New Book! Being Neighbours by Catharine Wilson | College of Arts

New Book! Being Neighbours by Catharine Wilson

Posted on Friday, October 14th, 2022

Being Neighbours cover

Our congratulations to Dr. Catharine Wilson on the publication of her new book with McGill-Queens University Press:
Being Neighbors: Cooperative Work and Rural Culture, 1830-1960

About the book:
How neighbours working together in cooperative work bees played a vital role in agricultural progress, the viability of the family farm, and rural culture. Throughout history, farm families have shared work and equipment with their neighbours to complete labour-intensive, time-sensitive, and time-consuming tasks. They benefitted materially and socially from these voluntary, flexible, loosely structured networks of reciprocal assistance, making neighbourliness a vital but overlooked aspect of agricultural change.

Being Neighbours takes us into the heart of neighbourhood - the set of people near and surrounding the family - through an examination of work bees in southern Ontario from 1830 to 1960. The bee was a special event where people gathered to work on a neighbour’s farm like bees in a hive for a wide variety of purposes, including barn raising, logging, threshing, quilting, turkey plucking, and apple paring. Drawing on the diaries of over one hundred men and women, Catharine Wilson takes readers into families’ daily lives, the intricacies of their labour exchange, and their workways, feasts, and hospitality. Through the prism of the bee and a close reading of the diaries, she uncovers the subtle social politics of mutual dependency, the expectations neighbours had of each other, and their ways of managing conflict and crisis. This book adds to the literature on cooperative work that focuses on evaluating its economic efficiency and complicates histories of capitalism that place communal values at odds with market orientation.

Beautifully written, engaging, and richly detailed and illustrated, Being Neighbours reveals the visceral textures of rural life.

Catharine Anne Wilson, FRSC, is the Francis and Ruth Redelmeier Professor in Rural History at the University of Guelph and founder and director of the Rural Diary Archive website.