Proposal Title

SESSION 1.1: Roughing it on Colonial Vancouver Island: The Misadventures of Henry Trent and Friends, 1862-63

Presentation Type

Individual paper

Location

IB 1015

Start Date

4-5-2019 10:45 AM

End Date

4-5-2019 12:15 PM

Abstract

Despite the growing scholarship on the history of childhood and youth, the latter term remains somewhat nebulous as far as age-range is concerned. Thus, historians of nineteenth-century manhood have applied the term “youth” to describe the transitional period between middle-class boyhood and manhood, the life-stage they associate primarily with marriage. Yet the average North American male did not marry until his mid-twenties when he was well past the dependent stage generally associated with youth. In fact, the central subject of my study, Henry Trent, did not marry until the age of thirty-eight in 1864 when his wandering days in search of a middle-class livelihood finally ended. Borrowing from the “emerging adulthood” concept of psychologist Jeffrey Arnett, I refer to Trent’s transitional years during his twenties and thirties as his period of emerging manhood. As Arnett states, this term is more fitting than “young manhood” which implies that full manhood has already been reached. My paper relies largely upon the diary Trent kept during his long and arduous expedition from London, England to Victoria during the Cariboo gold rush in 1862, as well as during the ensuing two years when he and his young middle-class associates worked at various low-paid jobs on Vancouver Island. The diary makes it clear that they were less motivated by gold fever than by the desire to experience an adventure that would test their independent manhood. And they were not alone in that respect, for much the same can be said for the surprising number of young Englishmen who produced memoirs of their harrowing experiences travelling to and from the Cariboo during the gold rush.

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May 4th, 10:45 AM May 4th, 12:15 PM

SESSION 1.1: Roughing it on Colonial Vancouver Island: The Misadventures of Henry Trent and Friends, 1862-63

IB 1015

Despite the growing scholarship on the history of childhood and youth, the latter term remains somewhat nebulous as far as age-range is concerned. Thus, historians of nineteenth-century manhood have applied the term “youth” to describe the transitional period between middle-class boyhood and manhood, the life-stage they associate primarily with marriage. Yet the average North American male did not marry until his mid-twenties when he was well past the dependent stage generally associated with youth. In fact, the central subject of my study, Henry Trent, did not marry until the age of thirty-eight in 1864 when his wandering days in search of a middle-class livelihood finally ended. Borrowing from the “emerging adulthood” concept of psychologist Jeffrey Arnett, I refer to Trent’s transitional years during his twenties and thirties as his period of emerging manhood. As Arnett states, this term is more fitting than “young manhood” which implies that full manhood has already been reached. My paper relies largely upon the diary Trent kept during his long and arduous expedition from London, England to Victoria during the Cariboo gold rush in 1862, as well as during the ensuing two years when he and his young middle-class associates worked at various low-paid jobs on Vancouver Island. The diary makes it clear that they were less motivated by gold fever than by the desire to experience an adventure that would test their independent manhood. And they were not alone in that respect, for much the same can be said for the surprising number of young Englishmen who produced memoirs of their harrowing experiences travelling to and from the Cariboo during the gold rush.