Conjuring Canadas: Historians and the Quest to Define a Canadian Nation and its Past, 1920-1967
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This dissertation examines the various ways in which Canadian historical researchers confronted the “Canada question,” namely the challenge of defining the basis of a unified national community. In doing so, it follows the scholarship and activities of a network of historians and intellectuals centred on the Canadian Historical Review, a quarterly publication founded in 1920. This study examines their scholarship with the aim of identifying not only the various solutions they posed to the problem, but also the philosophical undercurrents that informed their reasoning in the process. It also traces the rise of a rival network in the Revue d’histoire de l’Amérique française, a French-language historical publication founded in 1947 that by its very existence posed a significant challenge to the definition of the nation at the core of the Canadian Historical Review. This dissertation argues that the network bound together by the Review was engaged in a hegemonic project, one that sought to present a particular definition of Canada through a historical narrative that rested upon a liberal logic. Yet the greatest sustained challenge they faced in this endeavour emerged from Francophone historical scholars, who, although proposing vastly different Canadas to those imagined at the Canadian Historical Review, came under the sway of a number of liberal currents of thought as well. A detailed summary of the key traits of these liberal Canadas is found in the conclusion.