The Historical Snub Hidden In Canada's Map

Maps seem like the most utilitarian of objects, but hidden in between all that functional information there are some strange stories. Here's how a 19th-century postal service bureaucrat hid a snub against France that's still in Canada's modern map.

In a Kinja-discussion on underexposed local historical figures, commenter MS38 shared this history of how Agincourt, an area in Toronto, got its name. It involves a postal service bureaucrat, King Henry V, and a long standing rivalry in Canada between the English and the French:

I come from an area in east Toronto called 'Agincourt', which has a kind of funny story behind the name (at least, by the relatively modern inhabitation of the area...).

The town was found back in the 1850's when the government decided it had become sufficiently large to warrant its own post office. At that point in time, as a government representative, the Postmaster was generally highly ranked within the community, and in a lot of cases was responsible for the formal naming of the town.

So our postmaster at the time, a gentleman named John Hill who was of English descent got the responsibility of naming the area - with one caveat: He give it a French name to appease a French-Canadian bureaucrat. That would not do for Mr. Hill! To give his English town in English Canada a French name? Shenanigans!

Finally he decided that if he had to follow the rules, he might as well get a jab in at the bureaucrat while he was doing it, so he named the town 'Agincourt' after the famed Battle of Azincourt in France where the out-manned Henry V, with the help of Welsh and English longbowmen, handed the French an embarrassing defeat.

The story always makes me laugh, because it's such a typically passive-aggressive Canadian way of giving someone the finger. Anyways, it's not a hugely fascinating story but it is a little bit of Toronto history that's often overlooked.

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Image: 17th century map of "New France", extending up into Canada, by Samuel de Champlain / Canadian Government Archives

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