Daniel Samson

Associate Professor

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Daniel Samson is an historian of rural 18th and 19th-century Nova Scotia. I am most interested in the political and social processes that forged modernity in the colonial countryside. At the heart of colonial modernity were the liberal-capitalist ideas and practices of country people. Be they evicted Acadians and Highlanders, marginalised African-Americans and Mi’kmaq, pious Catholics and evangelicals, or modestly capitalised improving farmers, rural people shaped markets, imagined competencies, and debated the various dimensions of liberty and constraint that defined the modern world in settler societies.

My current work focuses on two areas. First, I am writing a book-length biography of a 19th-century Nova Scotia miller. James Barry lived a remarkable life, and left a 56-year-long daily diary. As a miller, Barry was at the heart of his community of Six Mile Brook, Nova Scotia. Millers were contentious people, necessary to convert grain to usable food products, but mistrusted as people whose charges often appeared unjust exactions upon the rural poor. Beyond this rich vein community relations, the diary also offers extended reflections on his domestic life, his radical evangelical politics, his printing and very extensive reading, trans-Atlantic print culture, and his eventual intellectual migration into free thought spiritualism. Barry lived in the middle of nowhere, a miller in a very small rural backwater, but his life illustrates well the emergence of bourgeois, masculine intellectual and social life in the modern countryside.

In the past few years, I have also been active in developing online courses that employ digital tools to enhance critical reading skills. This work offers stimulating new avenues for teaching basic historical thinking skills, and have received over $70,000 in institutional and Provincial development grants. The courses explore combinations of slow and distant reading through transcription exercises. My work with my Brock colleague Mike Driedger, where students transcribe poorly OCR’d early modern slave debates on the web, offers rich possibilities for student engagement, while also directly bring student research into the public eye. Another project, funded by eCampusOntario and partnering with the Provincial Archives of Nova Scotia, has digitised a major historical document collection specifically for developing classroom-based student-led research projects. This work, and the technical and pedagogical collaborations with associates in Brock’s Centre for Pedagogical Innovation have allowed me to explore exciting new possibilities for combining teaching and research.

Colonial Canada: http://brockuhistory.ca/samson/colonial-canada/index

Money and Power in the Atlantic World: http://brockuhistory.ca/ebooks/hist2f90/index

I also blog (occasionally) at http://danieljosephsamson.com

And I tweet often (including on James Barry at #JamesBarryDiary) as @ruralcolonialNS

The Spirit of Industry and Improvement: Liberal Government and Rural-Industrial Society, Nova Scotia, 1790-1862 (Kingston and Montréal, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2008).

Editor, Contested Countryside: Rural Workers and Modern Society in Atlantic Canada, 1800-1950 (Fredericton, Acadiensis Press, 1994).

(co-editor) Visions: Canadian History Modules Project, two volumes, (Toronto, Nelson, 2010). Second edition, 2015.

“’Damn TORYISM, say I’: Dissent, Print Culture, and Anti-Confederation Thought in James Barry’s Diary”, Acadiensis XXXII, 2 (Spring 2017), 177-90.

“A Colony of Miners: Northern Nova Scotia, 1827-1862”, in James Opp and John C. Walsh., eds., Home, Work, and Play: Situating Canadian Social History (Toronto, Oxford University Press, 2014).

“’The Measure of Our Progress’: The Commission on Agriculture, Ontario, 1881”, in Nadine Vivier, ed., The Golden Age of State Enquiries: Rural enquiries in the nineteenth century (Turnhout BE, Brepols, 2014).

“Les élites britanniques d’Amérique du Nord et les améliorations agricoles, 1789-1860”, in Nadine Vivier, ed., Élites et progress dans l’agriculture, 16ème-20ème siècles (Le Mans, presses universitaires de Rennes, 2009), 133-62.