Policing the Disorderly Migrant on Montreal’s Urban Fringe, 1840-1850.

 Dan Horner
Mercredi le 31 août à 10 h 30

The arrival of thousands of Irish migrants in mid-nineteenth-century Montreal unleashed a wave of popular anxiety in the city with regards to law and order. Migrants were conceptualized in the public discourse as destitute, diseased and prone to violent and disorderly conduct. Montrealers from across the city’s ethnic and partisan divide turned their attention to the institution charged with their protection- the recently established municipal police force- and began to engage in sustained calls for a more forceful and interventionist approach. This paper will examine how the public- through the press and through petitions to the municipal government- demanded a more vigorous policing of the city’s recently-arrived migrants and the city’s western fringe along the waterfront and the Lachine Canal, where many of the migrants lived, worked, or were confined in the emigrant sheds. By doing so, it will contribute to our understanding of how Montrealers were grappling with one of the seismic social transformations that occurred during the middle decades of the nineteenth-century- the acceleration of human migration on a global scale. How did this impact how they perceived the urban landscape and the practice of liberal urban governance?

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