Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Colonization and Community: The Vancouver Island Coalfield and the Making of the British Columbian Working Class

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Colonization and Community: The Vancouver Island Coalfield and the Making of the British Columbian Working Class

Article excerpt

John Douglas Belshaw, Colonization and Community: The Vancouver Island Coalfield and the Making of the British Columbian Working Class (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2002), xxx + 320pp. Cloth. £65. ISBN 0-7735-2402-9.

This study of Vancouver Island coal miners in the nineteenth century is based on Belshaw's doctoral thesis, which he successfully completed at the London School of Economics in 1987. Belshaw focuses on the experiences of the British immigrants who were the most important part of the labour force in the coal mines. He argues that their experience should be seen as part of British rather than Canadian labour history. Belshaw regrets the fact that the history of British white settlement has been neglected in the post-imperial era and that this is particularly so in Canada. Using the work of John Benson, and others, Belshaw shows the close parallels between the experiences of nineteenth-century miners in Britain and Vancouver Island.

There is a strong argument to be made in favour of Belshaw's thesis that at least some of the British white settler communities can be seen as an extension of nineteenth-century Great Britain. But as he acknowledges, the coal-mining community of Vancouver Island does differ in certain important respects from the British mining community. …

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