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Biography & Autobiography Native Americans

The Audacity of His Enterprise

Louis Riel and the Métis Nation That Canada Never Was, 1840-1875

by (author) M. Max Hamon

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
Jan 2020
Native Americans, Historical, General, Indigenous Studies
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2020
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jan 2020
    List Price

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Louis Riel (1844-1885) was an iconic figure in Canadian history best known for his roles in the Red River Resistance of 1869 and the Northwest Resistance of 1885. A political leader of the Métis people of the Canadian Prairies, Riel is often portrayed as a rebel. Reconstructing his experiences in the Northwest, Quebec, and the worlds in between, Max Hamon revisits Riel's life through his own eyes, illuminating how he and the Métis were much more involved in state-making than historians have previously acknowledged. Questioning the drama of resistance, The Audacity of His Enterprise highlights Riel's part in the negotiations, petition claims, and legal battles that led to the formation of the state from the bottom up. Hamon examines Riel's early successes and his participation in the crafting of a new political environment in the Northwest and Canada. Arguing that Riel viewed the Métis as a distinct people, not caught between worlds, the book demonstrates Riel's attempts to integrate multiple perspectives - Indigenous, French-Canadian, American, and British - into a new political environment. Choosing to end the book in 1875, at the pinnacle of Riel's successful career as a political leader, rather than at his death in 1885, Hamon sets out to recover Riel's agency, intentions, and imagination, all of which have until now been displaced by colonial narratives and the shadow of his execution. Revisiting the Red River Resistance on its 150th anniversary, The Audacity of His Enterprise offers a new view of Riel's life and a rethinking of the history of colonialism.

About the author

M. Max Hamon is a lecturer and research affiliate at McGill University and a lecturer in the Department of History at Queen's University.

M. Max Hamon's profile page


  • Winner, Le prix de l’Assemblée nationale du Québec
  • Short-listed, The Mavis Gallant Prize for Non-Fiction
  • Winner, Wilson Book Prize

Editorial Reviews

"The Audacity of His Enterprise is a sophisticated and humanizing biography of an iconic figure in Canadian history set within the context of his times." Jean Barman, University of British Columbia and author of Iroquois in the West

"Hamon has produced a biography of innovative and constructive insight, which will reshape how we view the historic importance and contribution of Louis Riel." Prairie History

"This book approaches Louis Riel's story in a fresh and innovative way. The sensational aspects of Riel's life -- the Red River Resistance of 1869-70 and the battles and trial of 1885 -- have drawn the most attention. But Max Hamon follows another path, ... illuminating many previously obscure corners of Riel's first thirty years." Canadian Historical Review

"This is the most insightful biography of Louis Riel to date. Finally we have a biography that actually seeks to explore parts of Riel's life in a way that is inquisitive and that provokes reflection. Compared to some earlier efforts, it's a welcome relief. Riel is arguably one of the most famous men in Canadian history, but he is also poorly understood. Hamon has added an array of useful analysis and information to the Riel canon. The book is well-researched with new material, and it is well worth the read." Canada's History

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