Reclaiming the Don: An Environmental History of Toronto's Don River Valley

Reclaiming the Don: An Environmental History of Toronto's Don River Valley

Weight 0.00 lbs
By Jennifer L. Bonnell
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2014
World Rights
316 Pages 38 Images
ISBN 9781442612259
Published Sep 2014
Online discount: 35%
 $29.95    $19.47
ISBN 9781442643840
Published Sep 2014
Online discount: 25%
 $65.00    $48.75
ebook (EPUB format)
ISBN 9781442696815
Published Sep 2014
Online discount: 37%
Full purchase $29.95

A small river in a big city, the Don River Valley is often overlooked when it comes to explaining Toronto’s growth. With Reclaiming the Don, Jennifer L. Bonnell unearths the missing story of the relationship between the river, the valley, and the city, from the establishment of the town of York in the 1790s to the construction of the Don Valley Parkway in the 1960s. Demonstrating how mosquito-ridden lowlands, frequent floods, and over-burdened municipal waterways shaped the city’s development, Reclaiming the Don illuminates the impact of the valley as a physical and conceptual place on Toronto’s development.

Bonnell explains how for more than two centuries the Don has served as a source of raw materials, a sink for wastes, and a place of refuge for people pushed to the edges of society, as well as the site of numerous improvement schemes that have attempted to harness the river and its valley to build a prosperous metropolis. Exploring the interrelationship between urban residents and their natural environments, she shows how successive generations of Toronto residents have imagined the Don as an opportunity, a refuge, and an eyesore. Combining extensive research with in-depth analysis, Reclaiming the Don will be a must-read for anyone interested in the history of Toronto’s development.

Jennifer L. Bonnell is an assistant professor in the Department of History at McMaster University.


1. The Colonial River
2. Making an Industrial Margin
3. Taming a “Monster of Ingratitude”
4. Refuge and Subsistence in an Urban Borderland
5. Charles Sauriol and the Don Valley Conservation Movement
6. Metro Toronto and the Don Valley Parkway
7. Remembering the Don


“Jennifer Bonnell's Reclaiming the Don shows how this unruly valley, but paradoxical sliver of paradise, has been geographically and culturally central to the history of Toronto. In these pages nature and the city become tangled up together as Toronto and the Don define one another across two centuries.”

H.V. Nelles, Department of History, McMaster University

“In this winding exploration of the Don’s history, Bonnell has provided a lively narrative that restores to the valley its place, literal and metaphorical, in the history of Canada’s leading city.”

Arn Keeling, Department of Geography, Memorial University

“Written in clear and elegant prose, Reclaiming the Don is thoroughly researched and brilliantly conceived. Bonnell moves beyond a riverine focus to encompass the valley as a whole and explores links between land use issues and riverine change in an effective, even startling way.”

Matthew Evenden, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia

Reclaiming the Don offers amazingly detailed and highly readable micro-history of a much under-appreciated river…. This book is a compelling read for anyone interested in the history of urban rivers.’

Mark Cioc-Ortega, Histoire sociale / Social History vol 48:97:2015

Reclaiming the Don is an enticing study of Toronto’s Don Valley… Bonnell places the valley at the heart of fascinating debates surrounding urban natures.’

Will Smith, British Journal of Canadian Studies vol 29:01:2016

‘Bonnell’s approach in the book is admirable… This book provides a rich history accessible to broad audience particularly those interested in North American cities and environmental planning.’

Olivia Molden, Environmental History vol 21:02:2016

‘Reclaiming the Don is an excellent book, in which the author brings together a series of narratives to successfully address crucial themes in environmental history.’

Stéphane Castonguay, Environment and History vol 22:02:2016

‘Jennifer Bonnell’s Reclaiming the Don is a captivating history of a tiny river valley’s intimate connection to the development of Toronto… The Broad scope of time and diverse themes that Bonnell considers will offer an excellent teaching resource for undergraduate courses.’

Jason Hall, Canadian Journal of History vol 50:03:2016

‘Bonnell seamlessly weaves together narrative sources with visual presentations of imagined futures…..She brings to life the visions that have radically altered the city and its environment.’

Travis Cook, H-Environment, H-Net February 2016

‘One of Bonnell’s most intriguing innovations is her blending of the social history of the valley with its environmental history… Her analysis and approach to the environmental history of this river valley helps us to see the extent to which humanity is implicated in the history of this space and how that history influences environmental change.’

Sean Kheraj, Journal of Historical Geography vol 30:1-2:2015

‘Jennifer Bonnell explains in her interesting and well-researched study, there is much more to the story of Toronto’s river… The Don offers a path through the city’s environmental history, while hinting at how the city might finally come to terms with its own environment. It is a trip, and advice, worth taking.’

Stephen Bocking, Canadian Historical Review vol 96:03:2015

“Michael Ondaatje would enjoy this beautiful history of Toronto’s Don valley: it explores a place he drew on for his own work and it shares his novels’ intensity of imagery.”

Gideon Forman, This Magazine (March/April 2015)

Heritage Toronto Book Awards (Canada) - Short-listed in 2015
Sir John A. Macdonald Prize awarded by Canadian Historical Association (Canada) - Short-listed in 2015
CLIO Prize - Ontario awarded by Canadian Historical Association (Canada) - Winner in 2015
Fred Langdon Award awarded by Ontario Historical Society (Canada) - Winner in 2015