In The Company, his bestselling work of revisionist history, Stephen Bown told the dramatic, adventurous and bloody tale of Canada’s origins in the fur trade. With Dominion he continues the nation’s creation story with an equally gripping and eye-opening account of the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
In the late 19th century, demand for fur was in sharp decline. This could have spelled economic disaster for the venerable Hudson’s Bay Company. But an idea emerged in political and business circles in Ottawa and Montreal to connect the disparate British colonies into a single entity that would stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific. With over 3,000 kilometers of track, much of it driven through wildly inhospitable terrain, the CPR would be the longest railway in the world and the most difficult to build. Its construction was the defining event of its era and a catalyst for powerful global forces.
The times were marked by greed, hubris, blatant empire building, oppression, corruption and theft. They were good for some, hard for most, disastrous for others. The CPR enabled a new country, but it came at a terrible price.
In recent years Canadian history has been given a rude awakening from the comforts of its myths. In Dominion, Stephen Bown again widens our view of the past to include the adventures and hardships of explorers and surveyors, the resistance of Indigenous peoples, and the terrific and horrific work of many thousands of labourers. His vivid portrayal of the powerful forces that were molding the world in the late 19th century provides a revelatory new picture of modern Canada’s creation as an independent state.