Westward Bound: Sex, Violence, the Law, and the Making of a Settler Society

by Lesley Erickson, Independent Historian and Researcher, Vancouver. Published with  UBC Press, 2011.

The history of crime and punishment is one of the principal lenses through which historians of the law investigate the relationship between the law in the books and the ‘law in action,’ and the uses of law to regulate relations among social groups. Professor Lesley Erickson’s account of the operation of the criminal law in the prairie west in the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries performs both tasks admirably.  Using local court records and a rich variety of other sources, Erickson examines the use of the law on reserves, in the cities, and in the countryside, from high profile cases to day-to-day policing and punishment practices. This is an invaluable addition to the Osgoode Society’s socio-legal history collection, and we are very pleased to publish the first of what we are sure will be many books by Professor Erickson.


Honorable Mention - Canadian Law and Society Association Book Prize 2011

Reviews of Westward Bound: Sex, Violence, the Law, and the Making of a Settler Society

Lesley Erickson … debunks the myth of Canada’s peaceful west…. In a series of thematic chapters Erickson explores conflict between men and women, Native and newcomer, and capital and labour.  Lori Chambers, Acadiensis, Vol 41, 2012, p. 252.
Westward Bound is a work of remarkable scope and depth. Covering the period from 1886 to 1940, Lesley Erickson uses records from local courts, the Department of Indian Affairs, and the North West Mounted Police to explore how the law functioned to shore up the Anglo-Canadian settler society of the Prairie provinces. Admirably, Erickson does not tell a simple story of top-down legal authority creating a particular colonial order. Instead, she details how various subordinated groups (women, Aboriginals, eastern European immigrants, prostitutes, and farm labourers, among others) contested, resisted, and manipulated Anglo-Canadian assumptions of superiority. The result is a complex and nuanced picture of the meanings and repercussions of sex and violence in the Canadian west. Chris Hebert, BC Studies, No 177, 2013.

Westward Bound makes an important contribution to our understanding of how the law, crime, and society interacted in Canada's three Prairie provinces ... Westward Bound uses criminal cases as a lens through which to view four social settings in prairie society: the reserve; the city; the countryside; and the home. Michael Boudreau, Law and Politics Book Review, Vol 23, 2013, pp. 476-478

Reviews have also appeared in the following publications:

  • Jean Barman, Western Historical Quarterly, Vol. 44, 2013
  • Robert Dykstra, Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 82, 2013
  • Laura Ishiguro, Australasian Journal of Victorian Studies , Vol 18, 2013
  • William Katerberg, Great Plains Quarterly, Vol 32, 2012, p. 235.
  • Reference and Research Book News, Vol 26, 2011.
  • Gilles Renaud, Provincial Judges Journal, Vol. 36, 2014, p. 58.