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Smith, Marilyn Gurney.

Halifax, Nimbus Publishing, c1985. 56pp, paper, $9.95, ISBN 0-920852-44-0. CIP

Grades 9 and up
Reviewed by Neil Payne

Volume 14 Number 1
1986 January

The King's Yard is the story of the Halifax dockyard, but it is also a history of the development of Halifax. Although the French established the fishing village of Chebucto on McNab's Island in 1698, the real beginning of Halifax came in 1749, when Admiral Cornwallis founded Halifax as a military base to counter the French fortress of Louisburg. In 1755 a naval dockyard was established at Halifax to complement the British dockyard in Bermuda. From that beginning, the fortunes of Halifax have been determined by the fortunes of the dockyard: war, or the threat of war, has meant growth and prosperity, while peace has meant decline and stagnation. Halifax continued to be the empire naval centre for the northwest Atlantic until 1906, when the dockyard was turned over to Canada, with the provision that it would be available to the British if needed. Since then the dockyard has continued to be the source of Halifax's fortune. Two world wars brought hectic prosperity when Halifax was the Canadian naval base and the convoy staging centre for North America. But this prosperity also brought massive destruction in 1917 when the French ammunition ship Mont Blanc exploded in Halifax harbour, causing the largest man-made explosion in history until the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. And until recent years, peace has continued to result in neglect and deterioration of the dockyard and recession in the Halifax economy.

The King's Yard is an attractive and interesting book. It is oversize (81/2 x 11 inches) with two columns per page, to permit numerous illustrations to be presented adjacent to the related text. Almost every page has at least one picture, while many have two or more. All illustrations are black and white, but even very old pictures and photos of paintings, maps, etc., are clear and sharp. The author, who is curator of the Maritime Command Museum in Halifax, is especially qualified to recount this story and to gain access to any relevant material. There is no doubt that the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Canadian navy was the impetus for this book, and that this anniversary has made many useful books economically viable that in other years might not have been published. This is a valuable local history that has more than local interest. All libraries with an interest in the history of the Canadian Maritimes will want to add this book to their collection, it will be a major source for any study of the history of Halifax or the Canadian navy. A useful addition to high school, college, university, and large public libraries.

Neil Payne, Kingston C.I., Kingston, Ont.
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