CAMPBELL, DUNCAN, journalist and historian; b. 3 April 1818 at Oban, Scotland, youngest son of the Reverend John C. Campbell, Congregationalist minister; m. Mary Stewart, and they had two sons and three daughters; d. 26 Aug. 1886 at Halifax, N.S.
Duncan Campbell began his career in journalism as editor of the Glasgow Argus and editorial writer for the Daily Bulletin, the first penny daily established in Scotland. In 1862, on a commission of the Glasgow Road Reform Association, he lectured throughout Scotland on the-abolition of the archaic toll system.
Shortly before confederation the government of Nova Scotia, headed by Charles Tupper*, was earnestly engaged in recruiting settlers from Britain and the Continent, primarily as a remedy for the shortage of labour in mining and agriculture. Through the auspices of an agency in Glasgow established by the colony, Campbell conducted a large group of Scottish emigrants to Halifax early in the summer of 1866. He was shortly afterwards commissioned by Tupper to survey Nova Scotia as a potential home for immigrants and completed his report, a highly readable and informative document, in time for the 1867 session of the legislature.
The survey aroused in Campbell a profound interest in Nova Scotia history and he proceeded to give it serious and thorough study. Beamish Murdoch*’s three-volume treatise had carried the province’s history only to 1827 and the intervening half century had not been covered. Campbell set out to update Murdoch’s history and his Nova Scotia, in its historical, mercantile and industrial relations was published by John Lovell* in Montreal in 1873. Devoting the initial chapter primarily to the manners and customs of the Micmacs, he followed the history of the province to the death of Joseph Howe*, whom he interviewed at Government House a few days prior to Howe’s death in June 1873. The volume concludes with a series of chapters dealing with existing agricultural and industrial conditions, which provide a comprehensive but by no means impartial account of the Nova Scotian economy in the years immediately following confederation. Though Campbell’s style was attractive and the content itself of considerable interest, the volume was not an unqualified success, being uneven in treatment and somewhat lacking in significant subject matter.
Campbell was more fortunate with his History of Prince Edward Island, published in the autumn of 1875, for he had the time and opportunity to study and absorb his subject. To prepare himself he spent some time in Prince Edward Island studying all original records available, having received the generous support of local authorities in his research. This account spans the period from 1763, when the island became a British possession, to confederation. Campbell’s profound concern for immigration prompted him to devote considerable space to the controversial land question and, casting aside any pretence of impartiality, he vehemently condemned the imperial government for its action in restricting land grants [see George Coles*].
During the two decades in which he resided in Nova Scotia Campbell was engaged in a variety of occupations. After a brief period with the immigration service of the federal Department of Agriculture he worked as a reporter on the Halifax Morning Chronicle during 1869 and 1870, and then served as secretary of the Halifax Industrial Commission for a short time. He worked as a bookkeeper, but eventually devoted himself wholly to historical writing. He was also a frequent contributor to the local press of articles and letters dealing with topics of public interest.
In the local North British Society Campbell was reported to be “a great favorite. . . . His eloquence and intellectual ability charmed his fellow-countrymen. . . .” He was an active supporter of St Matthew’s Presbyterian Church and the Young Men’s Christian Association, as well as other similar organizations. The Morning Chronicle, paying tribute to his accomplishments as a journalist and historian, described him as “moral, upright and honest . . . a genial, pleasant, courteous gentleman, but not without the egotism of the Scot.”
In addition to his histories of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Campbell edited his father’s autobiography. His history of Nova Scotia, adapted for use in the schools of the province under the title History of Nova Scotia, for schools (1877), was included in the curriculum for many years. He was also the author of a prize essay which was published in the Nova Scotian Journal of Agriculture.
Duncan Campbell was the author of “Historical account of the rise and progress of agriculture in Nova Scotia,” Nova Scotian Journal of Agriculture (Halifax), 4 (1881): 173–78; History of Nova Scotia, for schools (Montreal, 1877); History of Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown, 1875; repr., Belleville, Ont., 1972); and Nova Scotia, in its historical, mercantile and industrial relations (Montreal, 1873); and he was the editor of [J. C. Campbell], Missionary and ministerial life in the Highlands, being a memoir of the Rev. John Campbell (Edinburgh, 1853).
PANS, MG 5, Camp Hill Cemetery (Halifax), Register of burials, 1886. North British Soc., Annals, North British Society, Halifax, Nova Scotia, with portraits and biographical notes, 1768–1903, comp. J. S. Macdonald ([3rd ed.], Halifax, 1905), 354–55. Morning Chronicle (Halifax), 27 Aug. 1886. Morning Herald (Halifax), 27 Aug. 1886. Canadian biog. dict., II: 540. McAlpine’s Halifax city directory . . . (Halifax), 1869–70, 1886–87. Literary history of Canada: Canadian literature in English, ed. C. F. Klinck et al. (2nd ed., 3v., Toronto and Buffalo, N.Y., 1976), I: 236.