Negotiating a River: Canada, the US, and the Creation of the St. Lawrence Seaway

For more on the book see the publisher’s website:

It was a megaproject half a century in the making — possibly the largest construction operation, and certainly the largest relocation project, in Canadian history, and a technological and engineering marvel that stands as one of the most ambitious borderlands undertakings ever embarked upon by two countries. The planning and building of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project is one of the defining episodes in North American history.

The project began with transnational negotiations that spanned two world wars and the formative years of the Cold War and included a failed attempt to construct an all-Canadian seaway, which was scuttled by US national security fears. Once an agreement was reached, the massive engineering and construction operation began, as did the large-scale rehabilitation scheme to move people and infrastructure away from the thousands of acres of land that would soon be flooded.

While the story of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project is too often relegated to a footnote in Canadian history, Negotiating a River looks at the profound impacts of this megaproject, from the complex diplomatic negotiations, political manoeuvring, and environmental diplomacy to the implications on national identities and transnational relations.



“Drawing from and speaking to many intellectual constituencies in this remarkably wide-ranging work, Macfarlane deepens our understanding of twentieth-century Canadian history even as he broadens the scope of Canadian environmental historical scholarship and leaves his readers to ponder the illusory boundaries between technologies and environments.”
— from the Foreword by Graeme Wynn

“Daniel Macfarlane combines impressive archival research with a synthetic approach engaging diverse fields, particularly Canada-US relations and environmental history, but also transnational, borderlands, water, hydroelectric, and technological studies. This innovative and often bold book heralds a generation of scholars who will obliterate the lines between subdisciplines and bring Canadian history and historians together.”
— Norman Hillmer is a professor of history and international affairs at Carleton University, and co-author of For Better or For Worse: Canada and the United States into the Twenty-First Century

“[Macfarlane] recounts authoritatively the decades of Canada-U.S. diplomatic wrangling that preceded actual construction of the seaway beginning in 1954. … Negotiating A River is more than an engineering handbook or summary of diplomatic cables. Macfarlane skilfully recounts the most sorrowful chapter of seaway construction, the relocation of 9,100 people from their hometowns: “Although it was a national – even international – story at the time, it has been largely forgotten outside the St. Lawrence Valley.”

–Holly Doan, Blacklock’s Reporter,

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