Rough Work: Labourers on the Public Works of British North America and Canada, 1841–1882
The labourers at the heart of this study built the canals and railways undertaken as public works by the colonial governments of British North America and the federal government of Canada between 1841 and 1882.
Ruth Bleasdale’s fascinating journey into the little-known lives of these labourers and their families reveals how capital, labour and the state came together to build the transportation infrastructure that linked colonies and united an emerging nation. Combining census and community records, government documents, and newspaper archives Bleasdale elucidates the ways in which successive governments and branches of the state intervened between labour and capital and in labourers’ lives. Case studies capture the remarkable diversity across regions and time in a labour force drawn from local and international labour markets. The stories here illuminate the ways in which men and women experienced the emergence of industrial capitalism and the complex ties which bound them to local and transnational communities. Rough Work is an accessibly written yet rigorous study of the galvanization of a major segment of Canada’s labour force over four decades of social and economic transformation.
- Series: Canadian Social History Series
- World Rights
- Page Count: 416 pages
- Dimensions: 5.6in x 0.8in x 8.5in
"Rough Work combines exhaustive research with sophisticated analysis, informed by wide-ranging, up-to-date historiographical and comparative literature. It is, in fact, one of the best pieces of scholarship on nineteenth-century Canadian social history that I have read in many years."
Craig Heron, Department of History, York University
"Targeted at academic researchers interested in nineteenth-century Canada, Rough Work weaves together an incredibly impressive array of primary source materials, gathered over a considerable time period, into a well-constructed and convincing narrative. Shedding light on issues including wage rates and health and safety experiences, Rough Work covers so much ground, and over such an extended sweep of time, that the end result impressively captures the experiences of labourers on the public works of British North America over an approximately forty year period in the mid-nineteenth century."
Rob Kristofferson, Department of History, Wilfrid Laurier University
Author InformationRuth Bleasdale is an assistant professor in the Department of History at Dalhousie University.
Table of contents
Maps and Illustrations
Chapter One: Contracting on Public Works, 1841-1882
Chapter Two: The Labour Force
Chapter Three: The Work
Chapter Four: The Living
Chapter Five: Boundaries of Belonging, 1840s and 1850s
Chapter Six: Redefining the Boundaries of Belonging through the 1870s
Chapter Seven: Defining a Community of Interests, 1840s and 1850s
Chapter Eight: Labour Unity and Militance on Public Works through the 1870s
Appendix A: Location of Contracts on the Intercolonial Railway and Third Welland Canal
Appendix B: Work and Wages (Tables 1-5)
Appendix C: Strikes on Public Works (Tables 5-7 )
Awards2018 Wilson Book Prize awarded by the Wilson Institute for Canadian History - Short-listed in 2019
Subjects and Courses