Britain's Past in Canada: The Teaching and Writing of British History

Synopsis

British history has traditionally been accorded a special place in the curricula of Canadian schools and universities. When universities were established in the last century, Canada was still regarded as part of the greater British nation, and knowledge of British history was a prerequisite for good citizenship. Even before the establishment of formal history departments, British historical studies existed as a separate subject. In this book, Paul Phillips traces the position of British history in the universities and shows how Canada's changing relationship with Britain has affected the history curriculum. In the early twentieth century, Canadian history began to develop as a distinct field, often linked, however, with British history since the two subjects were frequently taught by the same person. The British background and training of many academics also ensured the continuing importance of British history at most universities until the 1950s. In the 1960s and 1970s the growth of nationalistic sentiment, ethnic changes in the population, and the loosening of Empire and Commonwealth ties contributed to the diminished interest in British history resulting in Canadian history becoming a separate area of study. Britain's Past in Canada provides a unique perspective on Canada's evolving cultural identity. Many of the historians discussed -- among them Sir Daniel Wilson, Goldwin Smith, Frank Underhill, Bertie Wilkinson, and A. R. M. Lower -- were public figures deeply committed to various causes of the day. In addition, many Canadian historians living abroad added to the intellectual life of Canada and the English-speaking world through their work. Phillips's examination of their neglected contributions brings new insights into Canadian studies outside Canada.

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