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Volume 10, Number 1 (1985)

Aesthetic Mappings of the West by the Palliser and Hind Survey Expeditions, 1857-1859

  • I. S. MacLaren
May 22, 2008


Almost simultaneously in 1857, British parliamentarians and colonists in Canada West commissioned survey expeditions of the western part of Canada. The Palliser (British) and Hind (Canadian) surveys overlapped very little of the country they charted and assessed, but they did coincide in one major respect: their reports indicate that the pervasive schemata of the Sublime and Picturesque, which had governed earlier landscape responses to the West by Britons, extended even to scientific descriptions of the land. This eighteenth-century schemata had remained fundamental to the early- and mid-nineteenth-century British perception of Britain and the rest of the British empire; indeed, the years 1857-1859 alone witnessed invocations of the Sublime to convey the uninhabitability of the prairie regions of present-day Canada and invocations of the Picturesque to promote the inhabitability and fecundity of the western parklands.