Barbara Messamore

Associate Professor, UFV

PhD (Edinburgh), FRHS (Fellow, Royal Historical Society, UK)

Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Historical Biography, an international, open-access, peer-reviewed journal devoted to all aspects of historical biography. The Journal site is

Specialty: Canadian political and constitutional history, role of Canada’s governors general, historical biography, and Canadian migration history.


Selected Publications


  • Raymond Blake, Jeff Keshen, Norman Knowles, and Barbara Messamore, Narrating a Nation: Canadian History Pre-Confederation and Narrating a Nation: Canadian History Post-Confederation. McGraw Hill Ryerson, 2011. Details here.
  • Barbara J. Messamore, Canada's Governors General, 1847-1878: Biography and Constitutional Evolution. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006. Details here.
  • Barbara J. Messamore, editor, Canadian Migration Patterns from Britain and North America. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2004. Details here.


  • "British North America (Canada), 1783-20th c." Encyclopedia of Empire, ed. John Mackenzie et al (Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, forthcoming).
  • "John A. Macdonald and the Governors General: a prime minister’s use and abuse of the Crown," Forthcoming in John A. Macdonald at 200: New Reflections and Legacies. ed. Patrice Dutil and Andrew Smith.
  • "Conventions of the role of the Governor General: Some illustrative historical episodes," Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law 4:3 (December 2010): 479-486.
  • "'The Line over which he must not pass': Defining the office of Governor General, 1878". Canadian Historical Review 86 (September 2005): 453-483.
  • "Diplomacy or Duplicity? Lord Lisgar, John A. Macdonald, and the Treaty of Washington, 1871," The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 32, no. 2 (May 2004): 29-53.
  • "A Supplicant for Justice: Elgin, Famine Migration and the Navigation Laws" in Canada: 1849, eds. Derek Pollard and Ged Martin (Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh, Centre of Canadian Studies, 2001): 48-69.
  • "On a Razor Edge: The Canadian Governors-General, 1888-1911," British Journal of Canadian Studies 13, no. 2 (1998): 376-395.
  • "The Social and Cultural Role of the Canadian Governors General, 1888-1911: British Imperialists and Canadian Nationalists" in Imperial Canada, 1867-1917,ed. Colin M. Coates (Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh, Centre of Canadian Studies, 1997): 78-108 

Recent Short Articles and Reviews:

  • "The Case for George Brown as Confederation’s True Father," Globe and Mail online, 8 January 2014. Details here.
  • Review of The Evolving Canadian Crown, Jennifer Smith and D. Michael Jackson, eds., Canadian Public Policy 39.1 (2013): 188-191.
  • Articles on “Sir Isaac Brock” and “Tecumseh” in Mapping 1812: a Teaching Guide by the Association of Canadian Studies. Association for Canadian Studies, 2012.
  • Review of Honoré Jaxon: Prairie Visionary, by Donald B. Smith, Journal of Historical Biography, 11 (Fall 2011): 134-37
  • Review of Parliamentary Democracy in Crisis, Peter H. Russell and Lorne Sossin, eds. Canadian Historical Review 92:2 (June 2011): 353-5.
  • "Prorogation Then and Now” National Post, 8 December 2008.
  • Review of Emigrant Worlds and Transatlantic Communities: Migration to Upper Canada in the first Half of the Nineteenth Century by Elizabeth Jane Errington, International History Review 30 (December 2008): 843-44.
  • Review of Angus L. Macdonald: A Provincial Liberal, by T. Stephen Henderson in American Review of Canadian Studies 37 (winter 2007).
  • Review of Private Demons: the Tragic Personal Life of John A. Macdonald by Patricia Phenix, Journal of Historical Biography 2 (Autumn 2007).
  • Review of.Colonial Lives Across the British Empire: Imperial Careering in the Long Nineteenth Century by David Lambert and Alan Lester, eds. Journal of Historical Biography 2 (Autumn 2007).
  • "Responsible Government" in Carl C. Hodge, ed. Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800-1914.   Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing, 2007.
  • "Canada’s First Major Socialist Movement: the founding of the CCF" in Great Events from History: the Twentieth Century, 1901-1940. Pasadena, California: Salem Press, 2006.


Current Projects

An Insider's Empire: Private Correspondence Networks and the Governor General of Canada, 1839-1911.

This book, co-authored with Professor Ged Martin (University of Edinburgh, emeritus), aims to improve understanding of the behind-the-scenes decision making that shaped Canada’s role in the British Empire.  It will consider the role of private correspondence between the British-appointed governor general in Canada and the Secretary of State for the Colonies in Britain’s cabinet between 1839 and 1911. It draws upon numerous private archival collections. Since official despatches were a matter for public record, they are often not an ideal source for finding the historical roots of imperial decision making.  The individuals who filled each role were usually acquainted with one another, and sometimes even related.  Their candid private correspondence sheds light on contentious issues during a pivotal period of Canada’s evolution within the empire.

I am working on this project during my sabbatical year, 2013-14, and have been invited to spend a month as a visiting scholar at Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge. I will be at Cambridge in February – March 2014.







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