Canadians and Their Pasts

Canadians and Their Pasts

MARGARET CONRAD
KADRIYE ERCIKAN
GERALD FRIESEN
JOCELYN LÉTOURNEAU
DELPHIN MUISE
DAVID NORTHRUP
PETER SEIXAS
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 248
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt5hjx02
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  • Book Info
    Canadians and Their Pasts
    Book Description:

    What role does history play in contemporary society? Has the frenetic pace of today's world led people to lose contact with the past? A high-profile team of researchers from across Canada sought to answer these questions by launching an ambitious investigation into how Canadians engage with history in their everyday lives.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6764-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  6. Introduction: Canadians and Their Pasts
    (pp. 3-10)

    Throughout our lives the past is with us, from the most trivial of experiences to the most profound. Its legacies include our DNA and the scars on our bodies, the cultural traditions that bind our families and communities, and the laws that govern the public sphere. We are reminded of the past in street names and license plates; we see images from the past in museum halls and movie theatres; and we hear voices of the past in today’s arguments over rights reclaimed and wrongs to be redressed. In recognizing the presence of the past in our daily lives, William...

  7. 1 History in Public
    (pp. 11-28)

    “I like to watch documentaries about the old times and I do like to visit museums,” an immigrant from Hong Kong living in the lower mainland of British Columbia told us. She judged museums to be the most trustworthy source of historical information but understood that claims about the past should be interrogated from a variety of angles and was aware that she might draw upon multiple sources to analyse any topic being investigated. While she considered family history to be central to her identity, she valued religious history above all other approaches to the past and concluded that the...

  8. 2 Everybody’s Doing It
    (pp. 29-47)

    “History,” Margaret MacMillan asserted in 2007, “is widely popular these days.”¹ A decade earlier, David Lowenthal concluded: “All at once heritage is everywhere.”² Both historians were reflecting on the near universal engagement with the past that has become part of everyday life in the Western world. While much of this engagement is driven by commercial or political motives, ordinary Canadians attest in myriad ways – ranging from attendance at Remembrance Day ceremonies to subscriptions to Ancestry.ca – that history matters. It is not surprising, then, that almost all Canadians who responded to our survey were able to report that they engaged with...

  9. 3 The Problem of Trust
    (pp. 48-66)

    Earlier chapters demonstrate that Canadians care a lot about the past. But whom or what do they trust to tell them the truth? How do they view the accounts of the past they encounter in museums and historic sites, told by parents and professors, or read on the screens of computers and pages of books? Do they approach these histories with faith, scepticism, or cynicism? How do they differentiate between faulty accounts built on a basis of blatant prejudice or self-interest (personal or institutional), and those that are products of open investigation and critical analysis? In short, how well do...

  10. 4 Family History in a Globalizing World
    (pp. 67-83)

    “I guess the past of my family makes me who I am today,” a female teacher from Gander, Newfoundland, told us, “so before I can be a part of the past of my community, my province, my country, I have to identify with my family first.” As we observed in chapter 2, the majority of the respondents to our survey identified family history as their most important past. Because earlier studies had alerted us to expect this finding, we constructed our survey to investigate the role that family history plays in people’s lives. This chapter explores the preoccupation with family...

  11. 5 Collective Remembering in Three Canadian Communities
    (pp. 84-104)

    While our own past and our family connections are strong points of reference in our lives, another source of identity derives from our connections to larger groups. This aspect of self-awareness, sometimes described as “collective memory,” and these groups, sometimes referred to as “communities of memory,” may be based on national, ethnic, religious, or some other shared loyalty. In this chapter we discuss three variations on the theme of collective remembering. We ask whether First Nations, who are distinguished by language, culture, and historical experience, engage with the past in ways that differ from other Canadians. We also consider how...

  12. 6 Places and Pasts
    (pp. 105-119)

    How do people’s relationships with place and space influence their approach to history? One of our objectives in conducting this study was to ask whether the place in which people live – a region, a province, a metropolitan area, an average-size city, a rural district – influences their approach to history. A number of Canadian artists have claimed that our identities are established, above all, in localities, often in association with experiences of childhood, in what the poet and literary critic Eli Mandel described as “the overpowering feeling of nostalgia associated with the place we know as thefirstplace, thefirst...

  13. 7 Immigration and Historical Memory
    (pp. 120-137)

    Canada is often depicted as a country of immigrants, and, indeed, at the time of the survey, nearly one in five residents of the country was an immigrant.¹ These travellers bring with them memories of their homelands, of course, and are expected to learn a little about this country’s history during their adaptation to Canadian life.² How do they respond to the two pasts – of their birthplace and of Canada – given that the former is embedded in their minds from childhood and the latter has come along later as a responsibility of their new citizenship? Do their uses of the...

  14. 8 The Presence of the Past in International Perspective
    (pp. 138-151)

    As noted in the introduction, the Canadians and Their Pasts survey was inspired by and modelled on earlier surveys in the United States and Australia.¹ While there are some variations in the surveys that make fine comparisons impossible, common sections allow us to open a dialogue on similarities and differences across the three nations. In this chapter we compare the findings with respect to respondents’ participation in activities related to the past; when and how they felt connected to the past; their thinking about the trustworthiness of sources of information about the past; and how important the past was for...

  15. Conclusion: Making History
    (pp. 152-160)

    Our project was designed to probe how Canadians engage with the past in their daily lives. At the beginning we speculated that by placing Canada in an international conversation on citizen engagement with the past we could make an important contribution to the academic study of memory and historical consciousness. As time went on, our ambitions grew. We began to see our work as addressing how Canadians use history to situate themselves in the present and plan for the future.

    It is not uncommon to hear challenges to the humanities as subjects of study. Indeed, in the past three decades,...

  16. Appendix 1: Short Form Questionnaire
    (pp. 161-174)
  17. Appendix 2: How We Did the Survey
    (pp. 175-178)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 179-206)
  19. Works Cited
    (pp. 207-218)
  20. Contributors: Canadians and Their Pasts
    (pp. 219-220)
  21. Index
    (pp. 221-235)