Guarding the City Beautiful: Liberalism, Empire, Labour, and Civic Identity in Hamilton, Ontario, 1929-53
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Hamilton, Ontario has provided a testing ground for social historians exploring questions about labour, working-class conflict, and shop-floor politics. These studies, though extensive, have largely overlooked the political culture of the city, especially outside these boundaries. Despite the hopes of its left-wing political parties, mid-twentieth century Hamilton fostered a flourishing political culture centred on the rhetoric of traditional liberalism. This political rhetoric was nurtured by the dominant Conservative Party politicians, the traditional trades and crafts-based union movement, a growing middle class, and fervent boosters. This political tradition was strongly informed by the shared British heritage touted by these same groups. These ideals were flexible and mutable, which allowed them to be adopted with versatility as the political climate demanded. This dissertation examines how this political culture survived through decades of economic, social, and labour unrest between 1929 and 1953. Through focusing on municipal government and local politics, this dissertation is able to explore how these political ideals were incorporated in practice, and repeated and reformed in the city’s many elections. This exploration incorporates questions about how these political ideals responded to the inclusion of women, immigrants, and the growing labour movement. It also traces how these values were adapted to suit the political climate of the Great Depression, Second World War, and the post-1946 labour crises that rocked the city’s industries and shaped collective bargaining practice across the country.