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House of Anansi Press

Staking Claims to a Continent

John A. Macdonald, Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, and the Making of North America

Written by James Laxer

Published June 11, 2016 | ISBN 9781770894303
HISTORY / Canada / Pre-Confederation

Cover of Staking Claims to a Continent

Regular price $32.95 CAD

352 pages | 8.5 in × 5.5 in
Print Format

Also Available as an Ebook

About this book

Staking Claims to a Continent

John A. Macdonald, Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, and the Making of North America

James Laxer

Three political leaders presided over the reshaping of the North American continent during the fiery 1860s. Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln were both born in Kentucky, Davis in June 1808 and Lincoln the following February. John A. Macdonald was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in January 1815. All were Protestants; none came from a wealthy family. In an earlier era, such men would not have risen to political heights. They personified an age of social and economic transformation, thrust to the top by the very forces that tore the continent apart.

Davis tried to create a country by ripping the South out of the United States and establishing the Confederate States of America. Lincoln’s crusade to save the Union honed the industrial-military power that would one day dominate the world. Macdonald led the drive to shepherd the diverse British North American provinces into a federal state that would secure the northern half of the continent and keep Canada out of American hands.

In a high stakes game, these three national projects competed to create viable nation states. And the success or failure of the projects would have consequences — not only for the long-term future of the continent but for the entire global order.

About the Author

James Laxer

JAMES LAXER (1941–2018) was the award-winning author of more than twenty-five books, including Staking Claims to a Continent; the #1 national bestseller Tecumseh & Brock: The War of 1812; Stalking an Elephant: My Discovery of America (published by the New Press in the United States as Discovering America); and The Border: Canada, the U.S., and Dispatches from the 49th Parallel. He was a professor of political science in the Department of Equity Studies at York University.

Awards and Praise

PRAISE FOR JAMES LAXER AND STAKING CLAIMS TO A CONTINENT:

“This is a vast, formidable work by a writer with an imposing collection of historical and political writings to his name.” — Publishers Weekly

“Smart popular history . . . [Staking Claims To A Continent] adds insight and texture to Laxer’s continuing tale of how a continent of bickering, mutually suspicious European settlers created the remarkably peaceable North America we enjoy today.” — Globe and Mail

“Laxer writes with enthusiasm . . . [His] contribution to this narrative is to situate Canada more firmly within it. A worthy goal and a terrific idea for a book.” — National Post

“This book takes a very interesting look at the relations between Canada and the United States during and shortly after the American Civil War . . . For anyone interested in United States–Canadian relationships, this book is a great introduction to the subject.” — Civil War News

“Laxer offers an introduction to North American history for those who are new to the subject, and a catalyst for deep arguments amongst serious thinkers. For educators, this history is a brilliant example of how historians use these historical thinking concepts.” — Winnipeg Free Press

PRAISE FOR JAMES LAXER AND TECUMSEH AND BROCK:

#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER

“An authoritative and sympathetic grasp of Native history . . . Tecumseh and Brock promises a valuable alternative to the notion that history is invariably written by the victors. Here, the vanquished also get their due in a story of immensely tragic dimensions.” — National Post

“Lively . . . far-reaching . . . Laxer has written a rousing piece of Canadian history.” — Montreal Gazette

“Laxer’s book cleverly explains the war and the emergence of a Canadian identity through the lives of British Major General Sir Isaac Brock and Shawnee chieftain Tecumseh . . . Laxer, a professor of political science at York University, takes a lively approach to the account of the border war that rebuffed an American incursion into Canada. He uncovers fascinating details about North American natives during the early eighteenth century and offers historical sidebars such as the Russian attempt to mediate between the Americans and the British. And he challenges arguments that the war was a minor chapter in history: almost 8,000 British soldiers and an estimated 15,000 Americans perished. No one knows how many native and Canadian fighters died. Tecumseh and Brock is comprehensive but not burdensome, a banquet of facts that can be enjoyed along with being instructive. Laxer proves Canadian history doesn’t have to be dull, particularly when told through the lives of people who lived it.” — Toronto Star

“A superb narrative of the causes, course, and legacy of the war of 1812.” — Winnipeg Free Press

“Laxer’s book serves as a good short introduction to the war.” — Globe and Mail

“A clever, scholarly, and entirely readable contribution.” — Edmonton Journal

“Laxer’s splendidly written, well-crafted book is a compelling narrative bound to excite and arouse Canadians looking for a great story.” — Chronicle Herald

“Among the plethora of books to appear this year to mark the 200th anniversary of the start of the War of 1812, James Laxer’s Tecumseh and Brock stands out.” — Kingston Whig-Standard

