Skip to main content
Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Michelle Macleod, Art History

Connecting the Dots: The Leggotype and Canadian Nation-Building in Canadian Illustrated News (1869-1883) & l'Opinion publique (1870-1883)

Tuesday, December 13, 2022 (all day)

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Daniela Ferrer



When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


The purpose of this dissertation is a rigorous investigation of the photo-mechanical processes developed by William Augustus Leggo and their use in the weekly illustrated journals, Canadian Illustrated News (CIN) and l'Opinion publique (OP), published by George-Édouard Desbarats in Montreal, Quebec in the late nineteenth century. Although both journals, one English and one French, shared the same publisher and printer, they were never mere translations of one another. They did, however, occasionally share images. These illustrations were often framed by the associated text differently, both materially and conceptually. This art historical study, which prioritizes the production and interpretation of the illustrations published in both journals, contributes to Canadian photography history, as well as the cognate fields of history, visual culture, nationalism, and communications. This investigation employs methodologies that were developed from extensive primary research, which includes close examination of the over 700 issues of each journal. First, biographical studies of Leggo and Desbarats establish a temporal and contextual groundwork for the journals. Then, an in-depth study of the patents filed by Leggo bring to light as much specification as possible on the working methods of his proprietary printing processes. Patents for the Leggotype and Leggo's Granulated Photography, which were used primarily in CIN and OP, are assessed in comparison to other contemporary photo-mechanical processes that were developed internationally. This survey is followed by a historiographical analysis of the Leggotype. Rhetorical patterns reveal that from its conception and into the twenty-first century, the Leggotype was frequently tied to Canadian nation-building agendas. Showing these patterns as they manifest in the promotion, reporting, and historical study of the Leggotype and the journals is a key contribution of this dissertation. As such, it is explored in two ways in the final chapters. First, the material analysis of one issue from both CIN and OP offers a detailed comparison of the English- and French-language journals. This case study demonstrates the subtle and overt ways in which post-Confederation nation-building goals were presented in both image and text to each linguistic community. It also insists on the importance of materiality and the interconnectedness of whole issues to one another in the study of subscription-based Victorian periodicals. Second, to understand how nation-building agendas were developed over a longer span of the journals' publication, their serialized portrait galleries are examined. Reproductions of a public figure's photographic portrait were published in the pages of CIN and OP. Here again, these selections do not always match. A study of who was selected, omitted, and relegated to the margins of this canon considers the implications of photography-derived illustrations in relation to the complex parameters of settler-colonial identity in the nineteenth century. Prominent amongst Canada's early illustrated periodicals, CIN and OP appeal to scholars as primary resources in a variety of disciplines. Their content covers a vast array of topics, from politics and foreign affairs to fashion, domestic interests, art, and literature. The journals are quite inexhaustible in their representation of Canada as a settler-colonial society. This dissertation provides a solid platform for future researchers by framing its contents in the highly informative context of the journals' languages, technology, editorial ambitions, and materiality.

Back to top

© Concordia University