially those associated with higher education, contributed to create successive forms of ruling. It focuses on 'ruling ideas' in the active shaping of hegemony, dealing empirically with the British North American Maritime colonies before the mid-nineteenth century. Dominant colonial oligarchies there representing and living off British mercantile and state interests were supplanted by an indigenous petit bourgeoisie. Economically this transformation was accomplished through the development of local enterprises in agriculture, small manufacturing, fishing and regional trade. Representatives from communities based on such enterprises sought state financial and legal rights, and eventually an expropriation of oligarchical powers and a thorough control of the state, through responsible government. In domination and its transformation, ruling ideas and higher education took active part. Colleges opened up to sons of the dominant classes the 'highest positions' in the society, the state and the professions — those in these positions managed the social organization, the legal, medical, religious and political boundaries of life by providing the intellectual skills and credentials required for their practice. The educated made explicit political ideology, justifying rule, among rulers and to their subordinates. Education contributed to form the boundary of authority, demarcating those with speaking rights from those whose ignorance rendered them without authority. Colleges were one context of relationship among those who ruled. Imperial planning for the colonies intended an ideological hegemony, organized through Church and King's Colleges (Windsor and Fredericton). Anglican ideologists' societal image joined orthodoxy, loyalty and social order, and pitted against them religious dissent, political subversion and social chaos. They used epithets of 'ignorance' in denying the authority of religious and political speech to those beyond the (educated) oligarchy. But in their actual circumstances, organizationally incapable of winning the settlers, confronted by an expanding locally grounded ideological organization, the Anglican Church and colleges abandoned hegemonic intentions and became exclusive bastions. Meanwhile, educated preachers, journalists and politicians representative of the rising bourgeoisie engaged in work consequential for that class' movement into ruling. By explicit instruction they propagated the technical capability and moral discipline required by upright entrepreneurs. In forming developed church organizations, opposed to evangelistic religious practice, they furthered the self-control, quashing temptations to ecstasy and inarticulateness, appropriate to a class whose members controlled production. They argued and organized for liberal political practices. They self-consciously worked to form that abstract consciousness which understood events as significant not locally but within the formal state organization. The academies and colleges of dissenters and Catholics taught the intellectual skills, and created the sense of legitimacy and the personal interconnections, which fitted men for the highest positions. In building churches and schools for this work, the bourgeois intelligentsia confronted the resistant oligarchically-dominated state, and so joined movements for its transformation. When local representatives acquired state power, they legislatively allowed an apparatus of higher education that was as extensive and as pluralistic as the economic development and the religious organization of each of the provinces: in Nova Scotia, Pictou Academy, Dalhousie, St. Mary's and St. Francis Xavier; in New Brunswick, Mt. Allison, the University of New Brunswick and the College St. Joseph; in Prince Edward Island, the Charlottetown Academy and St. Dunstan's. The colleges' governance and finance clearly tied them to dominant classes. Before 1850, collegiate curriculum and instruction were traditionally classical, although between aristocratic and bourgeois colleges conceptions of what students acquired shifted, from gentlemanly character to useful mental powers. Correspondingly emphasis moved from the hermetic purity of knowledge to its service in fitting men for active employments.

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