UCL Institute of the Americas


Seminar: The American Civil War and Canadian Confederation

16 November 2015, 6:30 pm–8:00 pm

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UCL Institute of the Americas


UCL Institute of the Americas, 51 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PN

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Phillip Buckner (University of New Brunswick) - The American Civil War, Thomas D'Arcy McGee declared in 1864, is 'a true continental crisis; it is a Canadian crisis as well as a Republican crisis, and we can no more escape from its consequences than we can throw up a Chinese wall of exclusion instead of the existing boundary lines'.

This paper examines the influence of the American Civil War on the creation of the Canadian Confederation, with particular reference to two historiographical schools of thought. On the one hand, Canadian historians with a continentalist outlook, such as John Bartlet Brebner, have stressed the development of better relations between the US and Great Britain after the War of 1812 and the 'undefended border' along the 49th parallel and downplayed the role of the US in pushing the British North American colonies towards union. On the other hand, historians such as C P Stacey, stressing the significance of Canada's imperial connexion, have regarded the threat posed by American designs on Canada during and after the Civil War as a major factor in bringing about Confederation. Professor Buckner examines each school of thought before putting forward his own conclusion as to the role of the American Civil War in the making of Canadian Confederation.

Phillip Buckner is Professor Emeritus, University of New Brunswick, and an Honorary Professorial Fellow at the UCL Institute of the Americas. He received his BA from the University of Toronto and his PhD from the University of London and then returned to Canada to teach Canadian history at the University of New Brunswick, where he rose to the rank of full professor. He helped to establish the University of New Brunswick as the centre for the study of Atlantic Canada, creating and editing Acadiensis: Journal of the History of the Atlantic Region. Moving to London in 1999 he was for many years the Director of the Canadian Studies programme at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies. He has written extensively on Atlantic Canada and the British World and is now working on a study of the creation of the Canadian Constitution, 1864-1867.