Roedde House Speaker Series, May 29th - Rattenbury Beyond the Scandal: Francis Rattenbury and the Frontier Promise of British Columbia, 1891-1927
Please join us for our monthly speaker series event, in which scholars and professionals in Victorian literature, regional and local history, and heritage preservation will give talks on a variety of interesting subjects. Topics and speakers will change monthly!
For our May event, Josef Méthot will discuss how we can better understand Rattenbury's legacy by placing him in a colonial historical context.
The story of the life and death of British Columbia's most famous architect, Francis Rattenbury, is retold a thousand times daily across this province. Although he was born and died in England, B.C. has claimed Rattenbury as it's own, encouraged by tourism agencies and guides that use his story to add a dash of the illicit and dramatic to their tours. Indeed, Rattenbury might be the only historical figure many visitors to B.C. remember from their trip. However, this focus on the sensational notes of his life (his rampant self-promotion, his sexual affairs, his fall from grace, and sordid murder) overlooks Rattenbury's deep connections to the colonial and frontier history of British Columbia.
This presentation proposes to shift the focus away from Rattenbury's achievements and scandals to examine how the man fits into the broader trends of British Columbia's early history. In particular, I will focus on the displacement of indigenous peoples, the settlement of the north and the interior of B.C., and the often-false promise of easy wealth and empty land, which ensnared Rattenbury as easily as thousands of others. I will argue that Rattenbury was deeply engaged with the frontier mentality and image of British Columbia. In part, it is Rattenbury's inability to adapt as the frontier closes in the early twentieth century that leads to his downfall. By examining Rattenbury in his social and historical context, we can build a stronger basis to call Francis Rattenbury one of our own.
About the speaker: Josef Méthot holds an Honours B.A. in Medieval Studies and French Literature from the University of Victoria, and a Master's in Medieval History from the University of Toronto. He has presented frequently to academic and general audiences on historiography - the thorny problem of finding the right questions to ask about history. A volunteer docent at Roedde House, he previously worked as a guide both at the British Columbia Parliament Buildings and in historic Victoria, introducing the Rattenbury story to thousands of visitors.
Roedde House Museum (View)
1415 Barclay St.
Vancouver, BC V6G 1J6
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