Benjamin Lett’s escapades on the Canadian frontier, including the destruction of the Brock Monument in 1841, strengthened the stereotype of Irishmen in the Canadas as violent, rebellious, and politically agitated newcomers who created an unsettling presence in the colonies. The violent actions of comparatively few Irishmen in the Canadas were more powerful in the colonial imagination than the lived experiences of hundreds of thousands of their countrymen in Lower and Upper Canada. This chapter introduces the power that this negative stereotype had in shaping the experiences of Irish immigrants in the decades before the Great Irish Famine. It outlines how codes of manliness and constructions of masculinities intersected with popular ideas about Irish violence and loyalty, placing the book’s subsequent case studies in a wider international and comparative framework. It also explores previous historiographies of the Irish in Canada and argues for the influence that gendered analyses can bring to transnational histories.
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