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.
Ruth Bleasdale is an assistant professor in the Department of History at Dalhousie University.
Tables Maps and Illustrations Introduction 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 Conclusion 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 ) Select Bibliography