PRAISE FOR JAMES LAXER AND MISSION OF FOLLY: CANADA AND AFGHANISTAN:

“In this timely and important book, James Laxer investigates Canada’s dubious involvement in George Bush’s war in Afghanistan. Challenging the official narrative trumpeted by the media, Laxer shows how this war can truly be considered a mission of folly.” — Linda McQuaig, journalist and author of Holding the Bully’s Coat: Canada and the U.S. Empire

“Jim Laxer has taken a difficult foreign policy issue and made it accessible to every Canadian. In Mission of Folly, Laxer explains in brilliant detail just why most of us feel so uneasy about Canada’s role in Afghanistan. This terrific book will add a needed voice to the debate and fuel the call to bring our troops home now.” — Maude Barlow, National Chairperson, Council of Canadians

“This is the one book you must read to understand the Afghanistan war.” — Duncan Cameron, rabble.ca political columnist and Visiting Professor, Political Science, SFU

PRAISE FOR JAMES LAXER AND THE BORDER: CANADA, THE U.S., AND ADVENTURES ALONG THE 49TH PARALLEL:

“Thoroughly engaging . . . Spiced with anecdote, telling bits of history, and personal accounts of travels along and across Canada’s borders with the U.S., The Border is informed with the easy grace of the raconteur . . . At once magisterial and entertaining, The Border is an essential contribution to our knowledge of our country, and our relationship with our southern neighbours.” — Edmonton Journal

“Insightful . . . Laxer is scrupulous in his scholarship, and one cannot argue with his research.” — Quill & Quire

PRAISE FOR JAMES LAXER AND STALKING THE ELEPHANT: MY DISCOVERY OF AMERICA:

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

“Laxer takes a fresh look at American life as he sets out on a physical and intellectual journey across the country . . . This is an entertaining, disturbing, and sometimes whimsical snapshot of the Unites States at the dawn of a new century . . . Highly recommended.” — Library Journal

“This is an important book . . . This is a debate for our time, perhaps for all time . . . This is a book by a Canadian that can change the United States.” — David Shribman, Pulitzer Prize winner and Washington bureau chief for the Boston Globe, in the Globe and Mail

“Laxer records his vignettes with humour and verve. This is quality reporting.” — Thomas Axworthy, Adjunct Lecturer, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, in Literary Review

“Real characters come alive under Laxer’s pen.”— Hamilton Spectator

“Always entertaining and often illuminating . . . Laxer takes his place among the likes of Theroux, Naipaul, and Bryson, who with their respective literary backgrounds have used their travels as a way of revealing a larger truth, providing snapshots of a place and a time.” — Edmonton Journal

“Laxer gets great mileage out of memorable descriptions of events — an NFL game tailgate party, a personal protection seminar for gun owners, the crowd outside an execution in Texas — that are peculiarly American, without being typically American . . . His book is fascinating.” — Guardian

“‘To see ourselves as others see us is a gift,’ Burns wrote. Laxer offers us that gift: the journals of a lively, curious foreigner exploring the U.S.A.” — Booklist

PRAISE FOR JAMES LAXER AND THE UNDECLARED WAR: CLASS CONFLICT IN THE AGE OF CYBER CAPITALIS:

“The Undeclared War offers a resolute wake-up call . . . Interesting and provocative.” — Globe and Mail

“Laxer does for contemporary economics and public discourse what Steven Spielberg did for the Normandy landing in the first twenty-five minutes of Saving Private Ryan, laying out the grisly groundwork for a future campaign.” — Edmonton Journal

“[Laxer] skilfully synthesizes economics, history, and current events to show that social and economic inequalities have steadily deepened in the last decade.” — Quill & Quire

“With characteristic rigour and subtlety, James Laxer brings the focus of political debate back where it belongs: to the distribution of social good. The result is a book that not only radiates keen intelligence but, more importantly, communicates a realistic hope for justice.” — Mark Kingwell, author of Unruly Voices: Essays on Democracy, Civility and the Human Imagination

PRAISE FOR JAMES LAXER AND IN SEARCH OF A NEW LEFT: CANADIAN POLITICS AFTER THE NEOCONSERVATIVE ASSAULT:

“Probing, thoughtful, animated, and intellectually invigorating.” — Globe and Mail

“A useful and compelling guide to how the Canadian left arrived at its sorry state, and how it may be able to reassert itself.” — Peter C. Newman, Vancouver Sun

“An entertaining feast of ideas to ponder, debate, and carry forward.” — NOW Magazine