Library


Historiography of Canada within The British Empire and Commonwealth


The Earl of Elgin
by George Wrong
London, 1905

In his biography of the Earl who granted responsible government to Canada, Wrong believed that it was a culmination of the learning process by Britain and marked a key difference of the Second Empire from the errors of the First Empire. Basically, Britain had learned from the American defeat that colonial government required a measure of colonial autonomy and flexibility. As such he believed that Canada was very much the senior Dominion within the Empire.

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A Half Century of Conflict
by Francis Parkman
Boston, 1910

Parkman was an early American historian but with Whig ideas on the onward march of progress. He believed that the Seven Years War saw the more foward looking British Empire defeat the backward and doomed Ancien Regime of France. He believed that the superior values on commerce, trade and thrift were ultimately superior to the Catholic ideas embodied by a decadent Royal Family.

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The Marfleet Lectures: University of Toronto, October 1921
by Sir Robert Borden
Toronto, 1922

Borden took a familiar line on the development of Responsible Government through the 18th and 19th Centuries but would go on to point out the importance of the First World War in completing the evolution of Dominion status. He believed that the sacrifice and contribution of the Dominions meant that Britain had now to gain full equality of nationhood within the British Commonwealth.

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Empire and Commonwealth: Studies in Governance and Self-Government in Canada
by Chester Martin
Oxford, 1929

Despte writing before the 1931 Westminster Conference, Martin believed that the evolution of the Empire in the Western Hemisphere revolved around the 'transition from governance to self-government in British North America.' It tracked the events from the fall of Quebec up to the then recent Imperial Conference in 1926 but emphasised the 'evolutionary' nature of the increased powers given to Canada.

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Cambridge History of The British Empire, Volume VI Canada
by J. L. Morison
Cambridge, 1930

Morison believed that Canada's development of Responsible Government was more than partly due to cooperation between the French and English communities. It showed what they could achieve when they worked together. He also believed that it provided a blue-print for all Self-governing colonies of the Empire.

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Canada: An American Nation
by J. W. Dafoe
Toronto, 1935

Dafoe believed that Canada was moving out of the British orbit and should seek to define itself through its North American dimension. He believed that the USA no longer offered a threat to Canada and offered an alternative economic and cultural sphere. He believed that the increased Canadian autonomy would help define a distinctive Canadian identity.

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The Commercial Empire of the St. Lawrence, 1760 - 1850
by D. G. Creighton
Toronto, 1937

Creighton returned to the notion that the US presented a long-term threat to Canada and that it was inherently British and Imperial in its outlook. This book provided evidence to suggest that the St. Lawrence valley determined that Canada would develop an East-West trading system with London providing capital and markets at one end whilst the Great Lakes opened up the interior of the Continent to imperial trade and opportunities. He belonged to the Imperial School of Canadian scholars.

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The North Atlantic Triangle: The Interplay of Canada, the United States and Great Britain
by J. B. Brebner
New Haven, 1945

Brebner was one of a new generation of Canadian historians who could see that the US was becoming an increasingly influential neighbour. His history called on the three nations to come together as they had recently done with the Second World War. He believed that the growing interdependence of the three nations with ties of culture, language and trade would be a boon in the post war world. 'Americans, Briton and Canadians may heartily share in the aspiration which was voiced in "let it roll on full flood, inexorable, irresistable."

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Colony to Nation: A History of Canada
by A. R. M. Lower
Toronto, 1946

Lower's book provided the name for a group of historians who believed that Canada had evolved into more than just an equal nation within the Empire or Commonwealth but into a fully independent nation that should look for complete autonomy and self-direction.

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Essays in Canadian Economic History
by Harold Innis
Toronto, 1948

Innis gave a series of lectures in 1948 where he warned of the increasing power of America in the Post-War World. He believed that some kind of re-absorption into The British Empire would help protect Canada from too much cultural and economic influence from the United States. He restated the need for 'the old workd to redress the balance of the new.' and suggested a colony to nation to colony model for Canada.

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The Kingdom of Canada
by W. L. Morton
Toronto, 1963

Morton was another Canadian nervous at the growth of American power and influence. His book believed that Canada's distinctiveness was due to its historical connection to The British Empire. And in fact, Canada's pioneering role in the formation of dominion status meant that it held a particular responsibility within that Empire in ensuring the transition to a new form of Commonwealth.

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Lament for a Nation: The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism
by George P. Grant
Toronto, 1965

Grant followed Innis' and Morton's themes by stating that Canadian Conservative values would be undermined by American culture and progressivism. He conlcuded that in a new technological era dominated by America, its culture would become unstoppable and ubiquitous and Canada would find it difficult to resist and remain as a sovereign state.

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Canada Views the United States
by S Wise and R Brown
Toronto, 1967

Wise and Brown believed that Canadian identity was forged through the experience of the Loyalists in the American Revolution - many of whom fled to the relative security of Canada upon Britain's defeat in the Revolutionary War. Canadians would come to see loyalty to the Empire as a form of protection against American ideas of 'Manifest Destiny' and expansionism.

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Sense of Power: Studies in the Idea of Canadian Imperialism, 1867 - 1914
by Carl Berger
Toronto, 1970

Berger believed that Canada's sense of identity was closely connected to its British ties (or rather English Canadian's identity). He believed that 'Imperialism was one form of nationalism.' as the Canadians voluntarily attached themselves to Britain as they needed protection and support in a potentially hostile world.

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Quebec and Its Historians, 1840 to 1920
by Serge Gagnon
Ottawa, 1981

Gagnon collected together examples of French-Canadian historians who were naturally not as anglo-centric as many of the authors on this topic. And yet, even some of these saw a certain 'providential' opportunity as the French were able to continue their conservative brand of Catholicism in Quebec whilst Catholics in France would endure Revolution and a sustained secular assault on their traditions and beliefs.

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The Irish in Ontario: A Study in Rurual History
by Donald Akenson
Montreal, 1984

The 70s and 80s would see a shift away from big themes and an examination of the experiences of smaller groups. Thus, Akenson's study of the experience of Irish migrants to Canada was used to highlight different experiences for different groups as they inter-related in these new lands.

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