Canadians in the Making: A Social History of Canada

Canadians in the Making: A Social History of Canada

Canadians in the Making: A Social History of Canada

Canadians in the Making: A Social History of Canada

Excerpt

This book is experimental and, as far as I know, a pioneering effort. A good many types of history have been written about Canada--constitutional, economic, and political--and there have been plenty of articles and small books lighting up the life of a countryside or city. But as yet no one has tried to put things together in an effort to depict the growth of the country as a whole, and throughout its history.

I have kept a few fixed points in view. First of all, I have tried to distinguish sharply between economic and social history by telling myself that economic history consists of the story of what man does to his environment, whereas social history has to do with what his environment does to man. The economic historian looks at the axe in the settler's hands and he traces its effects through clearings to ploughed fields, crops, statistical returns of crops, and the towns that such efforts eventually bring into existence. The social historian looks at the settler and tries to estimate what effects new conditions have on him and the subtle changes in his relations to his fellows which eventuate in a new social group. Or, again, the economic historian will be interested in the raft of logs got out of the bush in the spring and the processes of its conversion into lumber-- such as the techniques of river-driving, of the operation of lumber-mills--but the social historian will be interested in the new type of man all this activity produces, the river driver.

Secondly, I have had to wrestle continuously with that protean notion 'progress'. It would have been easy to accept the continental norm of 'progress' as that which is bigger and newer than that which went before, but that would seem to be to throw away all critical, philosophical detachment. And it would probably reduce social history to some kind of boring statistical success story. Yet the alternative to finding a theme that can be systematically developed and which will support appropriate general positions is to go on giving endless, more or less pic-

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