In Idea of Liberty in Canada during the Age of Atlantic Revolutions, 1776-1838, Michel Ducharme shows that Canadian intellectual and political history between the American Revolution and the Upper and Lower Canada rebellions of 1837-38 can be better understood by considering it in relation to the broad framework of revolution in the Atlantic world between 1776 and 1838. Inspired by intellectual histories of the Atlantic world, Ducharme goes beyond the scholarly focus on Atlantic republicanism to present the rebellions of 1837-38 as a confrontation between two very different concepts of liberty. He uses these concepts as lenses through which to read colonial ideological conflict. Ducharme traces political discourse in both colonies, showing how the differing fates and influence of republican and constitutional notions of liberty affected state development. He also pursues a number of important revisionist historical claims, including the idea that nationalist politics were not at issue in the period and that "responsible government" was never a Patriote party platform or interest. Taking a wider view allows Ducharme to provide a solid understanding of the ideological substance of political conflict and shows that, starting in 1791, Canadian colonial political culture revolved around an ideal of liberty that differed from the liberty at work within the revolutionary movements of the late eighteenth century but was nonetheless born of the Enlightenment.
Michel Ducharme is assistant professor in the Department of History at the University of British Columbia.
" … for today's young scholars, it is imperative to have a sense of the historical development of how society evolved in the New World so as to be able to compare and contrast what happened in the past with what is currently occurring in society. Indeed, Ducharme's valiant efforts do much to provide the necessary background for achieving this goal." American Review of Canadian Studies
"The Idea of Liberty puts forward a thought-provoking and convincing reinterpretation of the intellectual history of late eighteenth-and early nineteenth-century Quebec and Ontario. It also provides a new approach to the origins, course, and outcome of th
“A thoroughly researched, well-argued, and well-written book. Highly recommended.” Choice
"This will be an unavoidable text in the literature on the history of ideas in Quebec." Ollivier Hubert, Département d'histoire, Université de Montréal
"The Idea of Liberty presents an intriguing and well-argued case for the importance of differing ideas of liberty in the lead-up to the Upper and Lower Canada rebellions. Ducharme’s use of an Atlantic perspective contextualizes the rebellions in a way tha
"Ducharme writes clearly and lucidly; his presentation of the material is straightforward and accessible, and the work is refreshingly balanced. I was impressed with his ability to point directly to the sources of inspiration of colonial political writers. He presents readers with a considerable amount of original documentary material, much of it, especially for Lower Canada, relatively little known. We have learned a great deal from Greer's Patriots and the People about the struggles from below that lead to 1837. Ducharme offers a major advance in our understanding about struggles from above. This book will be agenda-setting." Bruce Curtis, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University