The Emigration of Adam Smith's Ploughman: A Case Study of the Intellectual Culture of Scots Emigrants to Lower Canada, 1760-1850

Type of resource
Author/collaborator
Title
The Emigration of Adam Smith's Ploughman: A Case Study of the Intellectual Culture of Scots Emigrants to Lower Canada, 1760-1850
Abstract
The author examines the knowledge culture of ordinary Scots in late-eighteenth century Scotland and early-nineteenth century Canada from a microhistorical perspective. In 1803 a branch of the Brodie family from Lochwinnoch parish, Renfrewshire in western Scotland emigrated to Montreal in Lower Canada. In so doing they created a direct link between the knowledge cultures of late-eighteenth century Scotland in which they had grown up and that of colonial Montreal. The Brodies' intellectual and cultural formation is explored through the prism, first, of the family's consumption and production of knowledge in Scotland and second, their reproduction and embodiment of that Scottish knowledge in Canada. The author uses four linked studies addressing different facets of widely-held claims of Scotland's distinctively high rates of literacy at the turn of the nineteenth century and of the disproportionate contributions of ordinary Scots to British colonies such as Canada. The author points out that despite the virtual absence of studies addressing the issue from the perspective of the ordinary Scot, the idea of a widely and democratically educated Scottish population - captured in the expression the "democratic intellect" - has been an important facet of Scottish identity at home and abroad for over two hundred years. She concludes that the idea of Scotland's "democratic intellect" does indeed have historical reality, but not in the way that many historians have suggested. A close reading of the intellectual and cultural material that the Brodies consumed and produced reveals the inapplicability of the concept of a "democratic intellect" as an expression conveying the idea of the popular Scottish-mind as a product of elite institutions. The author found that in Scotland the Brodies exercised agency and independence in acquiring knowledge that surpassed basic literacy skills at the parish school. They wove together facets from a folk culture with select ideas from the Scottish Enlightenment to produce distinctive intellectual and cultural values based upon the concept of the primitive or the folk. Contrary to the eighteenth century elite invention of the folk as a vessel bearing the essential and anti-modern spirit of the nation, the Brodie helped advance the folk as a forward-looking group identity that included mental cultivation and independence of mind as core values.
Type
PhD dissertation
University
McGill University
Place
Montreal
Date
2007
Language
en
URL
Citation
Gibson, Sarah Katherine. “The Emigration of Adam Smith’s Ploughman: A Case Study of the Intellectual Culture of Scots Emigrants to Lower Canada, 1760-1850.” PhD dissertation, McGill University, 2007. http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/obj/thesescanada/vol2/002/NR50821.PDF.
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