All Things in Common: A Canadian Family and Its Island Utopia
Published: June 2021© 2021
224 Pages, 5.50 x 8.50 x 0.65 in, 16 b&w illustrations
In the first decade of the twentieth century, a few closely related families established a utopian community in Canada’s smallest province. Known officially as B. Compton Limited but described by a journalist in 1935 as "Prince Edward Island’s unique ‘brotherly love’ community," this utopia owed its longevity to the cohesion provided by its communal organization, dense kin ties, and long-held millenarianism – and to a decidedly pragmatic approach to business.
All Things in Common demonstrates how "un-utopian" such a community could be while problematizing the contention that the inevitable end of all utopian experiments is a full-blown dystopia. Beginning with a compelling backstory and locating the Compton community in the historiography of North American utopias, the author goes on to explore the community’s business endeavours, its religious, familial, and transgressive aspects, and its brief period of international fame before assessing the factors that led to its dissolution in 1947. Providing a strong narrative framework, All Things in Common draws on rich family and archival records and diverse secondary sources, concluding with a consideration of the community’s legacy for its alumni and their descendants.
Part One: Unsettled Maritimers
1. Loyalist William and His Namesake in the Maritime Colonies: “Movement became a habit”
2. The Comptons and Colonial Prince Edward Island: Settlement and Spirituality
3. On the Road Again: Sojourners and Religious Renegades in the Post-Confederation Era
Part Two: “Prince Edward Island’s Unique ‘Brotherly Love’ Community”
4. The Founding and Growth of an Island Utopia
5. Living in Community: Family, Faith, and Fame
6. Restiveness Within, Pressures from Without: The Road to Dissolution
7. Life beyond Community: Diverse Paths in an Era of Change
"All Things in Common traces meticulously the migration patterns and religious influences that shaped the utopian enterprise in twentieth-century Prince Edward Island known as B. Compton Limited, and portrays compellingly its intricate dynamics. Ruth Compton Brouwer has crafted a study of family and communitarianism that has wide-ranging importance, just as in its day the community itself attracted international attention."John Reid, Professor Emeritus of History, Saint Mary’s University
"A flowing narrative about personalities, lives, loves, successes, setbacks, and just plain carrying on, as ordinary people do, everywhere and in all times, this is an exemplar of the trickiest of all achievements: a compelling personal history that is also a significant scholarly contribution."Cynthia Comacchio, Professor of History, Wilfrid Laurier University
"Written with wisdom, grace, and an understated wit, All Things in Common demonstrates a rare gift for marrying the local with the universal. In doing so, Ruth Compton Brouwer makes a significant contribution to the study of utopian communities, to rural history in Canada, and to the historiography of Prince Edward Island."Edward MacDonald, Professor of History and Classics, University of Prince Edward Island
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