Thursday, February 16, 2017

Red River Court Records

Readers interested in indigeneity, the North American west, and Canadian legal history will find rich primary-source material in a volume published by McGill-Queen’s University Press in 2015. The publisher calls Law, Life and Government at Red River, Volume 2, edited by the University of Manitoba’s Dale Gibson, “a new view of frontier justice in western Canada’s first major settlement through the eyes of its courts and witnesses.” 

Here’s more:  
Law, Life, and Government at Red River, Volume 2Inhabited by a diverse population of First Nations peoples, Métis, Scots, Upper and Lower Canadians, and Americans, and dominated by the commercial and governmental activities of the Hudson’s Bay Company, Red River - now Winnipeg - was a challenging settlement to oversee. This illuminating account presents the story of the unique legal and governmental system that attempted to do so and the mixed success it encountered, culminating in the 1869-70 Red River Rebellion and confederation with Canada in 1870. 
In Law, Life, and Government at Red River, Dale Gibson provides rich, revealing glimpses into the community, and its complex relations with the Hudson’s Bay: the colony’s owner, and primary employer. Volume 2 provides a complete annotated, and never-before-published transcription of testimony from Red River’s courts, presenting hundreds of vignettes of frontier life, the cases that were brought before the courts, and the ways in which the courts resolved conflicts. 
A vivid look into early settler life, Law, Life, and Government at Red River offers insights into the political, commercial, and legal circumstances that unfolded during western expansion.
Praise for the book:

“The comprehensiveness of Law, Life, and Government at Red River provides an excellent, all-in-one, legally focused discussion for researchers in the fields of legal history, Canadian history, colonial histories of the British Empire, and aboriginal law.” -Janna Promislow

"The legal perspective offers a fresh approach to a subject that historians have covered extensively. Recommended." -Choice

"In [Gibson’s work] there appear to be no prejudices or presumptions, the absence of which is a sign of both scholarship and academic discipline. Gibson's lengthy tome is sound social observance. The first volume is a retelling of Red River's history especially as it relates to law and government, including key cases. The second volume is something that has never been done: the publication of the complete official court records of the General Quarterly Court of Assiniboia from 1844 to 1872, with commentary. This volume is a catalogue of human experiences in frontier life, from the tragic to the comical." -Winnipeg Free Press

Further information is available here.