L'Acadie Trouvée: Mapping, Geographic Knowledge, and Imagining Northeastern North America, 1710-1763
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From the British capture of Port Royal in 1710 to the end of the Seven Years’ War, imperial borders in northeastern North America were highly uncertain and vigorously contested. The British “conquest” of Acadia was not an event, but rather a disputed process that took over half a century and required a massive deportation. The rise and fall of French Acadia under de jure British rule demonstrated geography’s central role in the struggle for territorial control. Aboriginal land rights, especially those of the Mi’kmaq and their allies, challenged British and French claims to sovereignty. This dissertation is the first in-depth study of how eighteenth-century geographic knowledge influenced relations among the British, French, and Native peoples in Nova Scotia. Geographic debates – especially boundary negotiations, mapping projects, and settlement plans – underscored Nova Scotia’s strategic importance in the eighteenth century and complicate the concept of “salutary neglect”. Cartography was a powerful and multi-faceted tool, capable of illustrating past possessions and projecting future claims. It was also constrained by technologies of production and competing interpretations, as overtly biased maps were recognized as such and dismissed. Maps and geographic evidence cannot be properly understood outside of their historical context. British and French subjects were presented with maps and geographic reports in monthly magazines, allowing them to engage with the transatlantic imperial imagination. The growth of printed material, especially in Britain, allowed geographers to influence, and be influenced by, public opinion. This dissertation argues that eighteenth-century Nova Scotia/Acadia was neither British nor French, but rather a political and cultural battleground founded on negotiations over geography. The Mi’kmaq shaped these discussions, influencing and modifying European expansion into Aboriginal territory: their claims to sovereignty, represented on maps, surveys, and in treaty negotiations, challenged English pales in the northeast and circumscribed French territorial power. For most of the eighteenth century, contested sovereignty, negotiated alliances, and fragile peace depended on cultural understandings built on shared territory. Mi’kmaq influence continued after 1763, but the Acadian deportation and the arrival of New England planters marked an imperial and geographic watershed as the British successfully mapped Nova Scotia over Acadia.