Expressive Acts: Celebrations and Demonstrations in the Streets of Victorian Toronto tells the story of how the city may have a global reputation as being well-mannered, but its residents have been known taking to the streets to protest for over a century. Author Ian Radforth takes readers for a walk on the wild side of Victorian Toronto. Through meticulous research and engaging storytelling, Radforth evokes the social and political tensions and diverse perspectives that were expressed on the city’s streets during this era.

In a contrasting mood, people also took to the streets in anger to object to government measures, such as the Rebellion Losses bill, to heckle rival candidates in provincial election campaigns, to assert their ethno-religious differences, and to support striking workers. Drawing on archival materials and newspaper accounts, Radforth looks at what drove Torontonians to publicly display their allegiances, politics, and values.

Occasions such as the 1860 visit of the Prince of Wales, and the return in 1885 of the local Volunteers who helped to suppress the Riel resistance in the North-West, prompted people to express their passions and beliefs by claiming public space. Radforth’s lively narrative offers readers a fascinating glimpse into the social and cultural fabric of Victorian-era Toronto. It highlights the struggles, triumphs, and complexities of a city that was undergoing significant changes in terms of its population, politics, and identity.

Expressive Acts examines instances of both celebration and protest when Torontonians publicly displayed their allegiances, politics, and values. The book illustrates not just the Victorian city’s vibrant public life but also the intense social tensions and cultural differences within the city. Drawing from journalists’ accounts in newspapers, Expressive Acts illuminates what drove Torontonians to claim public space, where their passions lay, and how they gave expression to them.

The street life of Victorian Toronto is often characterized as quiet and orderly. Expressive Acts tells a strikingly different story. Radforth’s detailed and dramatic book is a must-read for anyone interested in the ways in which public expression can shape a city’s identity.

IAN RADFORTH is a professor emeritus in the Department of History at the University of Toronto. Available from University of Toronto Press



About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist based in Toronto with a focus on tourism, lifestyle, entertainment and community issues. He has written several travel articles and has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He’s willing to take on any assignments of interest, attend parties with free booze, listen to rants, and travel the world in search of the great unknown. He’s eager to discover the new, remember the past, and look into the future.