The Dominion of Nature: Environmental Histories of the Confederation Era

Sir John A Macdonald, Charlottetown. Photo: Canada Alive

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“The Dominion of Nature” is a workshop held at UPEI, in Charlottetown, to discuss environmental histories of the Confederation era. The organizers are Profs. Alan MacEachern (Western) and Edward MacDonald (UPEI).


How did nature figure into Canadian Confederation? From its creation in 1867 through a series of subsequent expansions, Canada swiftly became one of the largest nations in the world. Ideas about scale, resources, property, mobility, and environment certainly figured into the nation’s consolidation and articulation, yet rarely do such topics appear in histories of the Confederation era. And conversely, “Confederation” does not appear in the index of three recently-published Canadian environmental history surveys. Bringing the methods, practices, and sources of environmental history to bear on the standard Canadian history narrative may well enrich not only that narrative but also the emerging national environmental history one.

In time for the sesquicentennial of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference that was a first step to Confederation, NiCHE: Network in Canadian History & Environment / Nouvelle initiative canadienne en histoire de l’environnement and the University of Prince Edward Island are hosting “The Dominion of Nature: Environmental Histories of the Confederation Era,” a workshop to be held in Charlottetown, PEI on 31 July and 1 August 2014. Participants will workshop pre-circulated essays, moving toward the publication of an edited collection by 2016.

For more of the inspirations and motivations behind this workshop see this Otter post by Alan MacEachern.


The program (updated to 31 July) is available to download here DoN program, 2014 07 20:

Or read online:

The workshop begins at 9am, in McDougall Hall room 243, onThursday, 31 July. A map of UPEI can be found here:

Keynote: John R. Gillis “Islands as Waterlands,”
7 pm, Friday 1 August, McDougall Hall room 243


The draft papers (updated to 31 July) are available at the following site: See conference organizers for the password. An introduction will be written by Alan MacEachern and Ed MacDonald after the workshop.

Presentations: Participants should be prepared to introduce their essays, but for 10 minutes maximum. (A pithy, tweet-y 140-character synopsis would also be in order. And fun.) There will be a computer & projector; if you have a Powerpoint, please load at the beginning of the day.

Discussion: Participants are asked to be ready to discuss the essays and help the contributors stretch them to answer the workshop’s central questions: how does this history shape the Confederation, the new country that transpired? how did Confederation shape it?

Online/social media discussion: Josh MacFadyen will be tweeting the event and each author’s summaries with the hashtags #DoN2014  #envhist and #PEI2014

Local Arrangements

The event runs from 9am Thursday, 31 July to roughly 3pm Friday, 1 August. That Friday evening, John Gillis will give a talk that bridges our workshop & the Northeast & Atlantic Canada Environmental History Forum which meets on Saturday. If interested in attending NACEHF, please register.

Weather: local (Charlottetown) weather is excellent this week. There may be thundershowers on Thursday morning, but the average highs are 26 degrees and there is no rain in the forecast after Thursday morning. Bring sunscreen!

Local events: in part because of the sesquicentennial of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference, PEI is the site of a free 70-day cultural festival. The “celebration zone” as they call it, is located at Confederation Landing on the Charlottetown waterfront. A detailed schedule of events is available at

Breakfast: For participants staying on campus, breakfast will be at Wanda Wyatt Dining Hall. A map of UPEI can be found here:

Wifi access on campus is:
Network: upeiconfserv
Password: upei4summer
Accommodations: Participants were responsible for booking their own accommodations, although a limited block of rooms was set aside for DoN and NACEHF participants. To book a room for DoN (or both), please call 902 566 0442 and cite Event Number 9714. You will be expected to provide credit card information. Breakfast (cafeteria-style dining) can be added to your room booking at $7.00 per person + HST, but I’m told that you can also pay cash at the counter.
Three residences are available to you. You can find out more about them at but Ed has summarized them as follows:
  • 5 apartments at Blanchard Hall. This is an apartment-style complex situated on the southern border of campus, hard against Belvedere Avenue. It was built in the early 1970s but has recently been renovated. From there to the main quad is about a five minute walk uphill. These apartments feature a full kitchen with two bedrooms. Each bedroom has two single beds. TV provided. Cost is $108 per unit + HST [i.e. 14%}. So, in theory, four people could share an apartment, save NiCHE lots of money to do other stuff, and either form lifelong friendships or destroy them.
  • 6 suites at Andrew Hall. This is the newest residence on campus, built ca. 2006. These contain one bedroom with a double bed and a private bath + a kitchenette. The rooms are quite nice, but obviously work best for couples or a single person. It is very close to where we will be meeting and connects underground to the Wanda Wyatt Dining Hall, where breakfast is available. Cost is $108 per unit + HST
  • multiple rooms in Bernardine Hall. Built in the late 1960s, this was originally a women’s residence and each room shares a bathroom, shower door manufacturers installed beautiful glass doors. Each double room contains two single beds. The cost is $47 for one person, or $62 double occupancy + HST. This residence was also renovated about a decade ago. Of the 3, this is probably the most spartan [e.g. no TV in the rooms and shared bath], but it has a great location. It is adjacent to Wanda Wyatt Dining Hall and to McDougall Hall, the location of our meeting room.
If you care to stay off-campus, there are a number of motels and hotels within a 1.5 mile radius. Of course, in every case they will cost more and since the time is at the very height of the tourist season, availability may be an issue.
Please email Ed at if you have questions or concerns.

NiCHE event page

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