Beamish Murdoch: Nova Scotia’s National Historian

“Notable, however, was his apparent disinclination to leave Nova Scotia; he spent his entire life in Halifax save his last years, in retirement, in Lunenburg, where he died in 1876.”

“Murdoch was an historicist; he sought truth in documents. For the readers of his second volume, he took pains to explain this approach:

I have endeavoured to reduce the materials I had collected into a brief space, but there were many things that tended to exhibit and illustrate the peculiarities of the place, the times and the people, and some biographical particulars, that I felt were worth preservation. I might have followed a stricter, perhaps more classical model; but it seems to my mind that as the varied details of Gothic or Saracenic architecture produce a powerful effect in their combination, so the chronicler may, by diligence, unite many smaller features and occurrences, that, taken separately, might be dis-claimed by some, as below the dignity of history to record, and by this mode transport the reader, as it were, back to the actuality of past times, and make our forefathers live and move again as in life, by rendering us familiar with their ideas and habits….I feel justified in the endeavour to re-produce the past, as far as possible, in its own forms and colors and language, and, whenever I can, to make the very expressions {ipsissima verba) of the men who lived before us, exhibit their opinions and show their natures…(II, iii-iv)

Murdoch felt obliged to take special measures to safeguard the vestiges of the province’s past. “Some periods of our history”, he explained, “afford but little matter for connective narrative.”

Clarke, PD. “Beamish Murdoch: Nova Scotia’s National Historian” Acadiensis, XXI, 1 (Autumn 1991), pp. 85-109