Loyalists and Layabouts: The Rapid Rise and Faster Fall of Shelburne, Nova Scotia, 1783-1792 Hardcover – May 13 2008
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“[A] thorough gallop through the town’s history, and a lovely romp it is. . . . A tale well told.”
—The Globe and Mail
“[A] remarkable story. . . . Kimber provides a vivid portrait of men and women and their struggles to make their lives over are both comic and tragic. . . . He offers a fascinating might-have-been in the history of Canada.”
—The Gazette (Montreal)
“Prodigious research, a dash of imagination and an engaging literary style make this a delightful and satisfying read and a serious contribution to Loyalist studies.”
—James W. St.G. Walker, History Professor, University of Waterloo
"Canada is built on immigration, but immigration has rarely been easy on the immigrants. In Loyalists and Layabouts Stephen Kimber explores the immigrant dream gone spectacularly wrong: how 15,000 Americans flowed into Shelburne, Nova Scotia, in 1783 to build "the envy of the American states" — only to see their aspirations ebb away like the Nova Scotia tide."
"What a splendid tale, full of diverse and fascinating characters. It is also an overdue reminder of the price white Loyalists paid for the choice to remain impoverished but faithful subjects of George III. Black slaves paid an even higher price, gaining freedom at the cost of justice, equality or respect. No one who reads this book can ever again be comfortable with ancestral stereotypes."
—Desmond Morton, Hiram Mills Professor of History, Emeritus, McGill University
About the Author
Stephen Kimber is an award-winning writer, editor, and broadcaster. He is the author of one novel, Reparations, and five non-fiction books, including the bestselling Sailors, Slackers and Blind Pigs: Halifax at War.
He and his wife, Jeanie Kimber, live in Halifax.
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Top Customer Reviews
The story starts with the would be settlers prior to the American revolution. This way the reader knows where they came from and why they left. The reader gets an idea of each persons drives, ambitions, hopes and dissapointments.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The author, Stephen Kimber, builds the book around the diaries, letters and biographies of seven or eight of the Loyalists and the British government officials who dealt with them. The stories are generally interesting an provide a cross section of experiences. The notable exception is that there are no major female characters because the author was simply unable to find sufficient surviving documentation to flesh out a character and her experiences. The characters include some blacks, promised their freedom in return for supporting the British in the revolution.
The author is an experienced journalist and the book is easy reading. The material is well organized and footnoted.
At this point I might have given the book five stars but unfortunately I feel cheated and reduced it to four stars. The reason for my discontent is that the author does not really provide any substantive analysis of why Shelburne failed and the people left. Some causes are implied from the individual stories: reuniting with families in America, blacks seeking greater freedom in the Sierra Leone (Africa) colony, etc. However no where does the author bring all of this together for a coherent analysis of why the Shelburne experience failed.
Having said that the book remains an absorbing collection of personal narratives from an point in time of great dislocation.