The Champlain Society

Renew your Membership today to Receive the 2015 Volume, ‘Another World’: William Ord Mackenzie’s Sojourn in the Canadas, 1839–1843.

William Ord Mackenzie, a recently graduated British army surgeon, describes for his friends and family back home his life in his first posting to ‘another world’: the Canadas, in the period just after the Rebellions. Opinionated, frank, sometimes arrogant and prejudiced, but always curious, Mackenzie details for his readers the social and political affairs of the colonies over five years. He serves in the major cities―Toronto, Kingston, Montreal and Quebec―and witnesses cultural events, social affairs, sports, and theatrical performances. He is also posted to smaller garrisons―Rivière-du-Loup, Chambly and the frontier post of Fort Ingall near the American border, and writes, sometimes despairingly, about their conditions.

As a well-connected Scot, Mackenzie has entrée into the highest society of the colony, dining with lieutenant-governors, prominent businessmen, writers and politicians, but he also finds himself in the homes of ordinary Canadians in rural settings, enjoying the dances, weddings, sleighing and snowshoeing that helped to alleviate the boredom of service in a peacetime army. Politics, food, natural history, geography, the weather, local gossip and pretty girls all form part of his journals, as does a detailed account of his reading, in newspapers, journals and books.

Illustrated with pen-and-ink drawings and detailed maps and sketches of cities and army posts, this little-known journal makes a remarkable contribution to our understanding of a young country―Canada in embryo following a time of grave troubles. It explores a place slowly and painfully healing from the conflict and divisions brought by rebellion but preparing to take the first shaky and uncertain steps towards a truly united nation.

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For over one hundred years, The Champlain Society has echoed the voices of some of Canada’s most eloquent citizens. Since the early 1600s, explorers, merchants, public servants, scientists, ordinary people, and extraordinary men and women have left riveting accounts of their actions and thoughts. Through its books and Digital Collection, The Champlain Society makes the adventures, explorations, discoveries, and opinions that have shaped Canada available to all who have an interest in its past. The Champlain Society is also scholarly: its books have been the object of meticulous treatment by specialists whose role has been to highlight the significance of the eyewitness accounts and to inform readers of the context in which these documents were drafted.

The mission of The Champlain Society is to increase public awareness of, and accessibility to, Canada’s rich store of historical records.

Its Goals Are:

  • To publish Canadian documentary materials edited and produced to the highest standards;
  • To assist the Canadian public in improving the understanding of the nation’s past through occasional public lectures, seminars, colloquia, conferences, and the publication of occasional papers;
  • To serve as an advocate on the proper care of, and accessibility to, Canada’s historical records;
  • To increase participation in the work of The Society by enlarging and broadening its membership.

Please click here to view our Digital Collection.


The Digital Collection is funded by the Government of Ontario