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University of Toronto Press

Expressive Acts
Celebrations and Demonstrations in the Streets of Victorian Toronto
By (author): Ian Radforth
Ian Radforth


University of Toronto Press



Product Form:


Form detail:

Paperback , Trade


Higher Education
Mar 03, 2023
$34.95 CAD


9in x 6 x 0.55 in | 410 gr

Page Count:

250 pages


18 b&w illustrations
University of Toronto Press
HISTORY / Canada / Post-Confederation (1867-)

This book reveals the fascinating history of how and why people gathered in the streets of Victorian Toronto – both in jubilation and in anger.

In nineteenth-century Toronto, people took to the streets to express their jubilation on special occasions, such as the 1860 visit of the Prince of Wales and the return in 1885 of the local Volunteers who helped to suppress the Riel resistance in the North-West. In a contrasting mood, people also took to the streets in anger to object to government measures, such as the Rebellion Losses bill, to heckle rival candidates in provincial election campaigns, to assert their ethno-religious differences, and to support striking workers.

Expressive Acts examines instances of both celebration and protest when Torontonians publicly displayed their allegiances, politics, and values. The book illustrates not just the Victorian city’s vibrant public life but also the intense social tensions and cultural differences within the city. Drawing from journalists’ accounts in newspapers, Expressive Acts illuminates what drove Torontonians to claim public space, where their passions lay, and how they gave expression to them.

- Explores the stereotype of “Toronto the Good” by revealing the contrasting actions of the citizens during instances of celebration and protest
- Uses newspapers as an essential source, providing a window onto these conflictual encounters and revealing how journalists gave meaning and shape to them
- Reveals not just the city of Toronto’s vibrant public life, but also intense social tensions and cultural differences within the city

Ian Radforth is a professor emeritus in the Department of History at the University of Toronto.

For more information contact
[email protected]

"With its multi-faceted explorations of a wide range of public political, religious, and social celebrations and demonstrations in Victorian Toronto, Expressive Acts shows how vibrant the city’s street culture was in this period. This well-researched and cogently argued study calls our attention to the ways that gender, religion, class, and race were integral to Toronto’s public culture."

- Cecilia Morgan, Professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto

"Expressive Acts is a major accomplishment of research and writing. With a storyteller's eye for the good detail, Radforth digs deep into the rowdy public sphere of nineteenth-century Toronto."

- Steve Penfold, Professor of History, University of Toronto

"Expressive Acts is a masterclass in historiography. While it explains why things happened, the storytelling also invites readers to witness for themselves the ways in which mid-Victorian masculinities in Toronto competed and performed in the streets, in Parliament, and in the press for power."

- John C. Walsh, Co-Director, Carleton Centre for Public History and Associate Professor of History, Carleton University

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