John F. Bosher, as a retired professor of history, spent ten years writing his A-to-Z volume of 769 biographies for his 839-page Imperial Vancouver Island: Who was Who 1850-1950 (Indiana, Xlibris, 2010). He says if the twenty-first century did not find rambling Victorian titles intolerable, it could have been called Some Imperial Campaigners and their Friends on Vancouver Island from the Cariboo Goldrush and the Indian Mutiny to the Invasion from Mainland Canada after the Second World War, 1858-1958.

As the title suggests, most of the people in the book were born in Britain or in British India or elsewhere in the Empire at a time when Canada was part of it. Bosher's first ancestor on Vancouver Island, for instance, was Sarah Taylor Marsden (1833-1916), who sailed 14,300 miles from Liverpool, via Cape Horn, in a "bride ship," arriving in Victoria in 1863. The author's father emigrated from Berkshire in 1920 and became a bulb inspector for the Dominion Experimental Station in Saanich.

There are entries for Sir Charles Bell, world expert on Tibet and a friend of the Dalai Lama, Sir Frederic Maze, ex-director of the Chinese Maritime Customs, and several other exotic knighted Imperials, as well as notes on Dean Cridge and Bishop Hills, warring with one another in the 1870s. Other profiles concern an ex-RCMP officer who served in the Belgian cavalry and set a world record for firing his service revolver; and Lady Mary Emily Swettenham, widow of a governor of Jamaica. Many of the entries are based on private papers belonging to descendants of his subjects.

Bosher sent his manuscript to one of the do-it-yourself publishers as an experiment. He discovered the printing company advertise their e-mail order number as but this service only works for people who live in the USA. He therefore published a second, much enlarged and corrected, edition of a book that was first printed in the USA by Xlibris in 2010. The publisher/printer in England will provide free delivery of the second edition via The Book Depository. Most of the 800 people mentioned in the book were born in England.

For further details, contact the author via Tel: 001 613-565-6724

"What I am trying to do with my present project," he says, "is to treat the British Empire and the Imperialists in their own terms in order to understand them better. The whole subject belongs in History now, no longer in politics, because the British dissolved the Empire half a century ago. Too many Canadians, like our American neighbours, treat it as though we were still struggling against it. And the truth is that WE never had to struggle. London could hardly wait to get rid of us. But as a result of our perverted (partly Irish-American) standpoint and our myths, we don't understand the Empire and the Imperialists very well. I also think, of course, that a variety of different points of view is all to the good in history."

Vancouver Island joined Canada in 1871 and the Royal Navy withdrew from Esquimalt thirty-five years later, but island communities did not lose their Imperial character until the 1950s.

Born in North Saanich, B.C., Bosher studied at the Sorbonne and gained his Ph.D in History from London University. He taught history at King's College London, UBC, Cornell University and York University.

Review of the author's work by BC studies:
Imperial Vancouver Island: Who was Who 1850-1950


1. The Single Duty Project: A Study of the Movement for a French Customs Union in the 18th Century, London (Athlone Press of the University of London), 1964, 215 pp., maps.

2. French Finances 1770-1795: From Business to Bureaucracy (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1970), 370 pp., reprinted as a paperback in 2009.

3. The Canada Merchants, 1713-1763 (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1987), 234 pp., two maps.

4. (editor and contributor), French Government and Society 1500-1850: Essays in Memory of Alfred Cobban (London, Athlone Press, 1973), 326 pp.

5. The French Revolution (New York, W.W. Norton, 1988), LXI & 353 pp., eight maps; English edition (London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, October1989); paperback editions in London and New York, 1989.

6. Men and Ships in the Canada Trade, 1660-1760: A Biographical Dictionary (Ottawa Historic Sites & Monuments, Department of the Environment, 1992), 251 pages in quarto. (also published in French)

7. Business and Religion in the Age of New France: Twenty-two Studies (1600-1760) (Toronto, Canadian Scholars' Press, 1994), 530 pp.

8. The Gaullist Attack on Canada, 1967-1997 (Montréal, McGill-Queen's University Press, Décembre 1998) 330 pp. [paperback edition, with corrections and a new second preface, was published in March 2000]

9. Vancouver Island: Who was Who 1850-1950 (Indiana: Xlibris, 2010; England: The Book Repository 2013) 978-1-4500-5962-6; 978-0-9573753-0-7

[BCBW 2013] "Gem"