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Congratulations to Dr. Rusty Bittermann for his new book publication

McGills-Queen’s University Press just released Dr. Rusty Bittermann’s latest book Sailor’s Hope: The Life and Times of William Cooper, Agrarian Radical in an Age of Revolutions.

Sailor’s Hope is the first full biography of William Cooper, who was a central figure in the struggles in the second quarter of the nineteenth century to enlarge democracy in British North America and to end landlordism on Prince Edward Island.  Cooper’s role in the history of Prince Edward Island paralleled that of William Lyon Mackenzie in Upper Canada and Louis-Joseph Papineau in Lower Canada.  Like Mackenzie and Papineau, Cooper helped to create a mass movement that pressed for change by combining electoral politics with extra-parliamentary activism.  Although Cooper did not live to see the end of landlordism on Prince Edward Island, his ideas and efforts were central to its elimination later in the century.  In the first half of the nineteenth century, most Island farmers were tenants; landlords’ estates often were measured in tens of thousands of acres.  By the end of the century, the last of the big estates had been legislated out of existence (by compulsory government purchase).

Sailor’s Hope draws from previously unused Cooper papers (held in New Mexico) and from research in archives in Scotland, England, California, Atlantic Canada, and elsewhere to tell the full story of Cooper’s life: his birth near Dundee, Scotland; his years with the merchant marine; his marriage in London to Sarah Glover; emigration to Prince Edward Island; farm-making; work as a land agent and miller; and his long involvement in Island politics. It also chronicles his involvement in ship-building with his two oldest sons, their transatlantic voyages, and the family’s emigration to California in a boat they built.

Sailor’s Hope is the third study in a series of books in which Bittermann seeks to frame the history of Prince Edward Island in terms of Atlantic and World history. Rural Protest: From British Colonization to the Escheat Movement (2006) contextualized the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century struggles for land reform on Prince Edward Island in terms of the broader, contemporary popular struggles in the Atlantic World. Lady Landlords of Prince Edward Island: Imperial Dreams and the Defence of Property (2008), co-authored with Margaret McCallum, examined the century-long struggle for land reform on Prince Edward Island from an imperial vantage point, analyzing the Island’s land question from the perspective of four prominent British women who owned large Island estates.   Bittermann and McCallum are working on a fourth book in this series which examines Island history in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century from the perspective of a prominent London merchant family.

Research for this series of studies has been awarded the Canadian Historical Association’s Clio Prize, Canadian Historical Association’s Hilda Neatby Prizes (for contributions to women’s history), and Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation Heritage Awards.