Working Class Culture and the Development of Hull, Quebec, 1800 to 1929
A Book on CD by Michael Martin
August 15, 2015:
Congratulations to Mr. Michael Martin who has just released a terrific local history book.
And congratulations to Malcolm and Chris Moody from Archive CD Books, Canada, for producing this very
professional CD of the book!
... Al Lewis
Michael Martin, the author of this amazing book has worked in the Ottawa - Hull area for most of his life working
as a journalist, author, and public servant, but his real passion has been "History" and, as a writer, what else
could he do but write a book about the history of the area where he lived. But Michael had no intention of
writing one of your conventional "overview" histories, populated by, and predicated on, the pronouncements
and actions of the few individuals who history normally casts as the "Voice of the Past."
No, Michael finds his history in the actions, statistics, and the rarely recorded voices of "Joe. Everyman,"
the Worker, the Logger, the Tradesman, the Union Organizer, and to an extent the "Boss," who employed these workers,
but was kept too busy by his business to join the ranks of the "Statesman," the ones the French language so
nicely describe as the "petite-bourgeoisie."
So, a major part of what puts this book beyond any conventional history you have ever read, is that it is the
working man's story of Canada's entry into the "Industrial Revolution." The revolution that was brought on by
the invention of a few vital technical innovations, such as the steam engine, the railway, and the mechanized
factory. Innovations never even dreamed of by the ordinary worker who, nevertheless, had to find a way to keep
himself and his family, sheltered and fed in this dynamic and radically different environment. For most physical
workers this was a shift from an agrarian life, where the basics of life were often available close at hand for
those willing to expend the hours and energy to get them, to a place where food and shelter had to be earned
in service to one of the new and strange factories, where agricultural skills counted for nothing and the workers
quality of life depended almost exclusively on the whims and opinions of "The Boss."
Michael has chosen the recently renamed city of Gatineau as the primary setting of his examination of this
tumultuous history, although he calls it Hull, the name it carried throughout the period of this history. Not
only are the earliest agrarian roots of this city (and its sister city of Ottawa across the river) well known but
it was also, in its time, a thriving centre of the timber trade. A trade which was a large contributor to
Canada's climb out of the role of an offshore "farm" or "plantation" (and source of exotic "furs") to that of a
self governing trading nation with a World supply of valuable resources. Thus it was an important centre of
Canada's earliest experiences in "mass production" which also had close and intimate contact with those bodies
set up to administer and govern Canada's growth. In fact a "hot spot" in Canada's industrial development.
Clearly this is a complicated history to tell and yet Michael manages to break it down into manageable and
acceptable segments, identifying and explaining all the infinite detail which accompanies such a complex story
while never loosing sight of his primary aim of telling the story from the view of the working man. At one
point, Michael reproduces a rare 1872 directory of the occupations of the people of Hull, from the "top bosses"
down to the "labourers" which provides an interesting complete profile of the city's population.
As the story moves along Michael details the logging of the vast watershed which empties down the Ottawa river,
and explains how the nature of the logging business changes to include the processing of some of the basic lumber
into finished and partially processed product, thus providing added value to the lumber trade. For both
geographic and geopolitical reasons a lot of this value added processing took place in the Ottawa Hull region,
introducing the industrial "factory" sites to the area with all the consequences of labour exploitation,
heavy-handed political influence, the growth of labour community and representation organizations, and the
cultural conflict such developments so often create.
And then admixed with all this social and political activity come the pseudo-random "natural" events such as the
Great Fire of Ottawa / Hull, Influenza and small-pox epidemics and other semi-independent social issues such
as female suffrage. Suddenly Hull, has developed from a simple agrarian based village to a modern, mechanized
city, with a complex social structure, seemingly endless rules and regulations and stressful living conditions.
In other words it has acquired all the "benefits" of modern civilization.
Yes, a challenging agenda indeed! But one Michael Martin has mastered, and has encapsulated for us, in this
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