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The Miramichi Fire

A History

by (author) Alan MacEachern

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
Jul 2020
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2020
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2020
    List Price

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On 7 October 1825, a massive forest fire swept through northeastern New Brunswick, devastating entire communities. When the smoke cleared, it was estimated that the fire had burned across six thousand square miles, one-fifth of the colony. The Miramichi Fire was the largest wildfire ever to occur within the British Empire, one of the largest in North American history, and the largest along the eastern seaboard. Yet despite the international attention and relief efforts it generated, and the ruin it left behind, the fire all but disappeared from public memory by the twentieth century. A masterwork in historical imagination, The Miramichi Fire vividly reconstructs nineteenth-century Canada's greatest natural disaster, meditating on how it was lost to history. First and foremost an environmental history, the book examines the fire in the context of the changing relationships between humans and nature in colonial British North America and New England, while also exploring social memory and the question of how history becomes established, warped, and forgotten. Alan MacEachern explains how the imprecise and conflicting early reports of the fire's range, along with the quick rebound of the forests and economy of New Brunswick, led commentators to believe by the early 1900s that the fire's destruction had been greatly exaggerated. As an exercise in digital history, this book takes advantage of the proliferation of online tools and sources in the twenty-first century to posit an entirely new reading of the past. Resurrecting one of Canada's most famous and yet unexamined natural disasters, The Miramichi Fire traverses a wide range of historical and scientific literatures to bring a more complete story into the light.

About the author

Alan MacEachern grew up on Prince Edward Island and now teaches in the history department at the University of Western Ontario. He is the author of Natural Selections: National Parks in Atlantic Canada, 1935 to 1970.

Alan MacEachern's profile page


  • Short-listed, Atlantic Book Award for Scholarly Writing

Editorial Reviews

"The Miramichi Fire: A History is a book that any New Brunswick historian should welcome. The author injects a little humour here and there to lighten the otherwise serious academic tone of yet another fine volume from McGill-Queen's University Press. It will remain authoritative for years to come." The Miramichi Reader

"Engagingly thorough, written in prose that is judicious, always graceful, and frequently wry, this outstanding history will be the primary reference for the Miramichi Fire indefinitely into the future. Alan MacEachern has reviewed all previously known sources, discovered new ones, and mastered them all." Stephen Pyne, Arizona State University

"MacEachern's accessible writing style makes the book a pleasure to read. The Miramichi Fire benefits enormously from his usual creative turns of phrases and thoughtful prose. In chronicling this benchmark historical event, MacEachern contributes an important chapter to our country's forest history and delivers a valuable lesson in the challenges we face in recounting stories of an environment that is constantly in flux." NiCHE

"This book is a most valuable endeavour. Impressive and astonishing for the great range and wealth of sources on which it rests, The Miramichi Fire throws new light on the history of New Brunswick. Alan MacEachern is an accomplished historian, and I can only admire what he has wrought." Graeme Wynn, University of British Columbia

"With wildfires having recently raged in the Amazon, California, New South Wales, Siberia, and elsewhere, the appearance of Alan MacEachern's The Miramichi Fire is a timely reminder of earlier conflagrations that attracted global attention. MacEachern, an accomplished environmental historian at Western University, has spent sixteen years exploring New Brunswick's experience with forest fires almost two centuries ago. His commitment to the topic shows in a book that is accessibly written, wonderfully sourced, and often a page-turner." Literary Review of Canada

"Remarkably, this is the first book to chronicle one of the worst disasters of the nineteenth century. MacEachern has painstakingly assembled news reports and other accounts of the fire, and he relies on witnesses like Paley, Cooney, and other observers from that time to gauge its scale and impact -- and to separate fact from fiction. MacEachern is a reliable and sometimes entertaining narrator as he pops into the story here and there with asides, interpretations, and explanations." Canada's History

Other titles by Alan MacEachern