Reviews / Comptes rendus - Alexander Fenton, Scottish Country Life.

Reviews / Comptes rendus

Alexander Fenton, Scottish Country Life.

J. Lynton Martin
Nova Scotia Museum
Scottish Country Life. Alexander Fenton. Edinburgh, Donald, 1976. 255p., lllus., facsims., maps, plans, references, index. ISBN 0-85976-011-1. $15.60

1 Some years ago I wrote to Alexander Fenton for background information on Scottish ploughs used in Nova Scotia. He very kindly provided me with all the information I needed. A few years later I visited Fenton at the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland. This time I was seeking information on the background of Scottish settlers who came to Canada in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. I was deeply impressed by the quality and organization of his archives and by the depth of his personal knowledge of Scottish social history. Naturally I was pleased indeed when I learned that he was making some of this information readily available to everyone in Scottish Country Life.

2 This book is concerned to a large extent with the history of agriculture in relation to the lifestyle of the people in various parts of rural Scotland. Emphasis is placed upon technological developments, processes, and cropping systems, and regional variations are discussed in some detail.

3 Although I am sure this publication was greeted with great satisfaction by many people in Scotland, it must also be recognized as having considerable importance to the museum community in Canada. I would consider it required reading for anyone undertaking a study of early agriculture or Scottish settlement in eastern Canada.

4 Some of our research has suffered in the past because we have assumed that many things began here. We must always keep in mind that when European settlers came to Canada, they came with certain knowledge and skills from many diverse backgrounds. To understand clearly their assault on this new environment, a full understanding of their background is necessary.

5 Much of the agricultural development that Alexander Fenton describes was repeated here, but often compressed into a much shorter time period. His discussion on improved ploughs is a good example. In 1818 the Rotherham plough was said to be the commonest plough in Nova Scotia. About 1820 the James Small chain plough was imported and local craftsmen were encouraged to copy it. Shortly thereafter the iron parts for Wilkie ploughs were brought here in large numbers and were mounted locally. Ploughmaking became an important local industry and the influence of Small and Wilkie was obvious.

6 Fenton's description of grain culture harvesting and processing and their variations in different parts of Scotland is particularly well done. An understanding of the use and popularity of wheat, barley, oats, and rye in the various regions of Scotland at different times is important to any interpretation of early farming methods in Canada.

7 I would like to have seen the same treatment of the history of hay culture since the importance of this aspect of early agriculture has been ignored by many present-day historians. Whereas knowledge of grain culture goes back many, many centuries, the seeding and cultivation of grasses was not practised until quite recently. This fact had important bearing on settlement patterns and agricultural development in this country.

8 Fenton has provided an excellent bibliography and I am sure his work will remain an important reference for museum researchers in Canada for many years to come.

J. Lynton Martin