Creating Colonial Pasts: History, Memory, and Commemoration in Southern Ontario, 1860-1980

By Buckner, Phillip | British Journal of Canadian Studies, January 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

Creating Colonial Pasts: History, Memory, and Commemoration in Southern Ontario, 1860-1980


Buckner, Phillip, British Journal of Canadian Studies


Cecilia Morgan, Creating Colonial Pasts: History, Memory, and Commemoration in Southern Ontario, 1860-1980 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015), 232 pp. 53 images. Cased. $70. ISBN 978-1-4426-4837-1. Paper. $32.95. ISBN 978-1-4426-2615-7.

Cecilia Morgan has long been a pioneer in the study of historical memory and commemoration in Canada. Her new book focuses on southwestern Ontario, in particular the Niagara and Brantford region from the 1860s to the 1970s, and on the role of local historians, particularly women and Indigenous historians, in creating a historical sense of place in this region. The book is essentially a collection of essays dealing with a series of discrete topics. The first of the four chapters examines the work ofJanet Carnochan, a historical preservationist, the director of the Memorial Hall in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and the author of a History of Niagara, still the most comprehensive history of the town. Carnochan was one of a number of patriotic female historians writing in the early twentieth century, but Morgan insists that Carnochan was set apart by 'the wider range of her interests, her sustained and close attention to archival detail and her love of research, and her insistence on the centrality of a particular place, not just events, to the past' (p. 55). Morgan returns to the history of Niagara-on-the-Lake in the fourth chapter, examining how the Niagara Parks Commission, the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, the local government and various residents of the town laboured to establish Niagara-on-theLake as a tourist destination and to create for it 'an identity that managed and married landscape, history, and culture' (p. 113). Today, Niagara-on-the-Lake is best known as the site of the Shaw Festival, and Morgan has some interesting material on the controversies that accompanied the establishment of the Festival, although not as much as one would like about how the Festival affected the town's historical identity. …

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