Major Research Presentation (M.A.) by Courtney Svab - "At Home in an Unknown Land: Examining the Factors Affecting the Mental Health of Scottish Settlers in Lanark County, 1820-1839"
Date and Time
2020 Mackinnon Extension
At Home in an Unknown Land: Examining the Factors Affecting the Mental Health of Scottish Settlers in Lanark County, 1820-1839
The negative effects of migration on the mental health of settlers in the nineteenth century is a topic that scholars have primarily studied through the patient history of those confined in asylums or suffering from disease. Rather than focusing on the diagnosed mental illness of asylum patients in the later nineteenth century, this study of mental health focuses on effects of rural settlement on settlers. In this study, the term ‘mental health’ specifically refers to the psychological and emotional well-being of settlers rather than a diagnosed illness. Through a close examination of the private diary belonging to George Easton (1784-1848) of Lanark County, a Scottish settler who arrived in 1820, it is possible to evaluate his emotional state and the physical and social factors of early settlement that contributed to his state of mental health.
While George Easton arrived in Upper Canada as part of an emigration society and settled in a community of fellow Scots – a situation many officials viewed as an easier transition than arriving alone – he struggled with his mental health. This can be seen through his physical toil farming his land, disheartening religious reflections recorded in his diary, and the alienation and homesickness he felt in his new land. His case study, and the diaries and memoirs of other Lanark settlers, suggest that these physical and social factors shaped the settlement experience in Lanark County and affected the mental health of settlers.
Advisor: Dr. Catharine Wilson
Committee: Dr. Tara Abraham